Friday, 8 April 2011

Danish life: swapping the Guardian for Politiken

Thirteen years ago I was awarded a scholarship to live and work in Toronto, Canada, for a year. I had just qualified for the English bar and it was a great chance to take time away from the hard slog that would be pupillage and finding tenancy as a barrister. It was also an amazing opportunity to experience another culture. I still have wonderful friends from that chapter of my life and Toronto will always have a special place in my heart. Notwithstanding all that was positive about being so far away from home, there were two things that I missed deeply; BBC Radio 4 and the Guardian newspaper.

Of course, those were the days before everyone had internet access at home and before the BBC's wonderful iPlayer. iPlayer is a lifesaver for expats and the licence fee that BBC viewers in the UK pay is money well spent. You never know where in the world you might end up and when you might need to hear the familiar voices of John Humphreys, James Naughtie, Sue MacGregor and Libby Purves. I now listen to Woman's Hour as I potter in my Danish kitchen.

Since becoming a mother, one of my Saturday morning rituals in London was to make a coffee and steal 5 minutes to myself with the Family section of the Guardian. It's my favourite weekend supplement. On our first weekend in Copenhagen, the lack of rumpled newsprint on the breakfast table almost made me weep. I jumped on my bike and cycled to Østerport station (near the British, US and Canadian embassies) and found, buried amongst the weekend Sport and Business, my beloved Family section!!!!

Like everything else, the newspapers here are expensive. The International edition of the Guardian cost me a princely 35 DKK (£4.12). Since that first weekend and because my husband has a train journey to work and for a myriad of other reasons, we have bought an iPad. Its not the paper edition and the romance of holding newsprint (and the inky finger tips!) has been traded in, but at least my indulgence has been restored.

The Guardian has a fantastic website that is, in my opinion, second to none for up to date news and analysis and so living abroad this time I can still keep abreast of world affairs and follow my favourite writers. The last 3 months haven't exactly been without incident on the global stage either: revolution in Egypt, earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Nato action over Libya.

But what of local news? Unsurprisingly, the Guardian doesn't report much about Denmark, its internal affairs or the Danish position on global issues.

The only newspaper published entirely in English is the Copenhagen Post. This is aimed at the expat community, published weekly and although it is sold at the newstands it is free at the airport and some hotel lobbies. There is an online version too and whilst it does not really give depth or breadth in its news reporting there is an interesting comment column which provides analysis of some expat issues. It also comes with a good guide to what is going on in Copenhagen.

Of the Danish press, there are three main daily broadsheets: Politiken (daily circulation 369,000), Jyllands-Posten (the newspaper of the notorious offending cartoon incident with a daily circulation of 120,000) and the Berlingske (daily circulation of 103,00). All have online editions but only Politiken has its own section which publishes the news in English. Jyllands-Posten posts English articles from the Copenhagen Post.

Having arrived only a couple of months ago, my Danish language skills, whilst they will help me find a tin of chopped tomatoes in the supermarket, do not extend to reading the newspaper. I have however sat down with the Politiken and a Danish-English dictionary and tried to understand the headlines. For example, I did learn that taxes and rising fuel prices are putting pressure on Danish households, plus ça change!

I was interested to see the front page of Politiken (both the main section and the culture section) reporting on Tony Blair's visit to Copenhagen this week - no doubt promoting his biography and giving air to his views on events in Libya. Unsurprisingly, this news didn't make it to the Guardian. I am due to start Danish language classes soon and I hope that I will become proficient enough to start reading the Danish press. Like the Guardian, Politiken has won many press awards and I am excited to hopefully one day enjoy its writing and analysis.

Until then, I will share with you one story that has gripped Denmark recently (in both the Danish and English news) and apparently had the most hits online. For anyone reading this from afar it may not have made it to a broadsheet near you although I think it has been picked up by some parenting websites.

The little boy in this picture is 3 year old toddler Holger Kragh. One day last week he went out walking with his family but had a bit of a tantrum because he didn't want to wear his coat. His mother put his coat on back to front and zipped it up so that little Holger couldn't take it off. Then Holger went off crying and wandering on his own into some woodland. I don't know but I imagine it might have been one of those stand-offs that all parents have with toddlers at some point only this time Holger called his parents' bluff. Unable to find Holger and as the day drew to a close, he was reported missing.

The police were called in and police dogs, helicopters and locals joined the search. During the night the temperature dropped to freezing. Holger was nowhere to be found until the next day when he was spotted - still wandering around and still wearing his coat zipped up back to front! I'm not sure what we're supposed to take away from a story like that - except for a huge sigh of relief.

Its in times like these when global news is dominated by stories of loss and devastation, warfare and destruction that we look for good news and this week it was the tale of how a mother's discipline probably saved a little boy's life!


  1. I don't know how much Danish you master, but if you can, Information offers the best read nowadays. Politiken isn't just in-depth enough, their articles are merely scraping the issue and sometimes I feel they need to dedicate a page for all the "no shit sherlock" articles they post.

    Berlingske is far out in the jungle, I don't think you want to try that and Copenhagen Post is just...*sigh* a tourist newspaper

  2. Thanks! I appreciate the advice. So far my Danish only extends to a couple of words but I'll definitely check out Information.

  3. I agree, but politiken is a good "first paper", the language is much simpler than in information - I started out reading politiken and moved on to information later, but now I don't have time for either!

    I do occasionally buy a weekendsavisen however, which is sort of the equivalent of the sunday papers (though without all the style and living aspirational sections that are supposed to make you buy stuff - Sunday times I'm looking at you!).

    It's also a very good read and also has culture and family sections. Not that I often manage to get through the whole thing.

  4. Thanks, Ruth. Now that I've started my Danish language course, I'm looking for 'simple' reading. Have been browsing Politiken online and will definitely look out for Weekendsavisen.

  5. Hi Kitty, I just started reading your blog and looks like you echo my life quite closely! I just moved here last year from London and do so miss the media!

    Have you tried the google translate tool for websites? I usually use it to browse danish news online and sites like etc. Its also great practice for learning danish as you can see the danish text along side the translated version.

    I didn't even think of getting an online subscription for the guradian on the IPAD! I will definitely be using that...thanks so much for the tip!

    Also, can we get to see iPlayer TV as well here? I thought it was only the radio...please let me know!

  6. Hello! Glad you are enjoying my blog. The Guardian website is free - that's just one of the great things about it!! Try For BBC iPlayer TV you will need a British IP address although I have just heard that iPlayer is going to be free in Europe soon. Good luck!

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