Saturday, September 27, 2008

Midsommervisen - Vi elsker vort land

Or this version, if Shubidua aren't your cup of elderberry... :)

Okay, and if you're a Dane living in Australia or elsewhere...

...maybe this makes you think of 'home' - and who better, than Shu-bi-dua! :)

The 'I Am Australian' song

I guess really, this could apply to anywhere these days - even Denmark. I guess it's about diversity but about belonging.

Okay, so you get a bit torn between two lovers

Note that we changed they lyrics - Rio to Rome, because Qantas don't fly to Rio but anyway... This is a good ad. For me, there are three songs that make me feel 'Australian'. This one, from Peter Allen, who barely lived in Australia, Waltzing Matilda - I dunno why but it does and We are Australian.

I don't know what song/s make Danes homesick...

To be Danish

I’m starting to feel Danish because:

1. Australia really does seem a very long way away now

2. I feel good about paying 50% tax and see the sense in it (Well, it really does have its merits!)

3. It’s important to learn Danish because so many people in the world don’t speak it

4. I can now (if I sprinkle methamphetamine on my rye bread and chocolate flakes) get every bit of household shopping done on a Saturday before the shops close at 2.30pm o’clock

5. I finally know who every member of the royal family is, including cousins

6. I loved summer and the almost constant light but am looking forward to candles and darkness

7. If the train stops, I just sit there and don’t complain – even if it’s for an hour

8. I think it is a shame Denmark lost Southern Sweden to the Swedes 300 years ago

9. I now believe Hygge is untranslatable and I don’t screw up my face when someone says so

10. What’s wrong with spending DKK800 (AU$200) on drinks on a Friday night? Really??!

11. I take pride in my once-every-nine-week duty to clean the stair well and basement. (Why would you pay someone to do that?) ☹

12. Social smoking is good. It makes you happy

13. Smoking full time makes you even happier

14. Drinking till you throw up, on a Friday and/or Saturday night, is an excellent idea and I wonder why I’d never thought of it before. (Although preferably not a Sunday, from personal experience)

15. People who have a couple of glasses of wine every night of the week are alcoholics. Those who drink until they are comatose on the weekend, are not

16. Flats having no numbers but only ‘to the left’ or ‘to the right’ makes perfect sense

17. It’s not a funny question if someone asks you do you go ‘to the left’ or to the right’

18. If it’s 1st June, you wear shorts, even if it’s -1C

19. Ærter doesn’t mean artichoke

20. I can’t understand why AustraliaPost men/women don’t deliver mail right to your door

21. Pharmacies should always have queue numbers

22. Leaving your baby snuggled up in a pram to sleep in the back yard in mid-winter does them the world of good

23. It’s better if you live ‘North of Copenhagen’ – even if I don’t

24. Even if nothing is organised, it will be okay

25. A CPR number is essential, it’s not in any way a Big Brother thingy

26. Five or six weeks holiday time a year is bordering on unreasonable

27. People who say ‘hello’ or ‘undskyld’ on a bus are probably deranged

28. Crown Princess Mary is Danish, not Australian

The golden rules of cycling

We’re lucky in Copenhagen that just about every street has a bike path on both sides of the road. These make travel around the city a breeze and you can easily get from one side of Copenhagen to the other in half an hour or less. (Yes, it’s a giant metropolis) But if you are coming to live here, or even just to cycle around on your holiday, here are the rules of the road I have picked up over almost a year’s cycling. It’s vital you follow them:

The Copenhagen Cycling Rules

1. Always wear your iPod. You get fined if you don’t. You also get discount bike servicing at bike retailers if you wear big earphones.

2. When entering from a side street, look hard to see if there are any other cyclists coming. If there are, look them in the eye and merge out anyway – let them work out the rest.

3. Cycle slowly and let everyone pass you but once you catch up at the red traffic lights, swerve around them all so you are in front again for when the lights turn green. Other cyclists love it when you do this.

4. Unless it is a major intersection – and sometimes even then – amber means pedal for your life to get across, even if you haven’t quite made it onto the crossing yet.

5. A red light at an intersection only means stop if there’re so many cars coming there’s no way you could get across and live.

6. Talk as much as you want on your mobile telephone and meander from one side of the path to the other – especially in peak hour. The politi encourage it.

7. Pedestrians are trash. If they inadvertently step onto the bike path (usually a tourist) take your week’s frustration out on them verbally. That way, they learn who’s boss.

