You’re in for a giant surprise.

Last Saturday we packed up a picnic and met some of our lovely expat friends in the woods to go on a hunt for….giants.

Isn’t it bears you find on a picnic day down the woods you say? Not in Copenhagen.

Meet The Six Forgotten Giants. Well meet two of them – we didn’t have time/toddler capacity to find the other four.

These impressive sculptures have been created by the Danish artist Thomas Dambo. With the help of volunteers, he built the six friendly giants across the woods of Copenhagen, his home town, using only recycled wood.

The aim of the project is to bring art outside and show off beautiful nature spots around the city that are often left unexplored. You can get a treasure map for your adventure, which shows roughly where the giants are located, across the areas of Rødovre, Hvidovre, Vallensbæk, Ishøj, Albertslund and Høje Taastrup. And by each giant is a plaque, giving a clue about how to find another one.

You don’t just stumble across these giants or spot them driving along on your bike or in your car. That’s the point. You have to work hard to find them – and there’s a beauty in that – looking at the map, working out your route and planning a day outdoors in the woods. Our group all used different modes of transport to get to the giants – cycling, walking, public transport and driving. One family lived a short bike ride from one giant and didn’t even know that wood existed. So Thomas Dambo, you did your job! We have already planned another outing to explore the area and other giants, so I’ll make sure to update this post with more of the giant characters.

Sleeping Louis

 

All the sculptures are named after their builders. Louis is a former assistant of Thomas Dambo and he came over from England to help build this sculpture. Sleeping Louis is hidden up a little hill in the forest in Rødovre. He doubles up as a shelter because Dambo noticed the spot was often used by homeless people as a place to sleep.

 

Hill Top Trine

Here’s Trine, chilling on a hill in Hvidovre. You can sit in the palm of her hands and look across the beautiful view of Avedøresletten.

Lydia preferred Trine’s shoulder…

Again, the giant has been named after one of the volunteers who helped build her.

Apparently the giants are here to stay, as long as they are safe.

So go down to the woods today, wherever you are.

For it isn’t just about giants that surprise you…it’s the magic of nature.

 

This blog post is all about the logistics of setting up in Denmark and how we did it, as EU members. Just as we finished all our expat admin four weeks ago, Article 50 was triggered for Britain to leave the EU. 20 days later, a snap general election was called. So who knows what the future holds. Without getting too political, all I will say is that being part of the EU has made our move and transition here smooth and straight forward and we are very grateful. I’m sure Rich would like to say a lot more about the current state of affairs in UK politics but I’ll leave that for his family and friends 😉

Before I begin, remember how I’m half Danish. Well I did wonder if that gave me any sort of ‘Pass Go’ card. In my research I found out that if one of your parents is a Danish national, even if you, the child has never lived in the country, you are automatically Danish nationals as well. But…unless you move to Denmark by the age of 22, or claim you’ve got an association with the country by this age, you lose that nationality. Nooo…ten years too late I thought! But actually it isn’t that simple in my case because Dad, although born in Denmark to Danish parents, became a British citizen through his adoption process. His adopted mum was Danish, his adopted Dad British and they always lived in England. So the upshot is that I have to apply to become a Danish resident just the same as anyone else coming from the EU without Danish connections.

So here is the list of what we did, to get it signed and sealed that we could live here properly.

Register as a Danish resident

As a member of the EU, you can stay in Denmark for leisure/holiday for up to three months and you can stay up to six months if you are job-seeking. It is after this time that you must register as a resident if you want to stay longer. You can of course do this as soon as you arrive, if that’s your intention.

So to apply for Danish residency as an EU member, you need to meet one of these criteria:

  • you’re in paid employment in Denmark
  • you’re self-employed in Denmark
  • you provide services in Denmark
  • you’re a retired worker, retired self-employed person or retired service provider in Denmark
  • you’ve been seconded to Denmark
  • you’re a student in Denmark
  • you can prove you can finance your stay in Denmark

You can’t apply to be a resident until you’re actually in the country as you need to physically provide your documents. You will need your passport, one passport photo and your proof of meeting one of the criteria above, along with a form which you can print off from the website: http://www.statsforvaltningen.dk

Other useful websites are www.nyidanmark.dk and www.workindenmark.dk

So once you’ve got to Denmark with all your documents, you can go and register at the Statsforvaltningen (State Administration), or International Citizen Service (ICS). We went to the Statsforvaltningen. We waited for about an hour to been seen and then it was very straightforward to process the documents. Two weeks later, we were sent our registration certificate through the post.

