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.


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)


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.


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)


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


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.


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.


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.


Everyone is talking about the Danish DJ and producer ‘Trentmøller‘. Since his debut in 1997, he has caught the eye of listeners and reviewers in Denmark and elsewhere in Europe. Here is a video (in English subtitles…which was good practice for my Danish by the way) showing him at work in his central Copenhagen apartment.

‘moan’ is one of his latest tracks:

Surviving in the face of adversity

Surviving in the face of adversity brings people together, strangers from all walks of life.

This was what I thought on the train returning from Roskilde festival this morning. A commuter at 8-9am would have witnessed sequential wagons of dazed and mud speckled youngsters. Together we dispersed (eighty thousand of us) into the sparkling tranquility of central Copenhagen, in-pairs and as single stragglers. An understanding nod to each other as if to agknowledge our groggy appearances and rubber mattresses. A few cheerful conversations amongst those who could manage it. We were comrades for a few days. Music is what we live for.

100mm of rain fell on the first day of the festival:


I left my camera safely at home out of the rain, which means I am pinching other people’s images to illustrate the mayhem and the merrymaking. ‘Rockphoto‘ is a collaborative website with photo’s from five professional photographers covering the festival. There are some very beautiful shots from 2007 and previous years.

Meanwhile I will make an effort to collect my confused thoughts and get down to a working Monday. The music will have to be revisited later, in a more focused frame of mind.

Click below to see more photo’s …

Continue reading ‘Surviving in the face of adversity’

‘summer outing’ (skovtur)

Yesterday in the torrential rain, I joined my work Collegues for our annual summer outing:

the torrent came, though it took a long time coming

first pilsner

unsuspecting canoers eat Dansk smørrebrød under a tree

pilsner with tuna salat….one more pilsner

journey back capsized


we stuggled in the face of adversity….one more pilsner

later that night

Jack and Daniel sat opposite eachother

Gin wondered who would ask her to dance

Objects of my affection

I will try not to miss ‘Peter, Bjorn and John’ at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark this year. I have just been revisiting a few tracks on myspace such as ‘Up against the Wall’ and ‘Amsterdam’ that you can find on the critical metrics playlist. This Swedish trio have been around since 1999 and developed a worldwide following, the years of experience in playing together definitely show.

on War

I recently met a Danish army officer who told me that he would be posted to Afghanistan in the coming weeks. I half expected him to describe his peacekeeping mission of sorts to me, and was a rather taken aback when he explained that the explicit purpose of his contingency was to find and kill terrorists. It was strange for me to encounter someone personally involved and I couldn’t quite imagine this nice man in front of me carrying out such tasks. My heart goes out to him.

Since I am on this subject, Tim from the ‘The Copenhagen Report’ recently wrote a very interesting commentary about Denmark’s real incentives of the ‘War in Iraq’. I think he has hit it on the spot. There is always seems to be a money-making business behind war and the way we invent our enemies. It reminds me of the hypocracy of it all.

War does not determine who is right – only who is left. ~Bertrand Russell

the media defend Denmark

In the Danish media this week: There has been extensive criticism of the Prime Minister’s son for his recently published book ‘American conditions‘. In his 57-page manuscript, Rasmussen challenges the many negative images of the US promoted by the media and among other things, says that the Danish health care system is more likely to fail patients than the American.

Rasmussen has lived for several years in the US and is no doubt qualified to make such comparisons. However I find it interesting that an individual that is so closely related to an important political figure (the Prime Minister who is also perhaps the embodiment of the Danish welfare state), can express a certain ‘betrayal’ to his fellow countrymen. I have sensed after living here for 3 years, that the social welfare state is a source of pride to many Danish citizens and ensures a high standard of living, low levels of corruption and keeps things working like clock-work.

It seems he has quite a few facts wrong however, according to the 2 page summary in the daily paper Nyhed Avisen and in other various papers around Copenhagen. With my limited Danish, I can make out that there has been a very strong rebuf of the comparisons he makes between the US and Denmark, with respect to crime, health and poverty, that tend to put the latter in a less-shining light.

One thing is clear, despite an apparent political leaning towards US policies, which includes the debarkle over the ‘War in Iraq’, most Danes will not aspire to US ways easily.

Trust in the state of Denmark

I was recently the victim of ruthless marketing by one of the local newspapers in Denmark, Berlingske tidende. Although I have never subscribed to this paper and I normally read the more liberal Politiken, a telephone marketer somehow obtained my mobile number and coaxed me into listening to the latest subscription offers.

I’m not normally a sucker for this kind of thing. Words of the salesman usually run over straight over my head and out the backdoor. A curt ‘no thankyou’ and a polite ‘goodbye’ usually ends the conversation and is proceeded by thoughts of ‘How dare they invade my private space at this hour?’

In hindsight I put it down to his flirting tone -The appeal of opposite sexes seems to be a powerful marketing strategy, in my case I don’t think a sales-woman pitch would have had quite the same ring to it. (I bashfully admit at this point that my salesman further coaxed me into a 3-month trial subscription).

Putting this aside, it has occured to me how much personal information is public and trusted in Denmark. My anonymous caller already knew my name, mobile number, address and fully expected me to quote my bank account details over the phone.

But I just couldn’t give him that trust…

To further illustrate how trust in people’s goodwill still exists here; All residents in Denmark have a national security number (CPR-number) which gives a whole host of information (age, income details, marriage status) to authorised, or not so authorised individuals. Its one of the reasons why things are reputably efficient here.

However a non-trusting person would realise that the CPR-card which you carry around with you also provides your address, so don’t lose your keys at the same time as your card, you are either relying on a trusted citizen to return it to you safely, or returning to a ransacked apartment.

Will this trust in goodwill last? Or will it slowly be relinquished to a more doubtful state of mind as people encounter more of the unfamiliar?

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Copenhagen Weather Pixie

The WeatherPixie

‘here I collect thoughts and images of Copenhagen, things in the news, share experiences and explore identities; the sorts of things that come to mind when you live abroad and adapt to new surroundings’

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