What Copenhagen Pizza Makers Think About a Politician Encouraging the Public to Spy on Them

The people have spoken, and they're not pleased.

Apr 1 2017, 5:00pm

This story was originally published in Danish on MUNCHIES DK

Inger Støjberg, Secretary of Integration in Denmark, has issues with the conversation at local pizzerias. After TV2, a Danish TV station, brought a story about a rise in the number of persons charged with staying in Denmark illegally, Støjberg called on ordinary Danes to help the authorities by reporting those pizzerias where people don't speak Danish.

"I actually also call on ordinary Danes to personally contact the authorities when they, for example, visit their pizzeria and find that there's something weird about the back room, because there are so many in there, who do not speak Danish at all. Because it is utopian to think that the police can get to every back room in Denmark," Støjberg said to TV2.

But what do the pizza makers think about all this? What's it like to all of the sudden get in the spotlight solely because of the talk that goes on in the kitchen? We took a trip around Copenhagen and asked pizza makers what they think about Inger Støjberg's call for pizza spying.

All photos by author.

Burhan Abdella, Lagano Pizzeria

MUNCHIES: Hi Burhan, What do you think of Inger Støjberg's statement?

Burhan: It doesn't really make sense. You can easily have a work permit even if you don't speak Danish. In many stores—clothing stores, for example—they also speak English. If she believes you work undeclared because you don't speak Danish or come from overseas, I think she is wrong. 

What language do you speak in your kitchen?
I come from Syria, and I speak Arabic and Kurdish and Danish. I have lived here for 27 years.

READ MORE: These Danish Chefs Just Made Italian Pizza Even Better

Did you ever receive a visit from the authorities who have been on the lookout for people without a work permit?
Yes, it has happened a few times. But it is a long time ago now—about 15 years ago.

So you don't have a huge back room filled with people who do not speak Danish?
No. No, we don't. We only have a small back room.

Hanne Christensen, Pizzeria La Fiorita

MUNCHIES: Hi Hanne. Have you heard of Inger Støjberg's statement? 

Hanne: Yes, I was shocked. I think it was a strange thing to say. Why is she peddling a snitch mentality from the last war? Only Italians work here. I don't see what illegal immigrants have to do with it.

Do you intend to change the way you talk to each other?
No, not at all. We are going to continue as usual. But she is always welcome to come to our kitchen and check. And if she can speak Italian, she is welcome to do so. I don't know what she thinks is going on. I'm actually quite shocked. 

In your experience, have people ever reacted negatively to you not speaking Danish?
No, quite the contrary. Many people are happy that they can come here and practice their Italian a little bit. Just because you don't speak Danish, it doesn't mean you don't have your papers in order. 

Do you have a back room at all?
Yes, we do. But so what? Would anyone be in there hiding in a cardboard box? What is she thinking?

So there's nothing "strange" going on in there? 
No, of course not. I don't think she has any real life experience. But then again, I don't know where she buys her pizzas!

Yalcin Demirkiran and Ibrahim Kaya, AKA Pizza King, Stefanos Pizza

MUNCHIES: Hello there. Have you heard that Inger Støjberg has called for people to report pizzerias to the police if the workers don't speak Danish?
Yalcin: Yes, we have.

What do you think about that?
I think it is weird. If you can't speak Danish, but you have a job and you work with customers, the studies show that you automatically get better at Danish. You use the language more than if you do nothing. Whether or not you speak Danish, I believe that everyone should have the opportunity to get a job. In fact, we have established a policy here that we speak Danish.

So you have a language policy?
Yes, because we have employees with different backgrounds: Turks, Danes, and Albanians. So we speak Danish because then we all understand what is being said.

Why did you introduce it?
It is not because it is required or anything like that. Although it is important that those who receive the orders speak fluent Danish.

Did you ever receive a visit from authorities who have been on the lookout for people without a work permit?
Yes, you get that when you have a pizzeria. It's the same if you have a greengrocer or something like that. Someone always comes—the Danish Employment Agency or the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration. 

Do you think the authorities will focus more on pizzerias after this?
Maybe. They also come by to check whether the ham is really ham, and stuff like that. They want people to have a job. Are they now also going to require you to have to speak fluent Danish if you want to work? Are you then going to need a language driver's license if you want to be a pizza maker? People just think it's cozy if their pizza man says, "Buon giorno" to them when they enter the shop. Should we also require restaurants to play only Danish music?

What do you think of Støjberg singling out pizzerias?
It is odd. It is, of course, a bigger problem if a craftsman doesn't speak Danish than if a pizza maker doesn't. It is worse if a house is built the wrong way than for a pizza to be made the wrong way. 

Finally, do you have a back room at all? 
No, we have an open kitchen. I really don't understand what odd things are supposed to take place in a back room. You operate a business, people are busy, and there's plenty of work to be done.


Jan Kopacz, Bæst

MUNCHIES: Hi Jan, What do you think of Inger Støjberg's statement?
Jan: To cast suspicion on people who are not "ordinary Danes" because they don't speak Danish or have a different skin color is sad. But it is symptomatic of the times in which we live. We'll just have to make sure that we support the hard-working people she has decided to target.

READ MORE: Get Your Bæst On With This Uniquely Nordic Pizza

What language do you speak at Bæst?
We speak English. It's because we have employees from Italy, France, Sweden, Poland, Germany, United States, Greenland, and Iceland.

How many speak Danish?
It is actually only the students and some of the serving staff. But here in the kitchen, nobody speak Danish.

If everyone here at Bæst were forced to speak Danish, what do you think would happen?
Then it would be impossible for us to work. And the company would have to invest a lot of money in Danish lessons. It wouldn't work for us. We also get stagiares from all over the world.

You come from Poland. As a migrant, what do you think about all this?
I am better off here in Denmark than I would be if I were still in Poland. Even though your government is what it is, our government is worse. You actually get used to it. You talk to your friends about it and hope it is just something temporary. Here, people are happy. And Copenhagen is different. I simply don't meet people with that kind of attitude. It's just not a part of my daily life, even though you hear about it in the news.

Do you have a back room? 
We have a backyard where customers do not have access. Weird things happen from time to time. To cast suspicion on people is really bad. It works for her politically, but it is sad. One of the first things I noticed when I came to Scandinavia was that people trust each other. And it's fantastic. I think that's what contributes to the happiness of the Danes. So when politicians say things like that, it's that trust she jeopardizes.