New in Denmark

Denmark is closing for Easter! Buy! Buy! Buy!

If you’re new to Denmark, then you had better stop frittering away your time on the internet.  Get out RIGHT NOW and stock up!  Yep, the Danes celebrate Easter in big style and the country will basically shut down on Wednesday night.  Despite being very low-key about religion, Denmark will be closed Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday.  Completely closed.  Imagine that…the shops are closed for more days than over Christmas!  Schools, council offices and businesses are also closed. Libraries and post offices too (plus don’t expect to receive mail or parcels).  Museums, your local swimming pool and fitness club may have special opening hours. Buses and trains may be running on ‘holiday’ schedules.  Check before you head out!  And the streets are deserted…  Easter is not the time to visit Denmark! ;)

So you have to do your grocery shopping NOW.  Stock up big time. And if possible, avoid Wednesday – that’s the biggest shopping day of the year aside from the last shopping days before Christmas.  Pretty amazing when you consider that people are only buying food and drink – not a Christmas present in sight!  If you forget to stock up, you’ll need to hop over the Sound to Sweden (they’re open for business as usual on Thursday).  Or prepare to run the gauntlet on Saturday.

And what do the Danes actually do on all these holy holidays?

Well, they don’t go to church, that’s for sure (they save that for Christmas.)  No, Easter is the time to eat, drink and be merry with family or friends.  To get out in the garden.  And get the garden furniture out (if you didn’t do it when we changed to summertime on 30 March) .  Do some DIY.  Get busy down at the allotment or open up your summer house and hope for fantastic spring weather…

Me?  I’ll be doing a mixture of the above: a bit of gardening, an Easter egg hunt and friends coming to stay.  Lots of eating and drinking.  So I’m already stocked up with the Danish Easter essentials.  And what do the Danes eat?  Lamb selvfølgelig.  Lots of påskebryg (Easter beer) and snaps.  And the ubiquitous array of foods that you will see at Danish lunches (see my Christmas Advent Calendar post). Rejer (prawns), sild (herring), varm leverpostej (hot liverpâté), various meats like flæskesteg (roast pork) and rullepølse (rolled pork),  One of my own faves is tarteletter (tart cases filled with a mixture of chicken and asparagus).  Look here for more about them.

Get them while they're hot!

There’ll be lots of cheese.  Dainty biscuits and chocolates/chocolate eggs.  Or you might want to serve this yummy Danish mazarinkage (marcipan cake).  Takes only 5 minutes to put together if you have a kitchen mixer!  My recipe is here.

And now?  Let us pray.  And hope the Danish weather gods are with us! 

Skål!  God Påske!

Diane  :)

Traveling Denmark!

A beautful sunny day of pink cherry blossoms at the annual Sakura Festival on Langeline Pavilion near Nord Toldbold buildings on Copenhagen Harbor. Photo Copyright: Barrett Clemmensen Powell.

Recently a Danish newspaper noted that Danes do a terrible job of promoting Denmark to the outside world. They do not see that Denmark has anything of value or interest to people outside Denmark. Those of us who are in the international community in Denmark can well believe the results of this survey because as part of a very irritating and repetitive series of personal questions that  we call “The Immigration Interview”, Danes often ask us to explain why we  come to Denmark.

Rather than answer the question now, I counter with the statement, “You should be proud of the beautiful places there are in Denmark, don’t you think?

A Danish friend who knows the length and breadth of my experiences in Denmark (meaning they have not been all strawberries and cream), also recently had a lovely conversation with me after being surprised to find that not even negative experiences in Denmark could take away my spirit of adventure and my love of Denmark because I have seen and experienced so much of Denmark, from one corner to another.

Reading this recent survey made me think that perhaps I should share some of my experiences of Denmark, gained from the moment I set foot on its soil. I have seen a lot of Denmark and I am very intentional about getting around. I kow many internationals, whether expatriate or not, who have not been outside of Greater Copenhgaen, Aarhus or Odense. That STUNS me. Within my first month in Denmark I was traveling around Zealand. Within 3 months I was in a place in Denmark that has become my absolute favorite and which I will share with you in soon in words and photos. In fact, I will share several of my Danish adventures.

So, fasten your seatbelt and let’s get ready to travel Denmark, my home-away-from-home!

Gæk, gæk, gæk? Guess your way to an Easter egg!