CPR number

So you’ve got your registration certificate and you’re a Danish resident. But this doesn’t really mean anything without a CPR number, which is your personal ID. This gives you access to free Danish healthcare, subsidised daycare, free Danish lessons, a Danish bank account etc etc. Some landlords for long-term rentals also require you to have your CPR number.

Now you need to take a trip to the International Citizen Service (ICS). Our letter told us we could go to our local municipality. After two metro journeys and waiting in the queue there, we were told this was only for NemID (see below what that is). Joys. Another trip and another hour’s queue, we were ready to get our CPR numbers, at the right place of ICS.

This time you need your residence certificate, passport, proof of address in Copenhagen, marriage certificate if married and children’s birth certificates, if you have kids. This process takes a bit longer. Luckily there was a kind worker on hand to bribe Lydia with a banana and croissant. Just when I thought we were done, an error was spotted. My date of birth on the residency certificate had been printed incorrectly. Oh never mind I thought, my passport clearly has the right date of birth, as well as my marriage certificate, so this can be amended right? Wrong. Well it can be amended but that’s down to me. It meant a trip back to Statsforvaltningen (a 30 minute bus trip from our house), another hour’s queue, to get them to amend their mistake, and then a metro journey to return to International Citizen Service with the updated version, to process it all again. Oh and because on paper, the mum has the main responsibility of the child, Lydia couldn’t get her CPR number until I’d done this. This was a “let it go, let it goooo” moment after a tedious trek and queue of a day, with Lydia in tow. So two days later I did it all again, taking poor Lyds with me while Rich job-searched. Luckily I managed to queue jump at the ICS and saw the same lady. Just as well because I didn’t realised the office closed at 2pm and I arrived at 1.50pm. And then hurrah, we had our CPR numbers instantly, a ‘Welcome to Copenhagen’ pack and were assigned a GP.

I have recently discovered that you can actually get both the residency certificate and CPR number at International Citizen Service. I wish I had known this. If you manage it correctly and queue before the office opens at 10am, you can book a slot to get your registration certificate processed that same day and then book another slot to get your CPR number later in the day, as well as your tax card. Which makes me wonder even more, why the error on my residence certificate couldn’t be corrected when I was applying for my CPR. (“Let it goooo!”) Anyway, there’s more info here.

NemID

This is your key to online Denmark. You can order your NemID once you’ve got your CPR number and it can be done at the same CPR appointment at the International Citizen Service (make sure you ask for it), or you can go to your local municipality, along with your CPR number. You’re given a user ID and a code card is sent to you about two weeks later.

Your NemID is your Danish online profile and you need it to access things like online phone contracts, travel card top ups, online banking, tax returns, VAT, anything public-authority related, as well as your digital mail. Everyone is expected to have a NemID and Digital Mail, unless you give a reason why you can’t.

Two weeks after asking for your NemID, you’ll receive three small paper cards in the post, each filled with 44 codes.  Every time you log in to something like online banking, you enter your NemID (which is a username and password you set up on registration) and then you fill in a code. You’re given the first four numbers of that code, you then have to find that sequence (across 44 numbers x 3 cards) and fill in the remaining six numbers. You do this for every online process. The same code will never be used more than once and the system automatically sends you new cards when you’ve used all the codes. It makes for some blurry eyes but you soon get used to it. Nem is meant to stand for ‘easy’ but I’ve heard many Danes say it is anything but.

Digital Mail

You need NemID to set up your digital mail. You receive all post from public authorities via digital mail rather than paper. So for example I’ve had digital mail about our GP and Lydia’s nursery place and application. It’s pretty important so make sure you set it up. You can get alerted to a new digital mail through your personal email address and text (if you have a Danish number).

