Sunday, 5 June 2011

Danish life: Open all hours? Nej

One of the biggest adjustments we have made to our family life since arriving in Denmark is our shopping habits both generally and, more specifically, shopping at the weekends. Things here are expensive (this has been said before) and so we don't consume as much as we did in London but our old home city was also one with a 24/7 culture. It was an open all hours culture that was as natural as night following day. Growing up I remember the shops being closed on Sundays but then gradually the trading laws changed and within a couple of decades it wasn't unheard of to go supermarket shopping on the way home from the cinema on a Saturday night. Eventually, Sunday became like any other trading day so that at any time the streets were busy with shoppers.

Here in Copenhagen things are very different and the reduced shop opening hours which were at first slightly frustrating are now much appreciated for the organisation and increased family time that they have foisted upon us. There are three local shopping hour customs that we have had to learn: first, on Saturdays the shops are only open til around 1 pm (3pm at the latest). This means that there is a greater degree of planning that now goes into how Saturday mornings unfold.

Whereas in London we could pick up groceries or do errands late into the afternoon, we now have a lunchtime curfew on getting those jobs done. In the early days a state of panic would set in around noon on Saturday when, after a couple of hours of spontaneous unpacking, we would venture out into the world and find everyone else on their way home and the shops closing. As we've settled in we are adjusting and when the Saturday morning jobs are taken care of, its great to have the rest of the day to do fun things.

The second custom is in relation to Sunday shopping. On Sunday the shops are closed except for supermarkets, which are open on the first and last Sunday of the month. Again, this means a bit of weekend planning is involved and most of the time we try to do a weekend food shop on Saturday morning. There have been many a Sunday afternoon when I have breathed a sigh of relief as I've discovered that a vital ingredient for the evening meal is missing but then realised that its 'one of those Sundays when I can pop to the shop'!!

Finally, the shops are closed on public holidays and at this time of year there are lots of public holidays. This morning we set out for a beach picnic with friends and we planned to buy some of our supplies en route. Today is the first Sunday in June and so we shouldn't have been caught out - except that Thursday was Ascension Day and today is the corresponding public holiday! And so, even our best laid plans....

Aside from remembering these three rules of thumb in order to plan and organise, the reduced shop opening hours change the landscape of the neighbourhood at weekends. Back in the great metropolis that is London I would rarely see a high street that wasn't bustling with trade. It may be stating the obvious but with the shops closed there is less shopping to be done. Instead, at weekends you will find the Danes out in the parks and at the beaches, the playgrounds and the cycle lanes are full. The reality is that reduced shopping means more leisure time - not least for the people working in the retail business!

We've just had a four day weekend and our family outings included a trip to the Frilandsmuseet near Lyngby. These photos are all from this fascinating open air museum, one of the largest and oldest in the world, which has farms, mills and smallholdings dating from 1650 to 1940 and recreates daily life and working processes from old times.


  1. The shopping hours are one thing I will not miss at all! Hope you had a great bank holiday? You found my house (top pic!), this is my absolute favourite building in the whole of the Frilaands Museet!... I imagine it could be quite cosy in the winter with that fire lit!

    Did you find the fish and chip place?

    Emma xx

  2. Its quite a farm cottage, isn't it?! No fish and chips this time it was too hot but lots of ice cream instead!!

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