My kids will be on Easter break from Friday.  Woo hoo – no more pesky packed lunches for the next week!  (For them, school restarts Tuesday 22 April.)

And that – selvfølgelig – means it’s time for a traditional Danish Easter craft: making a gækkebrev - a secret snowdrop letter!  For which we’ll need a vintergæk (snowdrop).  Though - as we’re well into April - Danish snowdrops have basically gone into hiding again, so we may need to improvise.  Now, did you know that gækkebreve are a purely Danish tradition?  I thought it was a Scandinavian thing.  But no.  It’s a crazy Dane thing.  And right now, as I type, little kids all over Denmark are sitting at home (or nursery, school, the museum or local library) cutting holes in paper and drawing lots of dots.  All in the hope of getting a chocolate Easter egg!  More on the logistics of that later in the post…  First up, let’s get making one! :)

You’ll need:

  • white and coloured paper
  • glue or a gluestick
  • a pair of scissors
  • a snowdrop 

Choose a coloured piece of paper for your paper ‘doily’. Fold it in half, then in half again.  Draw a rough shape and cut out.  If you’ve never done this kind of thing before, keep it simple!  The Danes are world-famous for their intricate papercutting.  Hans Christian Andersen (you know, the one who wrote ”The Ugly Duckling”, “The Little Match Girl”, “The Princess and the Pea”, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, “Thumbelina” etc, etc, etc…) was also an expert at papercutting.  I’ve only lived here for 16 years, so I’m still learning…

Open up up the paper and you should have something that looks like this.

Stick it on to a plain white piece of paper. I used a gluestick.  And it’s fine if it isn’t perfectly stuck down all over – it just gives it an even better 3d effect ;)

Then you’re ready to write a little poem on it.

Henne bag ved havens hæk, fandt jeg denne vintergæk.
Hej, min hvide lille ven, nu er turen din igen.
Du skal gå til min ven, hviske så kan kan forstå,
han må gætte prikke små, for et påskeæg at få!
 

But if your family and friends aren’t Danish, you’ll probably want one in English, right? Try this one for size:

 
Snowdrop, snowdrop, snowdrop fine,
Omen true of hope divine,
From the heart of winter bring
Thy delightful hope of spring.
Guess my name I humbly beg.
Your reward: An Easter-Egg.
Let these puzzling dots proclaim
Every letter in my name
 

Now listen carefully.  [I shall say this only once...]  At the bottom of the gækkebrev, DON’T sign your name.  You draw a large dot for every letter of your name.  So my name, Diane, would be  . . . . .    If the person who receives the letter guesses who it comes from, you have to give them an Easter egg.  But if they can’t guess, they have to give you an Easter egg.  So disguise your handwriting and be creative!  I usually put in three dots for M.U.M.!  ;)

The final touch is to pick a snowdrop from your garden – just draw one if need be - add it to the letter and send to a friend or loved one.   And keep your fingers crossed that they don’t guess who it’s from…

 
 

God Påske!  Happy ……!

Diane :)

I swear I heart Denmark!

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that my blog (hey, make that my general outlook on life) is a “No Whining!” zone.  Positive!  Upbeat!  Optimistic!  Sunny!  As the Flylady says, “Enjoy what you do.  And do what you enjoy!”  Which, in my case, selvfølgelig involves the words “skinny dipping” and “cold water”… :)

I mean, come on, really…  Who wants to end up as one of those twisted and sad “my-life-revolves-around-leaving-negative-comments-on-social-media” kind of people?  Or, as is very common in the blogging world, the disgruntled expat, whose greatest joy is telling you what they (love to…) hate (about Denmark) and listing all the things that were oh so much better “back home”?  Yikes!