Health card

About two weeks after getting your CPR number and being assigned a GP at the same time, you get your health card through the post. This has your name, address and CPR number on it, which acts as an ID so keep it in your wallet. It was what I got asked for when I was fined on the bus and the ticket man zapped it and got all my info (sad face).

Bank Account

You need your health card to open your bank account. Thanks to fellow expats who told us this as, it would never have occurred to me to wait for a health card before joining yet another queue in a bank. We picked Nordea as a bank, only because I see branches everywhere and in Denmark, you’re charged for taking cash out of an ATM that isn’t from your own bank. When you open your account(s), you need to assign a Nemkonto to your main account (the bank should initiate this but worth checking). This is linked like the digital mail, so the public authorities know where to pay in money like child benefit pay etc.

You are also charged about £20 a year for having a debit card or credit card. We had to order these ourselves online and they took two weeks to then arrive. And we were sent a debit card, not a Dankort which we asked for and were advised to get. I’m not fully sure of the difference yet but when I tried to create a direct debit scheme for my Rejsekort, it asked for a Dankort, so I need to ask the bank about this but for now we are using the debit cards.  The time between arriving in Denmark, getting registered, being assigned our CPR numbers, getting health cards, opening bank accounts and then getting bank cards delivered, was seven weeks.

Travel card/Rejsekort

I’m still navigating this system as I go along. Apparently the Rejsekort, which is like the London Oyster card, was only introduced to Copenhagen very recently and is still experiencing some problems. The resident Rejsekort gives you the best price on public transport (buses, metros and s-togs, which are the trains.) So I waited for my CPR number before getting one and went to Copenhagen Central Station to queue (again!) and get it, as I hadn’t sorted my NemID to order online. There are various options and I went with the Travel Map flex, which means I can lend it to friends or family to use. The monthly passes are also very good if you know what zones you travel across on a regular basis. I’ve recently discovered there’s an app called mobilbilleter, where you can pay for trips as you go, or top up with credit for multiple journeys. The bonus of this, is that you don’t have to remember to swipe your Rejsekort at the start and end of your journeys or between modes of transport. Unlike in London, there aren’t ticket barriers here, so it’s easy to forget to check out on your card. You’re then charged as if you’ve continued travelling around the whole of Copenhagen for the day. Rich learnt this the hard way. Twice.  If you have that ‘doh’ moment soon after you’ve left the station/bus, you can check out using the app Check Udvej, which will save you some money.

And then there’s the old fashioned option of just paying for a day ticket or single ticket at the machine/on the bus. But you need Danish kroner in coins to do this, or a bank card for the metro/s-tog, which of course will charge you the exchange rate if you haven’t got your Danish bank card, and it’s not the most cost-effective option.

If you’re a visitor, I’d recommend mobilbilleter or getting a visitor Rejsekort, which is available at Copenhagen Central Station and various other station machines. If you’re with a Danish friend/family member, they can add you to their journey on their own Rejsekort, but remember this can only be done for the metro and s-tog and not the bus, as we discovered to our detriment with the bus fine scenario!

On top of this, I’ve heard you are charged to take a bike on the s-tog but not the metro. How this works, I don’t know, as we are not yet bike owners. As soon as we are, I’ll be posting all about it 🙂 And maybe the conclusion of this travel-ticket-purchasing system, is to just get a bike!

Danish Language Courses

When you get your CPR number, you are entitled to 250 hours of Danish language lessons completely free, which is an amazing opportunity to learn the language. The classes are divided into five modules of 50 hours with an exam at the end of each section. You have 18 months to complete your 250 hours of Intro Dansk, which starts the day you sign up. Once you have completed this within 18 months, you can then progress to The Danish Language Training Programme, which gives you another 3-3.5 years of free language lessons. When you have your CPR number, you can choose a language school and class time that suits you best. There can be a bit of a wait for a class to fill up and start a new module. I am still waiting for mine but Rich has started his evening classes and is busy practising! But I’m sadly realising that my brain doesn’t hold new information like it used to. I hope this is just because of the many plates I have spinning now I’m a mum, freelancer and new expat, as opposed to just getting a bit thick.

