Monday, June 30, 2008

Graduation week

Last week was graduation for final year secondary school kids here in Denmark.

One of the celebratory traditions is to hire a truck, all pile on and visit each students house where parents provide a drink. Bear in mind, this can involve a journey from one end of the island to the other in some instances. They look great in their sailor-style graduation hats. Then they head to the city and circle around in the truck, singing, drinking and generally having a wow of the time.

Who can blame them? I kept wanting to yell out to them and tell them to make the best of it because life’s pretty much a downward spiral after that! Still, they were all having such a good time I didn’t have the heart to ruin the party.

On and on, round and round and on and on and on they drove, even circling around all night here in Frederiksberg, yelling, woo-hooing and every twenty minutes circling past our windows. Talk about energy. Talk about drinking stamina! This went on all day Saturday as well. I was very impressed by their youthful constitutions but by Saturday night, they had exhausted me, if not themselves. I felt like Chevy Chase stuck on that roundabout.

And yesterday? Peace. And I dare say, lots of sore heads.

And another thing...

I just remembered something. A few weeks ago, we found a really great Italian restaurant called Fabio's here's in Frederiksberg. It was really dejlig inside and we had a super meal and delicious wine. We came to pay the bill and guess what? They didn't take credit cards. Now this establishment, which not the most celebrated in town was pretty good quality and certainly not a cafe. Luckily it was only three shops up from an ATM but really... I highly recommend a visit - just remember to go to the ATM first.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Dankort Conspiracy - take three.

Okay, be forewarned. This won’t be my last attempt if it doesn’t work but I’m not going to be happy if it doesn’t work.

Yet again, we are attempting to get the only thing in Denmark that is harder than citizenship: the Dankort. It’s taken me almost a month to recover from the disappointment of having exactly the same MasterCard arrive in the mail that I already had, without the precious chip in the back.

This time, NQDII organised the paperwork. If it works, it will just confirms I was born under a cloud that follows me everywhere.

Interestingly, I was ‘interviewed’ by The Copenhagen Post last week about how easy (or not) it is for ex-pats to settle into life in Denmark. It was a very intense, probing interview that took three minutes. The reporter was a bit taken aback, I think, because I couldn’t tell her any difficulties we’d had adjusting to Danish life – until I remembered the Dankort. Then I almost burst into tears. She gave a bit of a laugh, which indicated to me it may not have been the first time she’d heard it.

Straight after, I was filling a couple of workmates in on The Copenhagen Post’s exclusive on my now public and famous international sojourn (you can have a blog about it but when you get interviewed by print media, you really move up to celebrity status) and they made a couple of comments. The other expat said he’d even noticed you can’t use a swipe card at the terminal shops where the ferries come in. Not good for tourists. The Dane said: “I give you my heartfelt apologies on behalf of my country”. It is obviously not an uncommon problem.

So, as you will see in the pic, I just popped it in the post today!

I wait with anticipation and a slight sense of foreboding.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hehe. Archetypal Danish humour...

The trials of a plumber..

The catch line in my not so good translation probably:

"Hi Curly Top, is mum or dad home?"

Ahhh, to be a kid in Norway...

And can someone tell my why Norwegian sounds so Swedish but looks so Danish?

A very good reason not to come to Denmark

If you’re hung up on your looks.

It’s true. Danes, per head of population are very good looking. They are also well proportioned physically and have cheeky smiles to complete the package. It’s very depressing if you are 85kg when you should be 82kg and balding. No joke. You only have to step out the door on a bad body day and in minutes you literally feel like throwing yourself from the Oresund Bridge. But best you don’t cross the other side of the bridge and end up in Sweden where the situation is, apparently, worse. Swedish women were recently voted the ‘most beautiful’ in the world and Danes second, although Danish women are the tallest women in Europe – I don’t know why. Nothing was said about the men but I should think it would be roughly the same story. What makes it even harder to take is it all must be genetic and natural, for Danes love a drink and a cigarette more than just about anyone.

And while I know it’s what’s on the inside that counts (‘so they says’) I can tell you first hand it means nothing really because Danes don’t seem to even realise how aesthetically pleasing they are. In Australia, for instance, if you’re a good look, you know it and you act accordingly – like you really are God’s gift to women or men or both because you are a minorty. Here, Danes even seem to have trouble with the reality of the situation.

Both NQDII and I have found at our respective jobs talk of this beauty phenomenon is not even acknowledged: “I don’t know how you can say Danes are good looking”, is the stock answer. Right. Well they should take note of some of the other places they visit on their gazillion weeks of holidays. But the nice thing about that is, they really obviously don’t.

NQDII and I do. We’re just hoping the longer we stay here, the more ‘Danish’ we’ll become. ☺

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

For Chops and Buff

I recently got in contact with an old chum, Chops. This is for Chops' and Buff's 80's European adventure. I guess you'll remember it :)

Part II

For some reason, gettube wouldn't do both, so here's the second one..

What's it like...

