People say the Danes are closed, not very forthcoming, unfriendly and hard to get to know. Many also say that Denmark is a small and boring little land with little happening and not much to see apart from The Little Mermaid.
And while I haven’t seen much of the country (sorry guys) Copenhagen is one of the most vibrant, easy going and fun cities to live in.
But because this country is such a great place and so many people want to be a part of the good times, there are very strict restrictions on how many people can join the party. Sadly I’m not allowed to be on the guest list…all because I’m not part of the European Union. So I will leave you now with my final words for all of you who mean so much to me and this place that I love.
The first week
I still remember my first week here- it was August and I stupidly assumed it would be warmer than it was. Party girl Ann –Sofie Lander had a smashing party at her old place in Bispeengen -it was the first time I had seen her in three years after hundreds of emails and letters sent back and forth. I remember turning up with two of the ‘huge’ Carlsbergs…trying to prove how ‘integrated’ I already was. Needless to say I couldn’t drink them – but of course there were two guys who were more than willing to help me – one of which turned out to be a great friend – Toby Rosenkrands. This was also the first meeting with the great people of the mighty Byens Valgmenighed– many of who I now consider great friends.
Apart from Fie and a few others, I kept my arrival in Denmark on the d-low. Thought I could have a bit of fun with it – I mean how often can you fly around the other side of the world and surprise people? I’ll never forget the way Ruth Jorgensen…looked at me for five seconds before realising it was me or how Andreas Flensted exclaimed ‘can it be??’ like it was an epic movie scene. Or how Morten Lysgaard got the fright of his life when I turned up at the train station when he was expecting ‘my friend’.
There is nothing the Danes love more than to hygge…and no more so than when the winter of 2010 was upon us. Alice Mortensen you are the epitome of hygge to me – playing ligretto, chatting and baking world-class konfect with you have been some of the sweetest times. Literally. And not only have I hygged in houses but probably nearly every café inCopenhagen. At last count I had 25 coffee cards. It was hard to find coffee here that was as good as NZ coffee – but thank goodness for Rico’s
And of course there was the Tuesday night hygge each week at international Klynge. How I got so lucky to be with these people I will never know. Chris and Liz Skjott I will miss your treasure chest of candy and sitting around until all hours chatting about life and therefore stopping Chris from getting to bed – lol.
Camilla Bering – the hygge with you was also rather epic. Eating way to many Reese’s Pieces while drinking out of my handmade cup that I mistakenly wrote ‘jeg kan godt lige the ogsa’ in permanent marker, will serve as a reminder to you of all our sweet times. You’re a true gem.
You Danes love to party- just as much as the kiwi’s which is why our two nationalities get along so well I think J I had a high standard of parties here – all because of that wild teacher party that Sheena Kumaraswamy took me too in 2007.
I’ll never forget New Years 2010. Fie left me with three random but very sweet guys because she had to give Jens Olsen Lander a New Years kiss. No problem though – we took to Egmont kollegium who hosted a crazy party…and again last year with their ‘Bollywood’ themed party – thanks to my American Jess Slicer for the invite.
I feel like I’ve also accomplished something in the world of clubbing by getting into Simon’s nightclub. Watching little dwarfs serve drinks, while sitting next to the kids of Denmark’s richest people was an experience. I knew we were somewhere crazy when a guy came up to us and asked “Would you guys mind moving to my table as I’d like some hot people there” And yes he was totally serious. Money, looks and prestige is what it’s all about there. Sheena also learnt that night when and when isn’t a good time to interrupt people. Say no more.
I thought throwing a NZ themed party for my 24th birthday would go down well, and it did. Special thanks to Denmark’s hunting minister who let us use his lawns in the Dyrehaven. You Danes weren’t the best at cricket…being asked ‘what side of the bat to use’ was um well baffling.
A very important life lesson I will take away from DK is how to be a great beer drinker. Simon Balle you set the bar pretty high whenever we went out and I don’t think I could ever compete (except maybe at Roskilde). Little did I know that that student bar we got into (by pretending to be NZ exchange students) would be the start of many more random nights out that centred around liquor. I’m just glad that we moved onto more classy establishments later in the year eg.1105.
