New in Denmark

Happy 210th Birthday, Hans!

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Today is the 210th anniversary of the birth of one of most internationally celebrated writers born in Denmark, Hans Christian Andersen.

Although he was not held with such high esteem during his lifetime and in fact had a very difficult, hard life in Denmark, born into poverty and abuse, he has become a legend.  His fairytales still educate and delight today!

If you contact Copenhagen Concierge and arrange a Copenhagen vacation, be sure to ask for a HCA mini-tour  around Copenhagen and Odense to be included in your experiences.

Democratic ways of decision making- my first taste of democracy!

#Like to thank all my wonderful kitchen mates at Kampsax Kollegiet, Kitchen 24

Ever get chance to live with Danes? With one, two or many of them? Well, at least I did. For a very long duration of time while studying my masters. Living in a dormitory with full of Danish people provided me unique opportunity to know lot of things about Danish culture, people and had my first test of democracy in very real way. Curious, what it is? Let me explain it for you.

Monthly kitchen meetups

We were 17 people in the dormitory (called Kitchen in Denmark) with our own rooms and a shared kitchen. Except 4 of us, all the other residents of dormitory were Danish. The shared required each one of us to take duties in turn to keep kitchen neat and tidy. No one was spared of the duties and rotation of duties means, each one of us get chance to do every kind of different tasks.

Once in each month, all the residents of our kitchen met and discussed ways of making kitchen clean, imposing fines on those who are violating the rules and not fulfilling their duties. It was those meetings, where we have also discussed ways to celebrate Danish festivals and even planned group outings.

Since, the kitchen and other useful accessories were provided on the sharing basis, taking care of them was mutual responsibility. It was unique sense of freedom of defining our own rules and also obeying them with a sense of responsibility. Except some difficulties, this entire sharing system of values, responsibilities and ownership has worked very well. Despite being a foreigner, I never felt like an outsider, instead I formed a good bonding with each of the fellow Danes over a period of time. These meetings provided me a good sense of adhering of democratic values and process of collective decision making.

How is it different?

The hostels were I lived before coming to Denmark also had set of rules, but they were already formed by the higher authorities. We had to obey them. This older system has it’s own pros & cons but I am not here to say which is better than others. Both are good in their respective places.

So, if you are coming to Denmark and going to live with Danes than you will get plenty of opportunities to interact and take part in decision making. Only thing is , you need to take part in it like I did and had my first taste of democratic way of decision making.

God Påske (Happy Easter) – Danes Spring Into Action

Celebrating Easter, from Maundy Thursday to Easter Monday, is a big deal in Denmark and as we are just around the corner from it, the streets are bursting with vibrant colours. The Christian holiday of Easter (Påske) celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ after he was crucified by the Romans. Although this may be the focus of the Easter celebrations, in Denmark it also marks the start of the spring season. After the long, dark and cold months of winter, it is easy to see why the Danes put a lot of effort into Easter celebrations. It is a time where the nights stuck inside are being left behind and people can enjoy being outside. Danish homes are decorated with lots of yellows and greens, emulating the colours of daffodils.

Danes in Spring

The celebrations of Easter would not be complete without eggs of all shapes, sizes and colours. I am not sure why the egg is a symbol of Easter. I have heard that it is because the egg is symbolic of fertility and birth, which would tie in with resurrection… However, do not quote me on this, as I am no egg-spert (We all knew there was going to be an egg pun somewhere). Out on the streets, children decorate hollowed out wooden eggs or ‘blown-out eggs’ with bright colours and hang them from trees.

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A big tradition at Easter, specifically for Danes, is to send each other a gækkebrev. This translates to a ‘secret snowdrop letter’. The snowdrop is created by cutting holes into a piece of paper to make it look like a flake of snow. Around the paper, a verse (usually to tease the receiver) is written:

Bag busken jeg fandt en gæk så sød,
jeg troede den var af kulden død.
Nu sender jeg den til dig, min ven.
Tæl prikkerne små og gæt fra hvem.

Behind the bush I found a mockery so sweet,
I thought it was the cold death.
Now I send it to you, my friend.
Count the dots small and guess from whom.

The verse is finished off with a row of dots. The number of dots corresponds to how many letters are in the senders name. If the receiver guesses correctly, out of three guesses, then as a reward they receive… you guessed it… An egg.