Someone (Dorthe) asked me what it ‘feels’ like to be from Australia. What a question for anyone from anywhere. I’m afraid I can’t really answer it that well but here are two clips that can bring a tear or two to my eyes. But what I’d like to know, is what does it feel like to be from Denmark? Let me know and I can post some clips of that here too.

Something odd in Denmark...

Okay, so I have finally found something weird about Danes. It’s work-related.

For a while now I’ve noticed that at work people can act really strangely. Now, I can understand one's boss/es being like this because as per the book of boss rules, they have to keep their distance in case they have to sack you next week. However, that rule in Denmark surely doesn't apply to everyone... One day someone will pass you in the corridor and smile or say ‘Hej’ and the next day, they’ll walk straight past you without making eye contact or recognising your existence. For some time I took it rather personally, fearing, as is my personality, I must have done something wrong. (Yes, I know the world evolved around me!). But seriously, this situation happens often.

An opportunity arose over lunch today for me to comment about it. Happily, the other non-Danes I was lunching with had noticed the same thing. I must say it was reassuring to find I wasn’t the only one who’d experienced it. A long-time new-Dane even commented that he had seen people outside work while shopping etc. and they’d ignored him or looked straight past him. One girl had even looked at him and looked away.

To me, that’s really odd. Any of this would rarely happen in Australia. I mean, you either like people or you don’t but common courtesy dictates that you, at the very least, acknowledge someone’s presence. But, for some strange reason, this doesn’t quite seem to be the case in Denmark – so if anyone can enlighten me, please do!

At least, after today, I can safely assume there’s nothing (drastically) wrong with me.

The world's most liveable city

What can I say? It must be me. First Melbourne, and now Copenhagen has been voted the World’s Most Liveable City.

Someone in Australia who had read the results too, asked me if this tiny city deserved the accolade. What can I say? Yes, it does.

Ex-pats are divided about this place from what I read and hear. Some can’t stand it. I, well we, if you include NQDII and Hamish, love it.

First things first. It’s really barely deserves the title city. It’s a small place on a global level. There aren’t gazillions of people. A Dutch freelancer recently said to me it was like Amsterdam without the crowds and I think he was right. Copenhagen has something for everyone. It has history, it has lots of green spaces, you can get anywhere easily by public transport and if you take away a few months of near darkness, it’s an extremely nice place to call home.

What’s odd about the award is that last year tourism to Denmark dropped dramatically. I guess it’s hard for Copenhagen to compete with the draw cards of London, Paris, Rome and New York but as clich├ęd as this sounds, in very many ways it really is a fairy-tale kingdom. There’s very little crime, the people are amicable and it definitely doesn’t have any where near the agro on the streets that so many cities have nowadays. In general, there’s an innocence about Danes that is very endearing. The country I certainly not trouble-free but, on the whole I can’t think of m/any other places where a huge majority can live very decent, fear-free lives.

Monday, June 23, 2008

When bad things happen to good people

This news, I must admit, brought tears to my eyes.

When you begin to live your life in a new country, you start to get used to things – how to shop, how to speak the lingo (sort of), meet new people and generally try and do all the things you can to fit in so it starts to feel like home. Then, something like this happens and you realise there’s a whole part of you, a whole history, that can’t be replaced by anywhere else.

Jane McGrath was what I’d call an English Rose. She was pretty, funny (how many women could laugh about their prosthetic breast popping out while they were washing the car?) and loving and genuinely one of those people you’d like to know. She married one of Australia’s famous cricket players, Glenn McGrath and moved her life from England to Australia.

They were a great couple but she died yesterday, at 42, from cancer. She battled it on and off for a decade and was a source of inspiration to all Australians, just for being her and for sharing something I would not have blamed her for being intensely quiet about. Goodness knows how many Australian women’s lives she saved and will save.

When I read she died yesterday, it really hit me. Forty-two, with two young children. I thought how cruel life is and how we have terrorists running around trying to kill as many people as they can, murders and generally shitty people all over to whom nothing much seems to happen. It goes to show that it is indeed true that ‘only the good die young’.

But it also made me think about living in another country and what that means. She did that. And, while Australia might be a bit like England without the green fields, hedgerows and ancient buildings, it’s still different and, like me, she was probably very excited about starting a new part of her life but at some stage possibly realised there was a whole section of her life that had nothing to do with Australia. Family, friends, anecdotes etc. Those jokes you can laugh at only with people you grew up with.

So it seems to me Australia and England will be a bit poorer from now on because it’s people like Jane around us that makes life worth living.

Skt Hans night

Firstly, I am undoubtedly an abysmal blogger. Where does the time go?

Today the weather is extremely disagreeable. The wind is blustery and I had a head wind holding me back on the way to work and coming home. What is it about Danish wind that it changes direction just to piss me off?

Sadly, tonight is Skt. Hans night or St John’s I guess, which doesn’t bode well for bonfire enthusiasts. I’d take Hamish (NQDII is in Dublin for the week) but it’s raining on and off and I don’t know that I want to stay up until midnight on a ‘school night’ waiting for the dark to appear.

Still, I’m happy enough to be able to rest easy tomorrow knowing the witches will have been sent on their evil way to Germany once the sun finally sets and all will be well come morn.