8. If you see a friend walking on the footpath, stop immediately and talk to them. Don’t bother lifting your bike up 10cms onto the footpath. You won’t cause any crashes.

9. If a bus stops to pick up passengers, slow down a tad but DO NOT stop completely, even if old ladies and women with prams are disembarking. It’s your path, not theirs.

10. Ring your bell frequently to let others know you have one. After all, you paid for it.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Ushi Heiku mets Zindy Laursen

More on Ushi

Coat time

Tree giving a big yawn

It had to happen eventually I guess but I now officially need a coat when cycling to work. The mornings are darker (read pitch black) when I wake up and my enthusiasm for early morning gym sessions have thumped to a dismal end. Similarly, taking Hamish out for his final toilet expedition of the day now requires a torch and usually a long-winded game of find the turd - not really something you feel like doing at 2200hr at night, I can tell you.

The leaves are starting to change everywhere but at least we have been blessed with some beautiful autumnal days with clear blue skies.

I better start buying candles and wait for everyone to start getting grumpy. :)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Happy drunks

Danes love booze. Seriously. I thought Aussies were good guzzlers until I came here. It’s not uncommon to see people wandering the streets drinking beer first thing in the morning and you can buy liquor from any supermarket, although you have next to no hope of finding Aspirin or Panodil.

Anyway, I digress. In Melbourne at the moment, quickly rivalling Johannesburg in terms of street violence, there’s pandemonium about binge drinking youths picking fights and bashing each other to death at nightclubs.

I’m sure there’re booze-inspired punch ups here in Denmark too (I’ve been told Aalborg is good for a fight, if that’s what you’re looking for) but what I’ve noticed here is that groups of merry young-ins also seem to sing – at the top of their voices – late at night while they meander home. I used to will them to shut up but I’ve become quite used to it and, when you think about it, it’s far more preferable than beating each other up.

Last night was almost a concert performance. A boisterous group made their way along our street singing a song from that Whoopi Goldberg film, Sister Act, where she finds herself in a down-and-out school and miraculously transforms a class of dead-beats into and American equivalent of the Vienna Boys’ Choir.

So there I was, sitting watching a British crime show when they started up. ‘La, la, la, laaa!’ a few of them belted out, while they took turns doing shouting the next ‘La’ bit in the lead up to ‘Oh Happy Day’. They were really very good, especially considering they were pretty drunk.

Now that would never happen in Melbourne on a Saturday night, unfortunately.

The downside to the concert is I will have to dodge the usual selection of Sunday morning ‘pavement pizzas’ when I walk the dog. Hamish loves them and thinks they’re there just for him and can’t quite understand why I don’t let him eat them.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Two big peas

Imagine for a moment, going into a busy green grocer and asking if you could have 'to stora ærter' (two big peas) instead of two big artichokes.

Think about that.

I am. :(

East Germany meets Denmark

I really like Denmark, it’s very quirky, so this post is really not disparaging. Denmark has its faults but where doesn’t? One thing other expat friends and I laugh about is the supermarket. Especially ones like Netto. Sometimes the shelves are stocked, sometimes they’re not. But what makes you realise you really do live somewhere different is the pharmacy or apotek.

In Australia, we have *very* strict rules about Rx drugs and OTC drugs. At least I thought so, until I came here. In Denmark, a visit to the pharmacy is like a trip through Australian customs. It takes hours of negations to get anywhere. There are just so many drugs you can buy OTC in Australia that you can't buy here and browsing, is most definitely not allowed. Everything is situated *behind* the counter.

You have to be 16 to drink and 18 to smoke (or is it the other way around?) but you certainly can’t buy eye drops if you think you’re getting conjunctivitis as NQDII (who is too much of a medico for his own good) suspected he was.

Nope, you definitely can’t buy slightly antibiotic eye drops OTC. You need to go to the doctor and get a script. Of course, he didn’t have conjunctivitis but he may have and a few drops would have helped fixed it up. But here, regulations rule.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Wow. It's been a long while since I've read a thriller that really distracted my from life. This one did. It's the first of a trilogy written by a Swedish chap, Stieg Larsson, (Steeg Lar-shon) who, poor bloke, wrote the books and then died of a heart attack before they were published. He was only 49, not much older than I am. (Well, okay, I give in. Quite a bit older - years even)

This one went on to become a best seller and his family are apparently squabbling over the incoming fortunes, as we tend to do as humans.