Danish language homework.

Phone contracts

There are loads to choose from but for a sim only pay-as-you go, Lyca is the recommended provider and is what Rich has. My British phone contract runs until October and it isn’t worth the charge of leaving it early, when I get EU calls and texts included in my package, so I still have a British number. It hasn’t stopped me doing anything but it doesn’t make me feel very Danish. Other phone contracts that have been recommended to me are Fullrate, Oister, Tjeep and 3.

Nurseries

Once you’ve got a CPR number, you can get on the waiting list for a nursery. We had to wait until we knew where we were going to be living after our two-month rent was up, as I didn’t want to swap nurseries. Waiting lists are long but the rule is, you will get something within two months. It may not be your first choice of nursery and it may be a childminder, but you will get something. You are also assigned a ‘movers spot,’ which helps you jump up the waiting list, if you’ve recently moved to the area and need a place asap. I’ll dedicate a whole post to nurseries as there’s a lot to say. But after looking around seven, I got a movers spot for my second favourite place and had to wait two months, which is now one month away. My favourite nursery had a six-month waiting list; without a movers spot it would have been at least a year. So get on the list early is my advice.

Housing

It is possible to rent in Denmark without being registered and it then gives you an address to get yourself set up.  There’s also the option of Airbnb for somewhere short-term, while you settle and look at long-term rentals.

I have found both our places (two month and six month contracts) through the website Lejebolig. Both times have been through private landlords (families) for fully furnished places. This has suited our situation perfectly because we are still in a little bit of limbo regarding Richie’s work situation. Many people have an opinion on renting in Copenhagen. The long-term rental market is competitive and generally requires at least three months’ rent for a deposit plus a month’s rent in advance, which is a LOT. And some landlords require a CPR number. I know we have been lucky so far and haven’t had to meet that criteria. But it did take a lot of research and looking at the websites a few times a day, to get in there first when something suitable came up. For both our places, I rang the landlords within hours of the properties being advertised.

Yippee!

And then you’re done! (Minus what I did to set up as a freelancer but there’s only so many ‘to-dos’ a blog post can take.)

It took us about seven weeks to complete all of the above, which was when it was time to move to house number two! Thankfully, moving house is when the online identity NemID comes into its own. I just had to fill in one form at borger.dk for all three of us and everything got updated. You have to register your new address no later than five days after moving, otherwise you’ll get fined. Danish efficiency!

So there you have it. Turning a thought about moving abroad, into a reality, can really be done. We’d done our research before moving but we also learnt a lot along the way, so I hope this helps or inspires others.

When I first asked my younger sister Izzy about my Denmark idea, and whether I was a bit mad, her response really stuck with me. In her laid-back, twenty-something living in London kind of way, she replied:

“It’s just a bunch of logistics Em.”

And you know what Izzy; it really is.

 

I hope everyone has enjoyed the Easter break and long weekend. I love Easter. It has always been a time I’ve spent with my family – both Richie’s and mine. So I knew, unless we had some plans, it could potentially be a time I would become homesick. I’m happy to say, this didn’t happen and we thoroughly enjoyed our first Påske!

Five-day break

Firstly, to make Danish Easter even more welcoming, the Danes include Maundy Thursday (Skætorsdag) as a bank holiday so it’s a five-day break. Great thinking Denmark.

Shut up shop

During this time, most places shut. You won’t find cafes trading as usual or the supermarkets open. So everyone stocks up on supplies. It’s the same at Christmas apparently. There are occasional supermarkets open but you’ll have to search. Despite us doing a big shop on Wednesday, we ran out of milk by Monday. I found a Netto open and walked in to find chaos. Everyone was in there. There were no baskets or trolleys left, most of the shelves were empty and people were grabbing the last items off the shelves. It was not an experience I’d want to repeat, with a huge pushchair in tow. Let’s just say bread was used to bribe Lydia as I had to mount the bottom shelves just to squeeze through the crowds. I also learnt I’m not pronouncing ‘brød’ (bread) correctly. When said bread fell on the floor and I couldn’t reach it, I got very confused looks as I said ‘brød’ and pointed. I say it like bru(l). The ‘d’ is is pronounced like a non existent ‘l’, where your tongue sits between a ‘d’ and an ‘l’. The ø is like uu. Basically it feels like you’re just about to throw up and splutter out a br….u..l..d… (shh i didn’t say d). Except this isn’t working for me so I need a new technique.

