Sunday, 14 August 2011

Six months in Denmark...

June and July were slow months for me on the blogging front. It turns out that neither photo challenges nor the school summer holidays are conducive to thoughtful reflection let alone formulating thoughts that are worthy of sharing. I could have written about how we made it through a long week of non-stop rain in July with all the indoor play areas 'closed for the summer' or how my trip to IKEA armed with two children and a klippekort panned out. As the title of a very helpful book about blogging rightly states, 'No one cares what you had for lunch!'.
And all this to say that I have been quiet lately but now there is light at the end of the tunnel. A new school year dawns, my thoughts will soon be my own again and I hope to turn them to the pursuit of the sublime. Now that I have paused and looked up from the craziness that is a summer of children at home, overseas travel and the aftermath of trans-atlantic induced jet lag, I realise that we have been living our new life in Denmark for six whole months. Wow, how did that happen?
It seems like only yesterday that we were unpacking boxes, grappling with the plug adaptor situation and finding light fittings. We've faced so many changes over our time here and there have been challenges a plenty but we've also made great strides in adapting to our new surroundings. Its funny how quickly one can become accustomed to a different landscape; when we were in London recently, it seemed incredibly busy, much more so than I remembered it from my 18 years living there! I've simply become used to there being less people around, less queues and more space.
It was while we were travelling that I noticed small changes in my outlook too that have been born of our relatively short time seeing things done the Danish way. Things that I have, subconsciously in some cases, adopted as my own. For example, I was walking through the streets of Ottawa with my children in a double stroller I had borrowed from relatives and caught myself parking the stroller outside a shop fully intending to venture inside unencumbered (by either the oversize stroller or its passengers)!! I remembered in time and checked myself, 'This isn't Denmark'.
There are some things that six months ago seemed foreign but that I now accept as the norm. Whilst we're already on a theme of 'sixes', here is my numbered list:
(1) Riding my bike in a skirt and heels
Everybody does it (well, mainly Danish women) and riding in style is a big part of the cycling culture. And so, I've exchanged my fluorescent waterproof cycling jacket for a very stylish red hooded waterproof poncho and on the few occasions that I have ventured out for cocktails at Rubys, I've ridden my bike in a skirt and heels.
(2) Shopping at a loppedmarked
The loppedmarked is very popular here. The word translates as 'flea market' but it is more than that and encompasses jumble sale, yard sale and car boot sale too. Selling things that you no longer want or need is a national past time and there are many bargains to be had. At the weekends, children stand on street corners selling their old toys, dealers set up stalls of antiques and nick-nacks at more organised sales and many ex pat families take a pitch to sell their purged belongings before moving on. I love stumbling upon a loppedmarked and have bought some great things (mainly second hand toys and English children's books). It would seem that I have acquired the Danish talent for rummaging!

(3) Candlelight
Walking around our neighbourhood in the evening, there are always candles burning in the windows. This is all part of the Danish concept of hygge, which translates as 'cosiness' but is, as I understand it, the warm and fuzzy feeling you have when you are spending time with loved ones over a shared meal in the home. These occasions are usually candlelit and the glowing flames symbolise the warmth. Our use of candles came about in rather more practical circumstances (when we moved into our flat, there were no light fittings) but we do still have a tray of white church candles that we light from time to time for cosiness.
(4) Letting my son play out in the shared courtyard unaccompanied
When we moved here we swapped our garden flat for a third floor apartment and sacrificed our private outdoor space. This was a conscious decision as we thought that living downtown would be less isolating. Rather than a private garden we have access to a shared courtyard with a common play area. This is proving to be a wonderful space to meet our Danish neighbours and their children. And the day came to pass during the recent school summer holidays when my son (who just turned 4) could hear his friends playing downstairs and asked me if he could go out to join them in the courtyard. I took a deep breath, weighed up the risks and decided that I could give him a small taste of independence. I watched from the kitchen window on the third floor as he and his friends rode around on their bikes. I can't imagine the same scenario back in London and I think this has more to do with the access to outdoor space being different. Having said that if anyone had told me that I would be letting my son play out on his own at this age, I would have struggled to believe it!
(5) Having my hair blow dried and straightened with straighteners to within an inch of its life before it's cut
Yes, this is the way it is done here. On that first trip to the hairdressers it puzzled me and I did wonder if perhaps when I had made the appointment I had been booked for a wash and style but when every kink and curl had been obliterated, the scissors finally came out. I have been happy with the results and now I know the procedure, I know not to panic when the straighteners appear!
(6) The weather
Now, coming from an English girl, you might think it sounds a little rich that I have had to acclimatise to the Danish weather. I don't really have an issue with it and for the most part it is what I expected but what took some getting used to was the fact that at any time on any given day it can change (sometimes quite dramatically) without much warning. One minute you might be sitting on the beach feeling pleasantly warmed by the sun and perhaps even contemplating a dip in the sea - the next minute the wind will have picked up, the clouds gathered and its a race to get home before the rain sets in. At least I've learned never to give up hope on the weather - when I wake up in the morning and the sky is grey, I always remind myself that by the end of the day the sun might be shining!
Whilst these are some of the things that I am getting used to, there are many things that I continue to struggle with. I still can't get my head around not saying 'please' before I ask for something in a shop and I am also still to learn not to offer an older Danish lady my seat on the bus; on the couple of occasions I have tried this, it has only provoked enraged looks, tutting and a heated rant channelled in my direction. The Danish mindset is very much one of 'can do'.

My photos in this post are from the various crafts on display at this weekend's Kunsthåndværkermarkedet. It was Scandinavia's largest collection of crafters and designers from the Danish Arts and Crafts Association. The beautiful work included textiles, jewellery, ceramics and glass. For further information on the fair visit 


  1. What a wonderful change from London, do they drive on the right side or wrong side of the road in Denmark? I have two kids also a 5 and 1 year old and can't wait to get to Copenhagen to cargobike around the city. I'll have to bug you for tips and tricks for families.


  2. Followed your blog for 6 months and now I am finally in Copenhagen with my family. Hopefully moving into our house on saturday and now wondering if I have enough candles!!! I am very much looking forward to finding a loppedmarked, and riding a bike in skirt and heels. (will have to learn how to ride a bike 1st.) Keep writing. Emma

  3. 'Xander - You'll have to be quick to make best use of the cargobike - most 5 year olds I see in this city ride their own bikes!!!! You'd be welcome to take our Kangeroo for a test ride though....

    Gingermog - "Velkommen i København!" Good luck for the move to your new house. Enjoy!!

  4. Beautiful photographs as ever Kitty! That craft market looks fabulous! Happy 6 months too! It goes so quickly doesn't it... Can't believe we have been here almost two years already! Emma xxx

  5. On my way to copenhagen and excited for the changes that await me. I am from south Africa, been living in cape town for three years now and my boyfriend got a position through his company. I have been following your blog; as it allows me a personal and realistic look into the life of a newbie in Copenhagen. I am nervous about the language barrier as well as finding work, but through all my nerves there is a flourish of excitement. Thanks for the blog, gem

  6. Gem - an adventure awaits you! Thanks for the comment on my blog and good luck with your relocation. Kitty B

  7. oh how I am enjoying this just found blog