New Zealand is a little backwards when it comes to ‘culture’ – we think we’re cultural when we watch a rugby game. But you Danes have the culture thing going on. I’ve never seen you look so disappointed Toby when I once said ‘We value sport more than music in NZ’.
Fie – you introduced me to Danish pop music – the love of my life. Meeting Alphabeat I was so star struck…although I think they were a little taken aback with my enthusiasm “I’m your biggest NZ fan!” I enthused!
My enthusiasm for a particular song ‘Jeg har ikke lavet penge’ by Kidd proved well worth while. He must think I’m his strangest fan after walking up to him in a club and giving him a little shake of the belly dancing outfit I was in, and then began to rap ‘jeg har ikke lavet penge men jeg har lavet damer’. Didn’t exactly play it “cool”.
And my nine-year old dreams of one day seeing Aqua live came true. The Copenhagen Post still can’t believe I gave them a four out of five in my review. Hey old love never rusts.
Mads Israelsen thanks for sharing the Engolf with me. My grandma still enjoys your Danish folk songs you sang at our Christmas lunch a few years back.
And no Danish experience in music is complete withoutRoskilde…or better yet – writing about it. There was no Alphabeat but there was Kaizers Orchestra and M.I.A. The editor of NZ music magazine who I was writing for said ‘Emily our foreign correspondent will be trying to catch as many of the 100 something concerts on offer’. Least to say I was running MOST of the time I was there.
And to all the boys from the Joseph Coker Band- it was an honour to call myself one of your ‘fans’. Keep practicing those ‘CHords’ Jacob Lind. And Joseph Coker theFrederiksberg song will always be in my top ten. “Looking for a place where we can stay, maybe someone’s brother’s cousin, is moving away. Lets buy an apartment down in….Frederiksberg!”
Oh and Soren Ehlers – if you’re not married at 30 give me a call. I don’t know if we would work out but at least our home would be filled with EPIC music 24/7. Sting, Phil Collins, Elton John. Just think of how our kids would turn out.
The Great outdoors
I have high standards for what the ‘outdoors’ should be like given where I’m from. DK didn’t really satisfy my thirst for the outdoors like I knew it wouldn’t…So I got creative.
Biking in blizzards last winter was a frequent occurrence that added to the ‘outdoor’ lifestyle. Jumping in below freezing water at Fie’s bachelorette party and a Swedish summer house has also given me a thrill (short lived though).
Morten, running through the forest, building a fire and eating 5 polser halfway, then getting lost on an island was very ‘man vs. wild’…but the scariest animal in that forest was probably a rabbit and we weren’t never more than 6km from the nearest road.
I will never believe how lucky I was though to live next to the Dyrehaven. Every time I ran through there, picnicked there, strolled through, I was just in awe of the beauty of the place. I mean how many people get to pass deer grazing amidst 200 year old trees and visit an historic castle on their morning run.
But I sadly never got to scale the great heights of the ‘heaven mountain’. Not gonna lie thought- not feeling a hugs loss there.
The Au Pairing
Au pairing I’ve learnt is not a lifestyle for everyone. In fact I surprised myself as to how long I lasted in this job. I have begin a rough outline for my new book ‘the au pair diaries’ as I think I have seen, heard experienced nearly everything you can as an au pair.
At times I felt like Cinderella and at times I felt like a privileged part of high society. One day I would be scrubbing toilets and the next I would have the opportunity to challenge politicians on which religious policies fit best with Danish society.
I’ve lived with women jealous of where their husband’s affections lay, I’ve seen parents walking around naked, I’ve heard parents getting it on and then felt awkward finding condoms in the toilet and not being able to flush them. People have walked in on me getting dressed and vice-versa. And little boys have asked me to hold their diddles when they peed because they couldn’t be bothered washing their hands.
My very very limited cooking skills were put to the test in my second week here as I was asked to cook a three course meal for a politician while his body guards stood outside our house.
I was then given a toss of the heard from soccer star Preben Elkjær, who was walking his dog and saw me getting out of the shower in our rather indiscreet bathroom overlooking the street. And Jarl Friis Mikkelsen’s little five year old got a few hard words from me when she broke the vase in my room. Least to say I’m not a fan of her father anymore.
