Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Danish life: pram culture

On the day I first made my way from the hotel to our new flat in Copenhagen, I was pushing my 10 month old baby in the buggy and I was surprised to encounter this scene...

An apparently 'abandoned' buggy (with baby inside, I should add) outside a vintage clothing store on the main street. I looked around for anybody who might lay claim to the sleeping infant but none was immediately obvious. As I walked past the store, I saw two women inside; one trying on clothes and engrossed in conversation. Had the carer really left a sleeping baby on the street whilst going into a store to try on clothes? This made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.

My mother tells the story of how, on one of her first outings with a new born baby (nearly 40 years ago),  she parked me in the pram outside the chemist and when her business was done walked home only to realise that she had left me in the pram at the shops. Whenever this story is re-told it is generally met with laughter but also a chorus of tutting and the consensus that 'you couldn't do that these days'.

In Copenhagen, it seems that there is either an epidemic of post-natal forgetfulness or things 'these days' are different here.

On the same day last week, I went out shopping for a couple of household items (actually, then began the holy grail of UK to Danish plug adaptors!!) and I struggled to manoeuvre my buggy up the steps and through the door of a hardware store. Waiting until I had accomplished this not insubstantial feat, the shopkeeper came across and pointed to a sign on the door....

No prams allowed!!! What? Is this some kind of prejudice against shopping mums (or dads, for that matter, this is Denmark after all!)? Here in Denmark, it seems to be perfectly acceptable to leave an occupied pram parked outside on the pavement. And since that first day, the sight of a buggy left on its own has become a regular feature of my new landscape.

I have struggled to adopt this local custom and I continue to prefer to overcome the physical challenge of getting my buggy and kids into a store with me (provided there are no signs on the doors prohibiting them) than the huge leap in internal wiring it would take for me to park my children alone outside.

A quick google on the subject of 'pram snatching' in Copenhagen and wondering whether such a thing is a threat led me to an article on tips for travelling with kids in this city and it reports that 'to date, no baby has ever been snatched from its pram here' and that was written in November 2010. In fact, on further reading, it seems that leaving babies outside to sleep is believed by the Danes to be good for their health, ie they get fresh air.

Now that is something I can understand. How many of us mothers have taken a restless baby out for a walk to have them fall asleep in the buggy and the minute we cross the threshold of the coffee shop, the little eyes open and the tranquility dissolves?! Sleep in the fresh air is much healthier and so maybe I will come around to the native way of doing things.