What do the adults do whilst the children are undertaking their arts and crafts projects? Well, they are Danish so they will be eating food and drinking beer. The food that is generally eaten around Easter/Spring time is chicken, lamb and eggs. Lighter food with fresh salads. As for the beer, any beer will do ;) However, the Danes will consume a lot of Tuborg’s Påskebryg (Easter brew), also called Kylle-kylle. This is a seasonal beer brewed for Easter. It is slightly spiced and essence of flowers can be picked out, perfect for the longer evenings outside as the weather warms up.

Paaske bryg

As you can see there are lots of ways to celebrate Easter in Denmark… How will you be celebrating?

God Påske

Dan

Following the trail of Tycho Brahe in Hven

This is a story that my fingers should have typed away years ago, yet for some reason it never happened, until now, that is. The typing inspiration came from a Danish food show that was filmed on the location (for Danish speaking food lovers it is a quite interesting DR show).

And now ahoy… We need to board a small ferry and do some sailing down the memory lane to reach the destination. Welcome aboard Hven ferry!

Hven ferry - the only way to get to and from the island to Copenhagen, unless of course you are in a possession of a water or air transport.

Hven ferry – the only way to get to and from the island to Copenhagen, unless of course you are in a possession of a water or air transport.

It is about our adventures in Hven, a tiny island, born Danish, bred Swedish. Squeezed in between Denmark and Sweden, in Øresund, this 300+ inhabitant island becomes a big tourist attraction for the Scandinavians, in the summer. Highlighting the word denoting the season is very important, as we have learned. Only 3 weeks into the autumn, the island was totally deserted, and without exaggeration we could have been the only visitors crazy enough to venture out there after the official travel season has ended.

Of course, if you don’t mind chasing the entire island in search of little food to fill your hunger, and end up finding the only restaurant still open with bumped up prices for a buffet choice, then autumn is a good time to visit. You have the island all to yourself, not counting the friendly islanders, who call Hven their home.

The iconic yellow bikes of the island - a great way to get around if you didn't bring your own iron horse with you.

The iconic yellow bikes of the island – a great way to get around if you didn’t bring your own iron horse with you.

Down the main island road...

Down the main island road…

Nordic idyll

These houses… felt like we were in a nordic interpretation of Hobbit’s land of Shire.

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Storm before the calm

Cruising the stormy waters

Vast, endless panomaras – this is something Hven knows how to impress you with.

Tycho Brahe was a famous Danish astronomer and nobleman, who was given an estate on the island of Hven by a Danish king to conduct his scientific studies. The island today houses his museum and the reconstructed observatory.

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The towers of beautiful København – a sight that welcomes you on the way back from Hven.

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan

Loneliness: A hidden surprise for many!

Accepting requests of many people, I have decided to write again about my experience of Denmark and touch upon lot of pending ideas, I wanted to write once. So, here is my first coming back article.

Scene 1:
You are surrounded by people, even though it looks crowded and sometime uncomfortable; you can talk to the people and see them around you majority of time. This is the case in many countries.

Scene 2:

You arrived in Denmark and after a initial few days, do not find such crowded atmosphere and apart from your work place, may not find people to talk. Come winter and you are trapped inside your house. Even though, you got everything you came for, you started to fell lonely.

Let’s come back to reality. These scenes are not from any drama but are part of reality to many people. It is no hidden fact that Denmark is open society but to many it is also a closed one. Privacy of any individual is very much honored and no doubt that often you will find people are among themselves after working hours. This possess challenges for many people, who are used to live in social environment much more than what is on offer in Denmark.

Socializing with Danes requires an open minded attitude and as I have written in my previous article, being open minded is one of the key in adapting to live in Denmark. I have seen many other people, who are so used to their home environment, that they found it very difficult to adjust to this new reality. During the winter months, you will be forced to lock yourself inside the house. No matter, how much you try; the long winter can be difficult to cope up with. Those long dark nights can bring lot of troubles, if you are unable to cope up with the loneliness. M Though it can vary from individual to individual, feeling depression can be very normal in such scenario.

There is no denial, that Danes do socialize and you will find plenty of opportunity to talk and build communication. But first of all, it is very individual. And second, this will be slightly minimal, to what you were used to at your home country.

So, if you are coming to Denmark, then be aware of this hidden secret!!