Nevertheless, this book was completely wonderful - if you are into thrillers.

I heard a lot about it, ordered it and started reading. For about twenty pages, I was almost asleep, wondering if this was yet another book millions had thought magical, except me. But a couple of pages later, I was enthralled.

Quickly, bedtime got earlier and earlier and it was one of those books I didn't want to end. The language is superb and the character developments are beautifully done. The suspense is fingernail stuff and the plot really engages you and compels you to read on and on.

I really loved every character - and there are quite a number of them, each described beautifully. Of course, you can't help but fall in love with Salander.

I just keep thinking what a shame he died. And, once the next two books are published and I read them, what will I do?

I regret two things about reading it. First that it ended and secondly that I didn't read it during Hygge season.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

On the road again.

We’ve been travelling a lot these past months and rarely seem to be home. This weekend is no different.

NQD went to Berlin yesterday for work and is staying today as well.

I, on the other hand, had my own little adventure. I walked about 800m down the road to this place, to have my first experience (well, second if you include the consultation) with the Danish health care system for which some of my 50% tax pays to run. I was also about to become a movie star of sorts.

I wasn’t going to write about this but I figure its probably the sort of thing no one likes to discuss or do and really can’t compare to a weekend in a swish hotel in Berlin, drinking beer and eating delicious German stodge and strolling Unter den Linden. Only that it might save your life.

My mother died of bowel cancer at 61, which isn’t very old, as did a very dear friend and she was far too young, with a 12 year-old son. As my mother’s side of the family also has several cancer genes as family members, I thought it was probably time I should be checked-up.

There’s a system to this procedure. It involves drinking a litre of the most revolting drink you can imagine and spending most of the night on the toilet. Just when it’s over, at around six in the morning, you drink another litre and the fun begins again.

Still, at least now I now know how many tiles there are on the walls in our bathroom.

All that finally over, I marched off to Frederiksberg Hospital, feeling like I was washed out (I guess I was) and suffering jet lag from tiredness.

In my best (don’t get excited) Danish, I announced who I was and what I was there for – a colonoscopy – or ‘Koloskopi’ på dansk. A very sweet nurse told me I was expected, which was all well and good, except ‘to be expected’ wasn’t something I’ve covered in Danish, so I stood looking at her wondering what she’d just told me about myself.

Next I was whisked off, told to change into some very unfashionable hospital clothes and plonk myself down on my bed – which happened to be down the end of a hall, actually in the hall! I was too tired to care and the nurses were so lovely I couldn’t bring myself to question anything and I figured this was the simple part of a day of saying goodbye to my dignity! I couldn’t have been too concerned because I fell into a deep sleep, apparently snoring.

An hour or so later I was pushed on said bed up to the procedure room to be met by another nurse. She had a gravelly voice and joked and laughed away in Danish most of which I didn’t understand. Slightly sedated, before I knew it the doctor was in and with a rub and a push, a very long looking hose venture into a part of me I’d never seen before.

Certainly looking at the inside of your bowel on a TV screen isn’t quite as exciting as watching a foetus in an ultrasound but it did feel like that 70’s movie where they went inside that scientists body.

You can feel the camera work it’s way around, which feels weird but not painful and then it’s all over – in about ten minutes. Really, it’s that quick. I’d expected to be in there for hours.

And that was it – all over. So really, it’s so easy today to get checked, it well worth the effort and the sacrifice of a little dignity as others gaze up your nether region, because if you happen to become symptomatic from one of these cancers, you might have a bigger struggle ahead.

Yeah, okay, your dignity flies out the window for ten minutes!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 11th

I might be in Denmark and I might be Australian but for me 9/11 (or 11/9 as it should correctly be referred to!) is ingrained in me forever.

For me, it was the very day, in my eyes, the world really and truly lost its innocence. It was the day when anyone who really and truly believed in good, was shocked and devastated and you knew, or at least I felt, that the world would never be the same again.

Two rather prominent but unassuming buildings changed our lives forever. And it realised some of our (or at least my) greatest fears: to be stuck on a aeroplane where you had no control and were at the mercy of the pilot.

It changed our view of humanism. It changed the way most of us look at Moslems. And I feel really sorry for that.

I don't know many Moslems. I know three. I know the one who runs the Turkish restaurant across the road from where I used to live and a girl I used to work with - and one of my best friends, a Persian, who lives in the US.

None think like these people.

