New in Denmark

Everybody Loves Denmark? including Hillary Clinton

It is amazing that yes, we the people of the happiest place on Earth, are being thrown around in the United States presidential election….

Hillary says she loves Denmark but hey, no socialism in the United States, OK?

“We are not Denmark,” Hillary told her opponent Bernie Sanders. “I love Denmark.” “We would be making a grave mistake to turn our backs on what built the greatest middle class in the history of the world.”

The funny thing is that while everybody in the US is talking about how the wonderful Danish system (and it’s bloody high taxes) distributes this tax wealth into free healthcare, free education and great maternity and welfare benefits…..

Back in Denmark, we are debating about reducing/removing the dreaded ‘top tax’ in order to stimulate growth. And by the way, ask any Dane on the street, they don’t consider themselves a socialist. Just citizens of one of the best systems in the world.

Denmark collects a lot of taxes. The top income tax rate is 60.3 percent; there’s also a 25 percent national sales tax, on everything including food. Overall, Denmark’s tax take is almost half of national income, compared with 25 percent in the United States. Indeed, the Danes were even the first in the world to have a ‘fat’ tax that put an extra tax on sugar, butter and chocolate. Luckily, they abolished it after people threatened that it would affect the Danish Butter Cookie industry.

Our new prime minister, Lars Lokke, loves the new tax cutting idea and says that doing away with the additional top tax rate of 15 percent would increase the supply of labour and boost the gross domestic product (GDP) by 15 billion kroner.

This projection is on the basis that abolishing the top tax rate would encourage top tax payers to work an average of 1.7 percent more, more people to go after high-paying jobs and fewer highly-educated people would leave the country. But most importantly, more Danes would spend more money. Apparently, this tax break would results in 7.3 billion kroner in sales taxes from a rise in consumption associated with people being better off and more income tax at the lower rate as a result of the increased supply of labor from the addition of new jobs.

Sounds like the Danish version of Reagonomics.

A recent article in Berlingske showed that many average middle class families in Denmark would benefit greatly from this tax break.

I guess we in Denmark are trying to learn from the architects who built the ‘greatest middle class in the history of the world’. :)

Danish children get to see a lion cub dissected, just in time for Halloween

Last week, I read media reports about the dissection of a one-year-old lion on Oct. 15 at the Odense Zoo with school children present.

What a way to prepare the little kiddies for Halloween.

One news report’s headline said the children were ‘enthralled’ in watching the dissecting of the lion. The photo that accompanied the story shows anything but ‘enthralled’ faces of both children and adults.

‘The reason we are dissecting it is that we believe there is a lot of education involved in dissecting a lion,’ Michael Wallberg Sorensen, a zookeeper at the Odense Zoo, told the, a British online newspaper.

There was a firestorm reaction over a Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer who paid reportedly $50,000 to hunt and killing Cecil the Lion in July in Zimbabwe. He had to close his dental practice for a while and go into hiding because of the numerous death threats.

But the killing and public dissection of zoo animals in Denmark is different.

In a review of online comments, there is a tit-for-tat, back and forth between Danes and non-Danes. Including Danish parents describing their children enjoying the dissection and people who are against this act. Many of the people opposed to this public dissecting – it seems the lion was killed months ago and out-of-sight of children – apparently have come from outside of Denmark.

Michael Wallberg Soerensen said the dissections are “not for entertainment but are educational. We are not chopping up animals for fun. We believe in sharing knowledge,” Mr Soerensen said, the Associated Press reports.

Little did I know my made-up Disney quote in another posting, about the Copenhagen Zoo’s killing and slaughter of Marius, a two-year-old giraffe last year (See: MARIUS DIED FOR OUR ZINS, Feb. 19 2014) would quote at least one Dane in an art-imitating-life moment.

“You think the animal kingdom is like the magical kingdom of Disney?” I wrote last year in my satirical Marius piece. Last week, a Dane made a similar comment on the Odense Zoo’s Facebook page, saying people should realize the real world isn’t like ‘Disney.’

And some say video games and movies desensitize young people.

“Ordinary Danes” continued another press report, defended the not-so-ordinary act of dissecting a zoo animal in front of children. Even though the zoo says it has been doing this for 20 years.

On the Odense Zoo’s Facebook page, some Danes ask if critics of the zoo’s recent actions have ever visited a slaughterhouse. In my mind and other’s as well, the big distinction is that zoos are established for the preservation of animals for the enjoyment (sic) of humans. While slaughterhouses’ primary job is for the slaughter of animals for human consumption.