Church

Coming from a family of Bishop Dad and Vicar Mum, church featured a lot in my childhood Easters. As an adult, I haven’t attended church as much and the reality of our Easter Day morning here, was catching up on sleep after a very broken night with Lydia. Denmark is a Christian country and has a state church called the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Denmark. But it seems church-going across the Easter period in Denmark, isn’t the reason for the five-day break or shops shutting down. According to a national survey taken in 2000; 48% of Danes think spending time with the family is particularly important during Easter; 37% regard it as a holiday; 10% mentioned ‘attending Church’ and ‘the Christian message’ as the main feature of Easter. (http://denmark.dk/en/meet-the-danes/traditions/easter)

Påskefrokost – Easter lunch.

My Dad’s cousin Anne, lives in a wonderful apartment in Christianshavn. On Good Friday (Langfredag), she hosted a traditional Easter lunch, which in Danish is called Påskefrokost. It includes bread, eggs, salmon, prawns, herring, lamb, frikadeller (meatballs) and salad, all washed down with beer and snaps with cheese, coffee and chocolates to finish. It was delicious!

Anne also hosted the occasion for us to meet more of my extended family, including second cousins who I haven’t seen since I was about 12. We all now have little girls around the same age so it was lovely to see them all playing together and to reconnect with my Danish relations. We came home filled with Danish food and joy.

Gækkebrev

Although we didn’t do this with the family, it is a standard Danish activity for children to make a gækkebrev. This is a snowflake paper cut-out, with a poem written in it. The child doesn’t sign the letter but instead puts dots for each letter of their name. The recipient then has to guess who sent them the letter. If they guess right, they receive a chocolate egg from the sender. If they can’t guess, they have to give the sender a chocolate egg. It’s a tradition dating back to the 1800s and during the Easter break, children (and adults) can have fun making them at the National Museum in Copenhagen.

Easter egg hunts

Easter would not be complete without an Easter egg hunt and yes they do have this in Denmark. Across Copenhagen, there have been egg-hunting events over the Easter break, including at The Frilands Museum and Carlsberg Visitors Centre.

Earlier in the week, Lyds and I went to an Easter-egg hunt organised by Danielle, who I first met at Manchester Airport when we were flying out to move here. She is from Bath and has lived in Copenhagen for seven years. We have kept in touch and it was so lovely to meet up and for Lydia to meet other bi-lingual toddlers in the making!

On Easter Sunday, all three of us went along to an Easter egg hunt organised by an Expat Group we are part of on Facebook. This was held at one of the group member’s houses and a chance for families to meet up, eat food and fellow expat children to play/hunt eggs. I never thought I’d be one of those people who joins a Facebook group to make friends but the Copenhagen Expats has been so helpful and welcoming and doesn’t really feel like that. We have met up with a few of the group before and everyone instantly clicked because we are all in that unique same boat. I’m actually quite bowled over by the fact someone would open up their house to host on Easter Sunday to people they barely know, all so we could feel part of a new different family. We enjoyed the afternoon sun, exchanged stories, swapped advice and made some lovely new friends in the process.

Bank Holiday Monday

What do you do with that extra day after all the chocolate has been consumed? In our case, Rich had to prepare for an interview on Tuesday so I had a walk and play in the park with Lydia after discovering the Netto chaos. From our local parks of Søndermarken and Frederiksberg Have, there are look-out points to Copenhagen Zoo. Yes really, that photo is from a stroll in the park. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of saying “let’s take a walk to see the elephants/giraffes, zebras.” Post on our new area will come soon.

This is really the view from the park.