But…  [Ha!  Yes, you knew there was a "but" coming!]  But, okay, if you put a gun to my head and I had to name one – just one – little, itty, bitty thing that I dislike about Denmark, it would have to be the F-word.  Call me old fashioned.  I hate swearing.  Just ask my kids.  “Yes, Mum, we hear you!  Swearing shows a lack of vocabulary!”  In fact, the only time when you will ever (ever) hear me swear is down at the beach on the days when take-my-breath-away sea temperatures gang up with hold-on-to-your-hats storm force winds.  So it’s not really skinny dipping but more like being pummelled with rolling pins and stabbed by a thousand knives…  ;)

But I digress!  Yep, the F-word is rife here.  You see and hear it in the Danish media.   All.  The.  Time.  I remember seeing “F**k” in a newspaper headline, lit up in giant neon lights at Rådhuspladsen (the town council square).  You’ll hear it in the playground at børnehave (nursery).  And not just from the kids, but also their parents.  Ouch!   What about that Danish theatre play with the oh-so-catchy title, “Jeg, mig, f**k dig!“?  (I, me, f*ck you!)  Oh, and will you be watching Eurovision, live from Copenhagen, next month?  Don’t worry, you can relax when you hear the Danish entry, Basim, ”Cliché Love Song”.   Luckily for us, they’ve changed the original chorus of “a f**cking cliché love song”… 

…to the more demure “another cliché love song”. Phew! 

So with all those F-words flying around, I suppose I really shouldn’t have been toooooo surprised when this advert appeared on TV2 Zulu the other night.  What is it for?  Chocolate milk from Cult.  But not chocolate milk as we know it, Jim.  A high caffeine, energy type one.  With the oh-so-catchy name “Jeg er ik’ bare en f**king kakao“.  (I’m not just a f**cking chocolate milk.)  Um, really?  Who’s behind the advertising campaign – a bunch of 5th graders? :P

Not enough F-words for you?  Then try their dedicated Facebook page – click here – though don’t say I didn’t warn you!

 

I’d like one bottle of chocolate milk.  And could you put it in a brown paper bag for me, please?

Diane :)

 

You know you’re in Denmark when… (Baby comes too!)

You know you’re in Denmark when… 

Okay, so y’all know that Danish babies sleep outside in their prams or barnevogne, “child wagons”, as they’re called here.  I told you before that a French friend of mine nearly fainted when she found out.  “It’s barbaric!”  My Mum actually did the same with me in Scotland in the summer.  But here in Denmark they do it all year round.  In the deep mid-winter.  When it’s raining.  Snowing.  You name the inclement weather - we have it – Danish babies sleep outside in it.  Just remember to dress Baby Viking accordingly.  Keeping in mind the Danish motto: There’s no such thing as bad weather.  Only the wrong clothing!  Though selvfølgelig the Danish health authorities don’t recommend that Baby Viking sleeps outside when ill.  Or if the outside temperature drops below minus 10c/14f  ;)

Above you can see my DS14 (dear son, 14) when he was about a year old, together with a friend from creche.  When our DKs (dear kids) were small, they slept in a pram which I parked in our garden.  People who live in flats often have an old, extra pram permanently parked on their balcony, so the baby can get their daily nap. And at vuggestue (creche) they’ll often have specially built, large wooden cribs for the kids.  The cribs are parked in a shed when the weather is particulary nasty.  Our two kids were sent off every day with their favourite small duvet/comforter and pillow.  Hyggeligt!  And sleeping outside usually means that they take a l-o-v-e-l-y,   l-o-n-g,  h-e-a-l-t-h-y  nap!

But, as usual, I digress…  Now, just because you have a baby doesn’t mean that you can’t get around Copenhagen.  On the contrary.  Baby always comes too!  The buses have space for a couple of prams.  And prams here can be  r-e-a-l-l-y  b-i-g.  You get on via the middle doors of the bus.  And ring the “pram” bell when you get off – so that the driver knows to allow you extra time when disembarking your tank…

The Metro and S-tog (Subway) trains have specially assigned areas for parking prams and bikes. 

 You’ll find those carriages at the front and back ends of the train.

Want to browse the shops?  No problem!  Baby comes too!  Get right in there!  Though it can get quite cramped sometimes when there are two or three prams vying for place…  [It can also lead to 'road wars' on the pavements when you are trying to manoeuvre past those giant prams.]

Baby is in the middle of a nap, or prams aren’t allowed in a particular store?  Just point the pram towards the window of the shop and keep an eye out.  I had a hard time with this one in the beginning.  Funnily enough, I always took my *valuables* out of the pram.  ’Cos I was more concerned about someone stealing my shopping than my baby… :P

Where are the Mum and Dad of these Viking Twin Babies?  Inside the café, on the other side of the window.

Yep, those crazy Danes have it all sewn up.  Or should that be snuggly tucked in?  So you fancy living in Denmark?  Babies no obstacle!

Diane :)