Even Russia chimed in against this public practice, calling it “civilized barbarism”.

Russian Minister of Natural Resources and Ecology Sergey Donskoy – who apparently has more concern over animals being slaughtered than his government’s slaughter of human life in rebel Chechnya and Syria – called it civilized barbarism, according to the Copenhagen Post, an English daily in the Danish capital.

He stated no Russian animals sent to foreign zoos “may be dissected in public.”

Last year, the Moscow Zoo said they sent a number of their animals including an antelope, a gorilla, and two snow leopards, to zoos in Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, and Poland.

Buried in one of the lion cub news stories – a journalism term when an important piece of information is included (hidden?) in the news story or feature – is a Odense Zoo employee “said the male lion and two of its siblings were killed in February because they were getting sexually mature” – and here is the key point – “and could have started matting.” The employee pointed out the zoo wanted to “avoid inbreeding.”

“Zoos have an ethical responsibility to make prudent decisions about how they manage population control which doesn’t rely on animals being routinely killed as disposable assets, “ says Joanna Swabe, Executive Director of the Humane Society International (HIS), on October 15 to the Huffington Post.

“This zoo was making a macabre spectacle out of a much deeper tragedy,” says Swabe.

“A wide range of contraceptive options are available to zoos that enable them to manage reproduction, prevent inbreeding, maintain genetically healthy populations as well as allow animals to live in family groups,” continued Swabe. “This particular young female lion at Odense Zoo was in many ways condemned to die the moment she was born, a birth that should never have been allowed to happen in the first place.”

Campaigns in Europe to save Marius were launched in 2014 before the Copenhagen Zoo successfully killed and dissected the young giraffe. Zoos and wildlife preserves in England, Holland, Poland and even Sweden stepped forward to try and save the young giraffe’s life. The Danish zoo turned them all down in a Cold War diplomacy-speak, saying it was a Danish internal matter with foreigners to mind their own business.

Is a Danish zoo’s – any zoo for that matter – job to ‘educate’ school children how humans dissect zoo animals? Doesn’t this confuse young children about the very reason for zoos?

I wish someone would seriously help me understand this. Because if allowing young children is see a human dissect an animal, why aren’t regular filed trips scheduled to one of the numerous pig laughter houses in Denmark? Is it because Jens or Johanne’s would think twice about the pork served for dinner that night if they saw the slaughter of pigs that the morning?

In a country that has more pigs than Danes – 28 million pigs (70 per cent exported) versus nearly 5.7 million Danes, according and Statistics Denmark – I’m sure the Danish pork producers wouldn’t want to add to the trend of younger generation of Danes turning away from consuming pork for a healthier eating lifestyle resulting from slaughter house tours.

I used a tongue-in-cheek update of the Shakespeare’s phrase, ‘There is something rotten in the state of Denmark’ from the play ‘Hamlet’ for the title of my blog. Little did I know there would be something rotten in Denmark: The stench from the animals intentionally killed at Danish zoos.

This writer searched and search for the name the zoo gave to this lion cub by the Odense Zoo. Either they never gave the animal a name, which is hard to believe, or didn’t want the public to know the name.

The zoo apparently didn’t want the public to get close to this cub in knowing its name (unlike Marius the giraffe). But it’s okay for school children to stand close to the nameless lion cub being dissected because it was an “educational moment.”

After all we don’t want to ‘Disney-fy’ this act so close to Halloween.

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How to befriend with Danes-1: Eat the ‘patience’ pill first

[This is the first in the series of posts, where I will share some of my personal experiences on how to befriend with Danes]

During my stay in Denmark, I have often come across the question on how to make friendship with Danish people. I was aware about the reserve nature of Danish people even before moving to Denmark. I have studied a lot about the German culture during my IT job and somehow pre-assumed that Danish culture could be similar. I am an extrovert person in nature and easily engage into conversation with others. Coming from the society where being social is like a habit, I knew that is always need a little bit of extra work to work in different culture.
So, then I was in Denmark and how things went well? This series will talk about it.

First and foremost, you need to have a lot of patience to have a friendship with Danes. They are very open in normal and initial conversation but friendship is different than regular normal conversations.