All this however wasn’t enough excitement for Lydia’s day. As Rich was reading her bedtime stories, she poked him in the eye, so deeply, he couldn’t open it and was in a lot of pain. I can now inform you the Danish 111 system (1813) is very efficient, as is A&E. After speaking to someone on 1813, Rich got a taxi to hospital at 8.30pm, where they were phoned through to expect him, and he was home with an eye patch by 9.45pm. His eye is scratched and he has to use a special cream for the next four days. The eye patch can be taken off tomorrow (Tuesday) just in time for his interview.

Life is never dull around here. Hence still writing a blog post at midnight.

Happy Easter/back to work after Easter everyone! x

Looking back on my first settling in post, after just ten days in Denmark, I think, oh how minor those settling in wins were! Fast-forward six weeks, we have completed settling in level two and it feels good. It’s just in time for our next house move, and for the Spring weather to kick in. Double whoop.

Level two has been all about the admin, to function as Danish residents. The actual process of registering as a Danish resident was fairly straightforward, thanks mostly to still being in the EU – just! It has been all the other ‘extras’ that come with integrating into a new country, that have taken time and caused a few teething problems (can’t type teething without shuddering – it’s been one of those weeks!).

I’m going to write a separate post on the paperwork you need to set up in Denmark, in case it’s useful to future expats. But to give you an example; to open a bank account, you need a health card, to get a health card, you need a CPR number, to get a CPR number, you need to be registered as a resident, to register as a resident…you get my drift. So after a month of using English bank cards with exchange rate charges and buying the more expensive single tickets on the metro because you can’t get the resident travel card that requires the CPR number, I just wanted to feel like I lived here. Instead, I had moments of feeling like a sort of tourist/visitor/outsider/half Dane who doesn’t understand what you just said to me even though I said ‘ja tak’ and fluttered my Danish blue eyes. I’m a fraud!! Well no longer. Sort of.

So let’s get to the settling in level two wins….

Win number 1: We are permanent Danish residents.

Paper-work is complete! See next blog post on the hoop jumping this involved. It also means we don’t have to drag Lydia around to offices while we wait in queues to get it all sorted.

Win number 2: We have Danish bank accounts.

The debit cards should arrive this week, which means no more exchange rate charges or doing binge ATM visits.

Win number 3: Travel cards like the locals

We have resident travel cards which equals cheaper travel and the easy Oyster-style cards. I had a low-point, when taking a bus journey with Rich and Lydia one day before I got my travel card. Rich had already been sent his, and we thought he could add me to his journey, which is what you can do on the metro and s-tog. Apparently not. To cut a long story short, it ended in a ticket officer who didn’t understand us, we didn’t understand him, suddenly asking for my ID and zapping it with a hefty £90 fine. This was NOT a settling-in win day and I felt frankly fed up with all the admin and waiting, to get something as simple as a travel card. I got over it with the help of chocolate and added to my admin to-do list by appealing.

Danish metros and trains are brilliant and incredibly pram and bike-friendly. Buses with prams/pushchairs are harder work. There are two spaces for prams on the bus and if they’re full – you can’t get on. You also have to board the middle of the bus to use that space. So if you don’t have a travel card and want to pay in kroner, you need to park the pram in the middle and get to the front to pay the driver before he/she sets off. But the drivers aren’t in charge of checking payment, it’s the ticket inspectors, who randomly board public transport. So quite often, the bus has set off, probably assuming you’ll swipe your travel card in the middle. You then have to navigate getting to the front to pay, while leaving your pushchair/child, while the bus driver is still driving or about to stop and you try and get in there before other passengers board. It definitely seems a design fault in an otherwise great public transport system. Before I got my resident travel card, I paid for single tickets by coins or debit card. But you can in fact buy a travel card at a visitor rate, which I would recommend if you’re visiting Copenhagen.

Win number 4: Nursery place

We have navigated the Danish childcare system and Lydia is on the waiting list for a nursery (This also requires a separate blog post). I feel settled that I know she is going to be able to enjoy playing with more Danish children soon, as I have mum guilt that we aren’t doing enough exciting day trips with her.

Win number 5: Our first visitors

Richie’s parents came for five days, staying nearby and my best friend Ali came for a weekend visit. Both times it rained and was freezing but we still loved showing them around Copenhagen, our new home. Richie’s parents also brought with them a suitcase of extra clothes for me and toys for Lydia. It was like Christmas!