And the kids. I’ve been thoroughly humbled by a six year old who would correct my Danish when reading him a story book at night. “Okay sound out the word again” he would say “asskkeepooott”.
And then I’ve been taken on wonderful trips to Sweden, Austria, and all around Denmark. Getting lost with a five year old inStockholmis not an experience I would like to repeat though.
And to Camilla Jensen…you were my saving grace at times when I just HAD to get something off my chest ‘can you believe I was told to mop upstairs again!’. And those little ‘long’ brunches will be well missed!
And just when I thought I was doomed to a life of scrubbing floors and making pasta with meat sauce I got an internship…as a journalist.
Now I knew I could nail this job. So much so that I applied three times before I got the internship. Persistence pays off. And so began five months of the best perks, the most interesting stories and meeting some of the biggest movers and shakers in the city.
My first story a feature on jazz musician –Paolo Russo – nominated for best jazz musician in Denmark. I had to bike to his house in Amager for the interview and of course I got lost. Now, the interview lasted for 2 hours because he’s Italian and loves to talk but I felt very privileged. Two months later and Alice Mortensen and I had the pleasure of being invited to his show at the Monmartre Jazz House.
And if ever I wanted to feel ‘in the field’ I certainly did when I went to Vesterbro to hang with the drugs addicts. Those Danish lessons paid off here as the addicts were too high to speak English. But watching someone show you how to mix cocaine and heroin and then watch him shoot up while talking about his tragic life was full on. However it made for a great story AND I beat DR and Berlingske to it as I was the first journalist to ride in the mobile injection room ‘fixerum’.
Then came my double life. One night I would be eating a seven course meal for free at Denmark’s runner up for best restaurant…eight hours later and I would be scraping oats from children’s breakfast bowls.
And so it continued. Bars, restaurants, shows, gigs….the city was my oyster. And the best part, was I got to share it with my friends! Taking my biggest ‘foodie’ friend Mads Israelsen to Dragsholm slot was top notch- only you Mads could have convinced me to order a bottle of wine that cost over 600 kroner (130 NZD).
Who else could appreciate Aqua like you Fie. Trine Kass you made a super convincing “photographer” at Wallmans dinner show and Joseph Coker –even if my editor didn’t like the photos of the pub I did. Henrik Kaersgaard– I’m glad they now give you discounts at Tight.
Simon Balle, what can I say, no one would have even guessed you weren’t my ‘assistant journalist’ for a night when interviewing Fat Freddie’s Drop. That head nodding of yours was extremely convincing. And you can add ‘drinking critic’ to your CV now. The word ‘Surly’ works every time.
And Roskilde, oh Roskilde. Who would have thought that a media application saying ‘I have a blog’ would get me in as a journalist? I really don’t consider myself a music journalist but NZ musician magazine did. So much so they let me do a daily diary! Let’s just say my music vocabulary has now been stretched…and I know what chords are and what the bass guitarist’s role is. ‘Fake it until you make it’ is my motto and it’s served me well!
Ha, you all just got excited then didn’t you…thinking I was going to write something revealing and scandalous. But you’ll all just have to wait for my column ‘Dating the Danes’ due out next month in The Copenhagen Post….
Conversing in Danish with drug addicts wasn’t the only time my Danish came in handy. Bodil Rasmussen – my little weekend immersion trips to your houses were invaluable…Even if we did get a little confused from time to time.
The thing about Danish is that you have to be able to hear sounds. It’s not about how good you are at grammar, or sentence structure or anything. If you can’t make the right sounds then everything else is a waste of time. Lucky for me then, as I suck at grammar, but I can hear sounds.
I have actually come to really love Danish…it’s not ugly, it’s unique I say. It does pose challenges though. Often Illums Bolighus turns into Illums ‘bollehus’. And dyre into dyr. “The wine was dyr”.
Speaking Danish with my kids here was a huge advantage, and having friends like Alice who continually encouraged me and was so patient was fantastic.