I have already started my master studies at Technical University. And we used to go to Copenhagen sometime for a little walk or hanging out with other friends.During one such day, one of the person of our department suddenly found us roaming around the round tower in Copenhagen. He is in the same department as mine apart form the fact that he and his group members are were researchers and I was just a master graduate student Still, there is something particular about Denmark is no hierarchy while socializing. You can speak to anyone without difficulties.

Let’s get back to our topic. They invited me to join them for a coffee and I agreed for it. We sat in a coffee and I sat next to a Danish person. He was also a researcher, although he did not belong to the same research group as mine but working in the same department building. I had a very interesting conversation with him for over 2 hours related to many things especially about Denmark and how individual people are named in Denmark. He was very pleased to know about my curiosity of learning Danish of my own.

Our meeting ended, weekend was over and all of us returned back to our usual day to day schedule. I have seen this person again after 3 days, as usual I have raised my hand, waved it a bit and said hi with smile. He did not reply at all. ‘Really?’ How come a person do have such a short term memory? It was just 3 days and we had 2 hours long conversation over a coffee. In my mind, I thought may be Danes like to keep private and personal life separate, so may be if I meet him again in an informal setting, he will open up? Like the last time.

Anyway, it happened 2-3 time again as he work in the same building where my department is located. I did it again as usual this is my habit to just casual hi. In the 3rd time, he reply saying hi and did ask, how I am doing, how I am finding Denmark winter etc.

Somehow, I have realized that this is what needed to befriend with Danes. Keep trying for more time until they are able to open up. I had several interactions with my friends (youngsters) in Denmark about this phenomenon. They said to me that it is very normal. Majority of the Danes are not do not know how to open up to foreigners. Either they are shy or either they are too comfortable with their Danish friends.

So, whatever the case may be, you do know that befriending with Danes just requires slightly different approach. You need to have a lot of patience initially and once you are able to establish a good level of trust, you can have Danes as a friend for your entire life. I will talk more about it in my next blog post.

Disclaimer: This entire post is based on my personal experiences.And it has to be read in the similar context.

Our 5000 km road trip from Denmark to Armenia – how it all started!

Hello :)

After one month of driving on the roads of Eastern Europe Andreas and I are back from our big adventure. On my blog here I am sharing the beginning of our road trip, as it all started in Denmark. If you are interested to read more about our travels you can visit my personal blog We have also shared many pictures from our trip on Instagram. Check it out at

Enjoy the ride!

Our 5000 km road trip from Denmark to Armenia – how it all started!

The summer has come and gone like a beautiful flap of butterfly wings. Now I am sitting in my favourite café in the hood, sipping on my favourite chai latte, looking out the window illuminated by candlelight reflections and staring at the grey October sky. It is a beautiful day indeed, a perfect type of a setting to start sharing our memories from our incredible road trip.

We have long been dreaming about embarking on a road trip. For a year now we promised ourselves. A graduation gift from us to us. Driving from Denmark to Armenia… Exploring the roads of Eastern Europe… In a Land Rover… This one particular element was the only one thing that Andreas has been persistent and insistent about.

In August, after months of slaving on our theses, we did graduate and we did rock it! First it was Andreas who aced his thesis and graduated the Technical University of Denmark with the shiniest of all diplomas.


My love all in smiles, surrounded by his proud parents and his work manager


So proud of you!

Then five days later, I was up in the same room defending my thesis. A day I was so anxious about actually felt quite relaxed, like I was telling a story of my journey during the past seven months. As my supervisor and the censor told me I did ace the thesis, and this is the only self-bragging I have allowed myself to do here. What followed was a hyggelig celebration and a huge sense of accomplishment.


Now with this exciting academic chapter of our lives behind us we finally became the master of our evenings and weekends again and had all the time in the world to focus on making our next dream come true. Road trip… The adventures of being your own boss of the travels.

The start and end destinations were set long ago when the first seeds of this crazy adventure were born in our traveller minds. Now it was time to plan the route. And that is what we did one Sunday afternoon. We spread out the map over Europe, took a pen and started dotting the countries we would cross, the stops we would make, and the roads we would drive. Little by little our itinerary started to come alive.

Andreas in charge of computerising our travel plan

Andreas in charge of computerising our travel plan

By the time our plan has been laid out, our family and friends got divided into two distinct groups. First was the cheering group, who thought our travel plan was so daring and cool. This mostly excluded the family. Then came the second group – the worry-ers, who thought we were crazy and this was a totally risky adventure. This included many family members.