Win number 6: La La Land

I went to the cinema with Ali and watched La La Land. It’s a trivial win but while Rich and I are both juggling settling-in admin, work, job searches and full-time Lydia care, we can’t even contemplate something like a cinema trip. In fact, we haven’t even switched on the TV since we got here. So 2 hours of watching this, reminding me about the excitement of pursuing your dreams, was a happiness win. (Except the ending, which I’m just glossing over – sob.) It also gave me an incentive to make use of the piano in this house, by learning some of the score. Happy times for me; for Rich, piano practice apparently sounds like ‘torture.’

Win number 7: Family Firth time.

I am sure we will look back at this time as really special, as we are managing to spend so much time together and watch Lydia come on leaps and bounds. Before we moved to Denmark, she was just about walking and said a few words. Now she runs, jumps, side-steps, dances and has new words everyday including tak! It’s so lovely to see and for Rich to share this stage of development so closely with her. In between job applications and meetings, he is doing an incredible job at Daddy daycare on the days I’m working.

Win number 8: We got through winter

I wouldn’t go as far as saying it’s warm, but it’s definitely heading that way. Gone are the seven-layers approach to dressing and almost…almost, gone is the winter coat. The lighter evenings are wonderful and during the last week I’ve been able to play with Lydia outside in our allotment area before her bedtime, which is idyllic.

Win number 9: We have a new Danish home

And we move in two days! Our new home for six months will be in Valby (pronounced Valboo). We were cautious not to get somewhere much longer while we still don’t know what our average joint income will be. This is a ground floor apartment, fairly central and by a lovely park and zoo. We have managed to find another lovely family who are leaving most things for us while they move to their summer house for half the year. Apparently this is quite common in Copenhagen as you are never far from a beach. So people move 30 minutes down the road, to live by the sea in the summer and rent out their city apartments. We will be sad to leave our wonderful first Danish house but it feels a natural time to start a new Danish living chapter. And guess what…change of address admin – already done!

Win number 10: Work is in progress

Rich has made so many more contacts now we are living here and has had positive meetings – including in the tile industry, his speciality. It’s a bit of a waiting game as the appointing process takes so long. So irons are constantly being thrown in the fire and we are still staying positive that one will come good.

My freelance work is going well and I’ve been very lucky to find someone who took a chance on me and not only gave me my first project but is letting me use their office in central Copenhagen while I set myself up. This means I get to feel part of a Danish work place, which I think is a massive settling in help/win and I’ve learnt more about Danish culture from being there.

Lunchtime is important and most work places have it at 12pm, some even at 11.30am, where everyone will gather for around 30 minutes or so and enjoy lunch and not talk about work. Eating at the desk is just not a thing here and when you start to explain that’s what you’re used to, you actually realise it’s pretty gross. So…at 12pm I am treated to a table laid with rye bread and an abundance of fillings to choose from. During my first couple of weeks, I would pick a selection of fish, tomatoes, cheese, avocado and eat it like a mixed salad with the bread. This isn’t Danish. The Danish way is creating a perfectly formed instagram-worthy smørrebrød. This is the Danish open bread – not to be confused with the Swedish Smörgåsbord. And there are ‘rules’ on what fillings work with what. Which is why, in my half-baked attempt at putting a mix of everything on my bread, I started to get a few looks. Then one lunchtime, while looking with concern at my plate, they uttered, “You have some interesting combinations there.” I knew I was getting this all wrong! And then I was told about ‘the rules.’ I actually still can’t quite remember what they are as I go for the copycat approach. But I do know my philosophy of ‘cheese goes with everything’, is not correct. And actually, the ‘rules’ taste good.

Other work-place-perks include being taught Danish rap as a way to learn the language, and in doing so, finding out the name Brian in Denmark, is associated with being a bit of a chav – apparently! I tried to explain this is nothing like a British Brian. So, driving on the way to a filming day, my colleague introduces me to the rap song  Det’ Brian. This was definitely a work highlight. It went something like this:

Song: Pizza med ananas og skinke, det’ Brian

Colleague: Pizza with ham and pinapple – that’s Brian.