But, whatever we may think, 9/11 changed us. We will all remember where we were that day/night. I remember my brother ringing me, very early one morning, saying nothing but, 'Turn on the TV, turn on the TV'.

And I remember feeling numb. I remember almost crying when I answered a call from my father whom I was talking to as I drove to Melbourne from our farm. He was upset that I was upset that I had just listed to - I think his name was Mark? - his mother talking about the conversation as his plane was about to plough into an unremarkable field somewhere in the US. I remember the girl from Prahran - a groovy suburb in Melbourne -who had only started working for some company in the towers that week.

Wherever we were at that moment.

We will never forget.

Lest we forget.

I always remember what the Queen - of the UK (and Australia) said after the attack:

'Grief is the price we pay for love.'

- Isn't that true?

It's herring day!

Yayyyyy! The poor un-sung, humble herring.

I have no idea why. The Copenhagen Post just said so - but I'm getting a 'Rose from The Golden Girls' feeling about it.

Personally, in Denmark, you can't ever have enough herring -or 'sild' (silth) as it is called here (don't question the 'th' for 'd' - just do it...) Herring just about goes with anything - hors d'oevres, frokost, brylluper, æblekager og Lambourghini-er.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Nu kommer Sverige

Town Hall - where the Nobel Banquet is held
This last weekend we went to Stockholm, although it’s taken me all week to write about it.

Unfortunately, I spent the first day recovering from an historic hangover. A workmate was finishing up on the Friday and as I was taking the Friday off, we went out Thursday night for goodbye drinks. In retrospect, I think she and I had it in our minds it was also the last time in our lives we’d ever see alcohol. It was such fun at the time but not so bright at 4.30am on the Friday morning when NQDII and I got up to catch our flight. I thought, once we were at the airport, a coffee may have helped. It didn’t. So then I thought perhaps a nice, fresh orange juice would cleanse my toxic body. I guess at least it had an effect because two minutes after I downed it, my stomach told me to find the bathroom quickly.

Anyway, I digress. You don’t want to hear about that, but suffice to say, my first day in Stockholm was a write-off.

By luck, we managed through logging on at the right time to Sterling to get 0.00DKK tickets and only paid for taxes. It looked like a super cheap holiday.

Not so.

While very beautiful, Stockholm must be one of the most expensive places on Earth – and we expats thought Denmark was bad…

Our first battle was accommodation. We quickly discovered that August is one of Stockholm’s most expensive months hotel-wise. Not only was everything booked, but it was hellishly expensive.

We ended up here at Hotel Stureplan.

I had many misgivings. I paid a fortune for something I’d never seen and the website didn’t offer that much about, so I expected to have paid what felt like a month’s salary for something very average. Luckily, I was proved wrong. It was a fantastic room done, appropriately enough, in Gustavian style with great attention to detail.

The room

Basin (and we had a huge shower!

View from bed
NQDII had trouble working out why they call Sweden, Sverige – or Sverge as he pronounced it but which is actually pronounced, in Swedish, ‘Sv-er-i-a’. So in our house, Sverge it has become. Much like Rockslide for Roskilde, Van-loser for Vanløse and Codge for Køge (Kooa).

Anyway, it will be a very quiet month here because we spent enough money to have had two weeks on a Greek Island.

Stockholm is in a beautiful natural setting. Rather like Sydney, except in Scandinavia. ☺ The buildings in the older part of the city that aren’t on Gamla Stan (which is really, really old) are very grand. Much grander than Copenhagen and it’s a pleasure just to walk around the streets. However, there is a really ugly, modern part of the city that does let it down. I was surprised there were not more interesting modern buildings like in Copenhagen. While I’m not a huge fan of modern structures – unless they’re extra special, Copenhagen has some really lovely modern buildings. Stockholm doesn’t.

The latest in tourist attire - Freezer Bag wet weather gear

That said, the lake and archipelago are magnificent. One day we went by boat out to Drottningholm, where the royal family lives. It was a fantastic trip and I can just imagine how much fun it would be to have the water around you in the height of summer. As it was, it was two days before the end of summer and the weather was a balmy 13C that day.


You definitely feel the ‘Us vs Them’ in Stockholm as far as it and Copenhagen are concerned. Our guide around Drottningholm took great (tongue in check) pleasure in saying at one point to the group how the area (southern Sweden) used to be part of Denmark and if they hadn’t won that war, she would be Danish, ‘Which would have been terrible!’ We heard things like this a couple of times and it reminded me very much of the Sydney versus Melbourne game.