In the end of August just a few days before we were set to hit the road, we finalised our initial route. 10 countries in 3 weeks! Around 5000 km.  Let the adventure begin!


Our planned route highlighted in yellow with iconic stops carefully penned in. Of course the route changed along the way, but we did cross the 10 countries and the 5000 kms to reach our beautiful destination – Armenia!

This is our itinerary:

When: August 27 – September 26
Where: Denmark, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia, and Armenia

Having jotted the route down, the most important element of our road trip was missing – the mode of transportation. After much talk, worry (mostly on my part), and Andreas’ spending countless hours on the Internet searching for the perfect vehicle, we finally set our eyes on three used cars within our humble budget that were on sale in Berlin. And that is what became our first destination. More on this in our next post.

Follow our adventures and come along for the ride!

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan

Leif Erikson from a Danish (sic) perspective in the ‘New World’

Lei Eriksson Reykjavik

Statue of Icelandic explorer Leif Erikson in the Icelandic capitol of Reykjavik. Even this city’s name has a bit of viking in it as ‘vik’ as we can see by the name.

Ode to Leif Erikson

( A Response to ‘In 1492’ )

 By Scott Larsen Copyright © 2015

Columbus sailed the ocean blue, that very well may be true.

But 500 years earlier, Leif Erikson came first, to satisfy an explorer’s thirst.

 Columbus’ men dreamed of trees and sand. Leif’s men discovered them in Newfoundland.

 They discovered this and Labrador and Baffin ‘land. All Columbus discovered was Bahamas sand.

 Erikson returned with lumber, fruit, and tales. Columbus returned with gold for Spain under his sails.

 Leif discovered with one ship, while the other had three. Discovered plenty more, but history denied it to thee.

 To the victor belong the spoils and history as the historians write. That is why Columbus is favored, although we know it isn’t right.

 So hail Leif Eriksson! Hail to thee, as the first European émigré.

 To a land called Canada, a New World to the Old. Discovered by an Icelander! A Viking! We say so bold.

 In Canada, we don’t celebrate Columbus Day, but rather Thanksgiving. For us it’s more important because we are the living.


The above poem was written for this weekend’s ‘Leif Erikson Day Festival: Denmark’ on Oct. 3 – 4 at the Scandinavian Community Centre, Burnaby, BC, Canada.

Even though Erikson was an Icelandic, this relatively new event’s sponsorship is rotated among the five Nordic houses – (Icelandic, Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden) – that make up the centre. The Danes at the centre are sponsoring this weekend which is why ‘Denmark’ is in this year’s event title.

Ed Khulman, President of the Danish House Society, asked me last August at the annual Danish BBQ if I would represent the Danish house and give a talk for this Erikson October weekend. I was there to cover this summertime gathering of Danes as a reporter for Den Danske / The Danish Pioneer.

To say I was flattered and honoured in being asked would be an understatement.

Various Danish-related presentations will be held this weekend. From a Danish travel slide show and Nordic Spirit exhibit, preserving one’s family heritage, to a talk about the creation of a virtual museum by the Danish Canadian National Museum and Gardens in Dickson, Alberta, Canada.

I wracked my brain to think about what I should talk about for an hour. Held on or before Leaf Erikson Day on Oct. 9th, this date chosen because that is when the Norwegian ship, the Restoration, from Stranger, Norway, arrived in NYC on Oct. 9, 1825. Significant for being the first organized immigration from Scandinavia but in particular Norway.

Denmark is home of the Viking Ship Museum, the national museum “for ships, seafaring and boatbuilding in the prehistoric and medieval period.” Five Viking ships were found in 1962 and raised and currently are on display at the museum. While I have never been to the museum I look forward to visiting it on my next trip to Denmark. Especially after learning more about these Danish ships.

So I decided to talk about ‘Then and Now: A Look at Denmark From the Vikings to Today.’ My plan is to talk about the Viking period (793 – 1066) including when Leaf Erikson discovered the New World by way of Baffin Island, Labrador, and Newfoundland around 1001 (year of discovery varies I found in my research…). Canada is the site of the oldest Danish/Scandinavian/European settlement, L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland, only discovered n 1960.

Then, I will touch on Denmark’s long-held connection to the sea. Concluding Maersk, the world’s largest container ship operation that is Danish, continues Leif Erikson and the Viking spirit in sailing the seven seas.

Wish me luck!