The biggest error I’ve made is thinking that ‘bolleven’ is a friend who makes buns (it’s actually a friend with benefits), and my big toilet announcement in front of 8 people ‘er det nogen, det har lyst til tiss’. Instead of saying does anyone else need to pee, it was does anyone else feel like (having) some pee. Fail.
And thanks to my translators. Fie you were like my second pair of ears at times. And Toby, not many would translate the whole Klovn movie in a cinema- but you would. I’m still amazed how you learnt a lot of those words.
And of course class 315! It was a blast to learn Danish with you. 21 different nationalities in one room! Laxmi the prize goes to you for best Friday feast of Nepali food, because when asked to put on the national song ofNepalyou put on a Nicole Scherzinger song. When asked why this is special to Nepal you said “it’s not, I just like her”.
While the majority of my friends are Danes, as an international it’s vital to have the odd international friend to complain to about the Danes once in a while.
Hannah Smith from England, you were that person. Meeting over the internet, who would have thought we’d be great mates?! Getting a text from you every 2nd week saying ‘Danish teenagers are so rude on busses’ or ‘why the heck can I not find normal baked beans here’ put a smile on my dial. And I would retort with ‘I can’t believe someone just pushed past me in the supermarket and didn’t even say sorry!’.See this link if you would like more information on how Danes act in supermarkets http://matadornetwork.com/abroad/how-to-piss-off-a-dane/
I can now say that I’ve made my international debut in sport – playing Netball for Denmark. We will overlook the fact that my shoulder dislocated during this match. Playing Netball in a little club full of Aussies, English and Kiwi’s was a Wednesday night taste of home. The aussie accents did start to grind me after a while though.
David Young and Jeremiah Boniface – I didn’t meet many kiwi’s here – but I’m glad I met you. Jems I will never forget meeting you for the first time on a random street in Lyngby when I asked for directions. To hear a NZ accent come out of your mouth was crazy! Our wild little Vesterbro parties and Easter celebration was a blast too. Will miss you both very much.
And whenever you move to a new country you need a support group of some kind. I found that in my international ‘klynger’. I like to think of myself as a founding member…or nearly. Every Tuesday night when all I wanted to do was escape the au pairing and have a laugh, this klynger was the place to go. I’ve learnt a lot and loved teaching you all ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway!’…so Chris, Liz, Soren, Soren, Alice, Marietta, Jacob and Camilla I will miss you all. You were my church.
And to my little ‘kiwi crew’. Who would have thought that a chance meeting in the mountains in NZ would lead to loads of fun on this side of the world? Kris Simonsen I look forward to your ‘english according to Kris’ book coming out soon. Particularly your latest creation “we were humping down the hills”. Kris, Trine, Mathilde and Morten – I look forward to out next catch up where we will again play an epic game of charades and stay in a little mountain cottage.
If there’s one thing the Danes love it’s their traditions! I must say Christmas is magical here – and the julefrokosts (Christmas lunches) make the grim December bearable. Any excuse for more parties right Danes? But in the two Christmas’s I’ve been overseas I’ve never spend the 24th here!! Shocking I know. BUT I have done two rocking New Years.
Now New Years in NZ is fun. We have a BBQ, then drink, light some fireworks and perhaps have a beach bonfire. In Denmark however, people go all out. It’s the one night of the year the Danes dress up – and I mean they really go to town with it.
You sit to down to this 3 three course dinner party with a group of your closest and/or oldest friends, drink a lot, light fireworks even on the table, watch the queen address the nation, then get on a chair at midnight and jump off it as the clock strikes twelve with a bottle of champagne in one hand and kransekage (marzipan cake) in the other. It just rocks. I nearly bought in 2011 with you Fie…but you had to make a mission to kiss your man in Amager. And 2012 was a laugh Si -crashing random Turkish people’s parties with you will never get old.
Easter is another excuse for a party here. Instead of just going to church and eating some chocolate, the Danes have another ‘lunch’ with schnapps. My mum got to experience the joys of this holiday but she didn’t like the schnapps.
And that country makes an Easter beer? Denmark does. They know that any religious holiday deserves its own beer. Carlsberg’s justification for this is ‘hey didn’t Jesus turn water into wine?’.