If you have a lot of money to spare, Stockholm is a must. It was interesting seeing the difference between Copenhagen and it’s rival for capital of Scandinavia. Stockholm is very..hmm. Posh? Yes, I guess posh. The people dress like the Sloane Rangers of London or the BCBG of Paris or the Preppies of NYC. You really notice it. They must spend a fortune on ‘the look’. Copenhagen, on the other hand, is more cool and hip. Stockholmers are very friendly but they have a more British-style reservedness. They’re very efficient but, I think I’d miss the kind of bamboozled, all-over-the-place kind of ‘organisation’ you get on the streets here of Copenhagen.

The Swedes are happy to talk about the success of historical Sweden, whereas here in Denmark, the usual tours include such gems as, ‘That’s the navy ship that accidentally torpedoed a famous Danish summerhouse. It was decommissioned – probably a good thing.’ ‘That’s Christiansborg Palace that burnt down and was rebuilt a gazillion times and the last time the royal family didn’t even bother moving back in.’ ‘This is the little mermaid. She’s been beheaded four times.’ ‘Nelson bombed Copenhagen to buggery and the navy never recovered.’ ‘And, King Christian’s daughter married the heir to the Russian throne but he and the Queen couldn’t afford to go to the wedding.’

- I fit in perfectly with those sorts of continual misfortunes.

Friday, September 5, 2008

A really cool bar

Haven't been here yet. Has anyone else?

Thursday, September 4, 2008


Yep. I feel a bit guilty at the moment.

This is why.

During the first couple of months after arriving here, I did feel a tad homesick. I missed the familiarity of life in Melbourne – friends, language, geography, the Aussie way etc.

Now, NQDII is feeling homesick.

He dreams about Melbourne frequently, so I’ve told him to go back after Christmas for a holiday. Seriously, I’d go with him but it would be a waste of money because I have no desire to go back at the moment. I feel awful that he feels like this because I don’t know the cure. I know he loves his job here but he says he misses the familiarity of living back in Melbourne.

But this has got me thinking rather traitorous thoughts. The thing is, while I did feel homesick, I honestly don’t now. Apart from our actual house, a few friends and family and SAIGON ROSE food, I don’t miss Australia at all. I don’t miss the endless obsession with sport, the ridiculous fixation with finding fortune and celebrity, the macho aggro, the boganism or the ‘Australia is the best country in the world’ bit.

I feel quite comfortable where I am.

I don’t ‘belong’ here but now, weirdly enough, I’m starting to think I really don’t belong anywhere. Sure, if I was popped back on a plane to Melbourne I’d survive but I don’t know that I’d really feel I belonged there. In retrospect, I’ve wondered lately if I ever did. Then again, I’m not-quite-Danish either. I do enjoy life here but I don’t know the words to the national anthem/s.


Maybe I’m destined to live as a displaced person. ☹

Danish irony

Look at my new text book from Danish class. This morning, I started learning Danish at work, rather than the two nights a week, which I found very inconvenient.

For those who have no idea about Danish, the title translates to: 'Danish is not so difficult'

Hehe. Now that is a sense of humour (at least I hope it's meant to be!)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Right hemisphere vs Left hemisphere

First, let me tell you a bit about me. I am, in my own way, organised. However, I am a typical right hemisphere thinker. I tend to ‘feel’ my way to a destination. I don’t like to be hemmed in too much and I love adventure. Not following exact itineraries makes me feel free.

NQDII, OTOH, is the opposite. One must always know exactly where they are going and getting lost is about the worst than can ever happen. The only way to enjoy something is to have it completely planned from whoa to go.

This picture below will give you an indication of what I’m up against. I could easily (and love) being an adventurer. He would hate it.

Tired of looking on rejseplanen (‘not always the most efficient route and doesn’t show an alternative should a train be late’) every morning to check the train timetables, he’s created his own train (and one bus, as he pointed out) schedule, showing, and I quote, ‘the most efficient way to get to and from work everyday’. Apparently it shows an example for any given hour of the day, with times of operation on the far right column should it not actually be applicable all day. The rows in bold show the most time efficient way to get to and from work. Highlighted in orange and trains and buses are ‘critical’ because if they are late, ‘one should immediately change routes’.

I had to scan it in and show the world. For a start, I could never be bothered doing it and secondly, I don’t understand how it works. Still, it works for him and is, as a scientist, I guess apt.