Me: Hmm I like ham and pineapple.

 

Song: Og nik’ en skalle uden at blinke, det’ Brian

Colleague: Head-butt without blinking – that’s Brian

Me: Gosh head-butting without blinking-that’s a thing?

 

Song: Ikk’ at forstå ironi, det’ Brian

Colleague: Understanding irony – that’s Brian

Me: Well done Brian.

 

Song: Ansigts-tattoo på en pige, det’ helt Brian

Colleague: A girl’s face with a tattoo on it – that’s completely Brian

Me: Maybe it’s a pretty flower?

 

Song: Er det Brian? Ja, det’ Brian. Hvor Brian er det? Det’ helt Brian

Er det Brian? Ja, det’ Brian. Hvor Brian er det? Det’ helt Brian

Colleague: Is it Brian? Yes, it’s Brian. Where’s Brian? It’s definitely Brian.

Is it Brian? Yes, it’s Brian. Where’s Brian? It’s definitely Brian

Me: I got you Brian! Note to self: don’t order pineapple and ham pizza in public.

 

Settling in level two – you’ve been fun, sometimes challenging, mainly eventful. Now time to ease back, enjoy the sun….and get ready to enrol on our Danish language courses!

Following on from my post about the house we’re staying in; this post is about the area.

It’s called Amager. Amager West to be more specific. It’s a little island to the south of Copenhagen, where the airport is based. But it doesn’t feel like an island because it connects to central Copenhagen by bridge which you can cycle, walk, drive across and the metro takes you to the city centre in 10 minutes. From getting to know more locals in Copenhagen, I’ve learnt that Amager has had a hard time of it in terms of shrugging off a poor reputation. Someone I work with said its nickname is ‘sh*t island.’ Poor Amager. But I’ve also learnt that Danes have high standards. Their version of rough, is Sheffield’s upper-end.  There’s even a beach here. So, Amager – I like you. I admit, there’s not a lot to do and see in our immediate surrounding area but what is unique about where we live, is that it’s part of a haveforeninger.

There isn’t an exact translation for haveforeninger in English but it’s pretty much like a large-scale allotment. There are rows and rows of lanes, and either side is a plot of land. Instead of a shed within the garden plot, there are houses. These used to be used for summer residences only, which is why they look and feel like summer houses (this reminds me of my grandparent’s summer house on Rømø, which makes it feel familiar). In 2008 the whole area was legalised, so that all the houses could be used as permanent places to live. Each allotment community has a playground in the middle, along with a parking area. It means that in the Spring/Summer, the children all come out to play in the central area and ride their bikes up and down the lanes. There is a real sense of community about it, which is lovely. When it was Fastelavn, people came out to celebrate in each allotment square and you got a sense that everyone knew each other. They clocked straight away, we were the English family staying for two months.

 

Making use of Lydia's adorable jacket bought by her stylish aunt Hannah, before the warm weather kicks in!

 

Our local playground

 

The Danes like their flag. There are quite a few scattered around the 'allotments.' They are raised for special occasions like birthdays and festivals.

You also notice, walking around here that they like their Danish flag. From having Danish family, I know the importance of the national flag. It’s not unusual to have a flag pole in your back garden in Denmark and on special family occasions and festivals like birthdays, weddings, Fastelavn, the flag is raised. Our first ever family visit to Denmark was during my older sister’s 10th birthday. My uncle raised the Danish flag in his garden to mark the day. See retro 1992 pic below!

The Danish flag being raised for my sister's birthday in 1992. This is my Danish uncle and younger brother and sister.

Back to the post about our area of Amager… It’s quite hard to show the scale of the haveforeningen –  without a drone anyway.  Cue Rich, “you are not using your blog as a reason to buy a drone!” The second idea I had was to put a Go-Pro on my head while I cycled around. But I don’t own a Go-Pro and it’s not up there on our list of priorities right now. So I attempted cycling with one hand, while filming with the other. I put a rough edit of it together and showed it to Rich. He laughed. Maybe I’ll try again before we move to our new apartmnet but for now, I’ll leave at this. Happy weekend everyone.x