Archive for the 'denmark' Category

cultural exchange

Next week I will undertake a long-winded flight to visit my home country New Zealand. I’ve done this a number of times now, and it occured to me there is always a regular exchange of Danish-NZ nostalgic tit bits – which I distrubute among the masses.

to take:

Marcipan (anton berg); plastic clips from Ikea to seal packets of opened food stuffs; peper nødder (little danish biscuits usually eaten at christmas, but have already appeared in stores now); Lakrids, spunk and lakerol (licorice sweets); tea from AC perche; tom’s thin chocolate slices for eating with bread; stripy t-shirts.

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to bring back:

Cadbury chocolate; manuka bush honey; wine; berocca (vitamins); vegemite; raro (cordial or the equivalent of saft for children), minties, books books books; potato peelers; sunglasses and shells from the beach.

Anything else I have forgotten?

fight for your rights…continued

In Denmark yesterday, there were few people preoccupied with the demoralizing world cup rugby matches. There was a battle closer to hand. Up to 4000 ungdomshuset supporters took to the streets and attempted to take over a derelict house near Fugleparken station in Copenhagen. They were met with riot police. (See the related bbc article here)

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Due to the suburban location, most city dwellers probably didn’t notice the clashes between police and demonstrators that inevitably turned violent. Police used teargas and protesters threw smoke bombs. There were 437 arrests, 100 of them under 18 years of age.

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This time they were unsuccessful in their quest for a new home. The squatters and left-wing activists, had been looking for an alternative venue since their eviction from their previous venue in March 2007. (refer to previous writing on this)

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Copenhagen remains alert for more anti-authoritarianism to come. The photographs are taken from www.politiken.dk online.

Thomas D. Kennedy; writer in Copenhagen

tekcarlos.jpgSometimes it takes an expat to highlight the cultural and social characteristics of a country. This is because ‘they’, who are initially ‘outsiders’ in that country, are used to viewing life relative and contrary to where they came from.

Today I came across an essay titled ‘Life in another Language’, by the writer Thomas E. Kennedy. It is a witty and concise account of life in Denmark, as seen by an expatriate living here for three decades. Kennedy touches on aspects of Danish mantality, and cultural quirks in the Danish language that demonstrate how people think, and believe. He also describes the good life, the bad life, social rituals, irony, the Jante law ( a Danish way of thinking that can otherwise be interpreted as the ‘tall poppy syndrome’) and contradicts this with aspects of life in New York city, where he lived previously. I found myself nodding in agreement at every paragraph to this essay and simultaneously learning more about the place I have lived in, for the past three and a half years.

Kennedy is the also author of four interconnecting novels, The Copenhagen quartet, linked by structure, and each set in a different season. For this work based on life in the Danish Capital, Kennedy has been likened to ‘James Joyce’s Dublin’. Kennedy draws on the impact of the changing seasonal light in this Northern country, that is something everyone feels profoundly. The moods of each season can be contradicted, and can lead from one to another with hope and yearning.

Here is an excerpt from ‘Bluett’s blue hours’ Book II of the Copenhagen Quartet:

‘Tightening the fur collar around his throat, he steps up onto the embankment, tries to stamp warmth back into his soles, crosses to the Front Page Café, nearly empty at this hour. L’heure bleu comes charitably early at this parallel in winter. Eyeglasses steaming and nose running in the sudden heat, he strips off his coat and scarf and gloves and Kangol, mops nose and lenses with a clean white handkerchief, and proceeds to the bar.’

Danish apples

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Where I work in Copenhagen, Danish apples have been the talk of the week. And as the nights turn chilly, we conquer up images of hot apple pie, (ideally accompanied by warm flowing custard), a hearty affair to bring comfort to our weary bones. They are unequivocally the sign of Autumn and of the shades of darkness to come.

On a brighter note (and to avoid being too presumptuous), our university canteen demonstrated its support for local produce by selling various self-plucked varieties. To my surprise and delight; apples and pears fresh from the gardens of Vedbæk, north of Copenhagen, or Funen, an Island to the west of Copenhagen. I’m told that there is more to be found down at the harbor at Nyhavn, where the boats sail over from the Island of Fanø, South of Copenhagen.

Look for the Danish varieties ‘Discovery’, ‘Guldborg’, and ‘Clara Friis’ – in store now.

role playing

rollespils-icon.jpgThis weekend I have spotted numerous kids on their way to the forest.

Boys frighten damsels with their plastic swords and their goblin-like masks. Girls learn how to be princesses.

Hide and seek with added accessories. Nostalgia and medieval dress-up. Runes, dungeons and dragons.

Roleplaying, it’s organized recreation taken seriously in Denmark. Just type ‘rollespils forenings’ into google and find a group to join. I’m sure if would bore me to tears, but then again I have never tried.

Scandinavia

In view of an impending trip to Helsinki next week. I have begun pondering over the meaning of ‘Scandinavia’. What geographical and cultural areas does this term actually encompass? Apart from an association with blonde hair, blue eyes and liberal (lack of prudishness) attitudes to nudity, it seems there are no real official borders in using this term. Lingistically, it seems to encompass areas where Old Norse was spoken and where the North Germanic languages are now dominant. Thus in addition to the three kingdoms, Denmark, Sweden and Norway, Scandinavia also includes Iceland and the Faroe Islands. The name Scandinavia could actually mean “dangerous island”, which is considered to be a reference to the treacherous sandbanks surrounding Scania.

However despite obvious linguistic differences, many sources also include Finland under the Scandinavian umbrella. Furthermore, Åland (an autonomus province of Finland since 1920), Jan Mayen (an integrated geographical body of Norway), Svalbard (under Norwegian sovereignty since 1920) and the vast continent of Greenland ( self governing Danish territory since 1979). Until now, some of these are places I have never heard of.

Despite extensive web searching and investigations, there is no real conclusion on ‘Scandinavia’ and what it encompasses. It could be, and its my suggestion, that it is a term invented by settlers and immigrants that traveled to distant lands. Dislocated from a usual familiarity, they united together as ‘Scandinavians’ to gain a sense of home. The small differences between Nordic relatives that were normally the brunt of jokes back in the homeland didn’t matter anymore to the lonely settlers out on the vast frontier.

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Danish mood of the day

Today, the news in Denmark seems to be remarking on a more global way of seeing things. Traditional domestic spirits such as Gammel Dansk and Akvavit are being replaced by liquors of ‘foreign’ origin. ‘We want to drink in a more sophisticated manner’ said a researcher interviewed in the Copenhagen post this week.

Furthermore the primeminister Anders Fogh Rasmussen returning from holiday, has proposed a loosening of immigration policies to allow a wider range of employees access to Denmark’s labour market. ‘I don’t envision a Denmark where everybody is the same,’ said Rasmussen. ‘It’s exciting to have a society where people with various backgrounds are here as long as they work, provide for themselves and contribute to Danish society.’

So this is the Danish mood of the day.