I must say I was a little sceptic at how entertaining a Danish wedding would be. My first experience of one here four years ago did not leave a great impression. No bridesmaids, speeches that lasted for hours and a pig roasting on a stick outside. But the three weddings I attended last year thankfully broke the mould- esp. yours Fie. The speeches did last for hours, but they were hilarious, and thanks for letting me get away with embarrassing you for ten minutes during my speech. Danish weddings don’t have the hype and ‘fluff’ that NZ weddings do- they are simple, fun and cosy and what more do you need!?
Can I just say that summer inDenmarkis a tradition in itself. Four hours of darkness a day, endless picnics, swimming and eating outdoors. Magic. The Distortion streetparties are a tribute to how well behaved the Danes are. When thousands of people are gathered on the streets drinking and partying something is bound to go wring. Over four nights in four different suburbs here only 8 people were arrested. It blows my mind how well behaved people are. It’s a mentality of ‘we’re in this together so don’t screw it up for the next person’.
Very little to say here as there was only one form: the bike.
Am I glad to be going home to a car: yes
Will I ride a bike again: probably not
At the risk of sounding waaaaaayyyyy to cheesy I’ll go ahead and say it: Every week was a new adventure. Every week I met new people, be it friends of friends or the city mayor. Every week I learnt a new Danish sentence (or really screwed one up), every week I found a new part of the city I hadn’t discovered, and every week I learnt something new about myself that I didn’t know.
But now to the real adventures
The first one started with my trip to Germanyand Switzerland in 2010. Lena Schultze Garbrechten it was a pleasure learning the ins and out of German infrastructure. And Elizabeth Frei, despite the fact I’m less than half your age you can beat me hiking in the Swiss Alps anyday.
Hitting the slopes of Austria for Christmas 2010 with Betina and Jorgen was a right adventure. When I arrived and realised I couldn’t ski down THOSE slopes I assumed the identity of Bear Grylls and proceeded to have adventures in the mountains with my ski shoes – I even filmed some survival videos for your viewing pleasure.
When I told people I was going to Egypt in March 2011 they were worried. It may have had something to do with the fact I planned on going alone, and because of the political riots there. But along came a fellow adventurous soul – Morten – and together we didEgypt and did it well. I’m glad we didn’t find out how hard it was to ride two-wheeler motorbikes in sand until we did it (by that stage we had paid our guide to leave us alone). But we had so much freedom to explore deserts, snorkelling spots and drive over 80km on the open road in 34 degree heat. Now that was an adventure. Riding camels on the other hand was not. Horse riding was though but mainly due to the lack of safety involved – no helmets, no rules – it was very wild west. Sleeping on Mt Sinai still ranks as one of the coldest nights of my life (except for one night at Roskilde), yes they are not just lying when they say that deserts get very very cold at night. But hearing people singing hymns in the morning and waking up to that view was so worth it.
Croatiawas an adventure to one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. Maya Stockmann you were the perfect companion. Staying on the island where Marco Polo was born was a step back in time. And our days consisted of getting up, getting a book, getting to the beach and getting a cocktail. Crystal clear waters, 40 degree heat and stunning historical backdrops.Dubrovnik you stole my heart! And all because of a random purchase one night at 12am of an 800 kr return ticket (NZ 180).
Wherever you go in the world though there you are. I’m not sure what wise person said that but it took me 18 months to learn.
Coming to DK didn’t mean I could play a different version of myself, but it allowed me to play a side of myself that took more risks, pursued more challenges, experimented with more things and thirsted for more experiences.
I enjoyed being the ‘different’ one, the one from a far away land with a funny accent. I loved being a part of a different culture, confronted with the fact that perhaps ‘my way’ of doing things perhaps wasn’t always the best way…and sometimes it was. Eg. I find it extremely endearing that Danes take their time to get to know you, that they don’t give it all away too soon and leave the best for that moment when they say ‘would you like to come to my home’.
I love that DK is forward thinking, yet traditional. I love biking amidst buildings that were built before my country was even discovered, and waving to your royal family when they make appearances.
But at the end of the day, I love the people. It’s the people that make a country what it is and it’s the people that make a place special.
I will miss you all more than you know.
Thanks everyone. You were amazing.