Sunday, December 30, 2012

The New Years Look-Back of Awesome!

It's the end of the year, so it's time for the ONLY LOOK-BACK THINGY YOU'LL EVER NEED!

That's not true.  I just lied.

Let's be honest, no one actually needs New Years countdowns/looks-back of any kind.  But since we're here, and you've already read this far...

As far as years go, this one has been a doozy.  I have the pictures to prove it!

One year ago, I was working in Boston, living in Cambridge, and seriously stressing out while planning a wedding.  Shockingly, said wedding went off without a hitch.  It's true!  Photographic evidence, exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

We'd expected to move to Denmark in August, but found out just days after the wedding that we had to move at the end of June, just weeks after the wedding.  We did manage to fit in honeymoon in New Orleans, though.  Here's a lovely 'gator that we met there:

We arrived in Copenhagen on July 1st, and it was the perfect time of year.  It looked like this:

I've spent the majority of time since then learning Danish, but I've spent the last 2 months also looking after this little heathen:

Well, now you're up to date.  

As far as New Years in Denmark goes, it seems to start a few days in advance.  At least, it sounds that way based on the fireworks that we've heard for for the last few nights.  We have two options as far as plans go.  We may go to our local pub, or we may stay home and have a quiet night in.  The latter is the most likely, but... we're mysterious and won't decide until the very last moment.

Maybe we'll have an adventure!

But even if not, happy New Year to you from my husband and I!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Very Expat Christmas

We didn't have a particularly Danish Christmas this year.

Instead of celebrating on the 24th, as they do here, we kept with American and English tradition and celebrated our low-key Christmas on the 25th.  My husband made an amazing duck for lunch, plus Christmas pudding with home-made custard, and for dinner I made some steak and potatoes.  I got my husband the Game of Thrones books box set, so we both spent much of the day reading.

It should be noted that I am still on book one, which we bought several months ago, while he is now more than 300 pages into book 2, having started reading it yesterday.

In other quasi-literary (well, not really) news, we spent the evening of the 23rd out to dinner and a movie with a classmate and her husband.  We went to go see The Hobbit (or "Hobbitten," as it's called here).

I've come to expect the Danish subtitles when going to an English language film here, but I tend to forget that any parts of the film in any other language (say... Elvish for example) would also only have Danish subtitles.  So, I found myself putting my Danish lessons to good use during this one, and surprised myself with hour much I was able to understand.  There were still plenty of words that I didn't understand, but I understood enough to figure out what was going on.

As far as the movie itself, my husband and I agreed: It was a fairly good movie that couldn't decide which audience to play to.  The book is basically a kids book, and the way the movie started, I thought perhaps the movie was going to play more towards a younger audience too.  But as it went on, it got darker and more graphic, and it seemed to fall into the same feel as the Lord of the Rings movies.  Despite that, though, we definitely enjoyed it.

Next, we'll start watching seasons 2 and 3 of The Killing (or "Forbrydelsen").

With English subtitles, of course.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Holiday Advice for Men

Well, it's just after 11am in Denmark on December 21, 2012, and so far the world hasn't come to an end.

So, that's good.

Since it seems pretty likely that Christmas is, in fact, coming this year, and those of you who were banking on the End Times may have some last second holiday shopping to do, let me offer up a tiny bit of holiday advice.

Now, I don't know if women do this, but I've known at least a couple of men who have this one very bad habit right around the holidays (or their birthday):

They go out and buy things for themselves.  Or, they may mention in passing that they plan to buy something for themselves.  Something that they may have also, in passing, mentioned to their wife or girlfriend that they might want.

You know how when you're having a fight with a woman, she seems to have this uncanny ability to remember tiny details of past conversations and bring them up?  Well, that superpower also can be used for good.  Like... remembering that you mentioned you wanted something months ago, and then getting it for you for your birthday or Christmas when you've completely forgotten even mentioning it.

This may not be true for all people, but I think most people like their gifts to be a surprise.  That's why we wrap them, after all, isn't it?

So, if you don't want to put someone in the awkward position of having to explain why you REALLY, REALLY shouldn't buy yourself that specific thing just before Christmas...

Just hold off for a few days.  Give it until December 26th, at least.

You might be glad you did.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Studieskolen - Module 2 Test Results

As Christmas and New Years not-so-subtly creep up on us, so did my module 2 Danish class slink back into the ether.

At least, that's sort of how it felt.

As needlessly nervous as I was for the exam for module 1, I was equally indifferent to my module 2 exam.

I expected to be in even more of a panic than I was the first time around, but I was so tired the morning of the test and had so much to do to prepare for my audition that night that I just didn't wasn't all that concerned about the test.

Turns out, I didn't need to be all that concerned.

It was a fairly straight-forward event.  We started with the listening section, which had 3 small sections where we listened and chose the correct answers.  Then it was on to reading.  Again, a few short sections where we had to read something brief and determine the right answers.  The written portion was almost exactly like the one we practiced with in class: we had to write an email (this time to an old Danish teacher) talking about our new Danish class.  And finally, the speaking exam, where I first spoke for a minute or so about what I do in my free time, and then had a dialogue with two classmates about a topic chosen at random.  Our topic was "børn," or children.

The teacher gave us our results right after the spoken portion, and it seems that most of the students in the class passed.

I was far too distracted by my impending audition to celebrate.

I'll post an update on how all of that went down once I hear the results.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Pitch Perfect Wannabe

When I was a kid, I was obsessed with two kinds of music:  show tunes and a cappella music.

As you can imagine, I was way cool...

An opportunity popped up out of the blue last week to audition for a local a cappella group.  I'd been considering trying to find a choir to sing with, and I've always wanted to try a cappella, but I hadn't really gotten around to taking more than a passing glance around the Copenhagen music scene.

But when I saw a posting looking for a soprano for this group, I responded without even thinking.

A few days later, I got word back that they wanted me to come in for an audition on December 12 (that's tomorrow, for those of you keeping track).  They sent along music for two songs that they wanted me to learn, one of which is in Swedish.

Oh, by the way, my Danish module 2 exam is also tomorrow.

Busy day coming up.

For now, I'm working on learning the songs, focusing mostly on the words for the Swedish one.

It would be a lot easier if the puppy didn't think I was howling in pain every time I started singing.  Every time, he stops what he's doing and jumps up to try to lick my face.

It's sweet, but... not helpful.

And speaking of the pup, he's been having a blast with the snow lately.  Here's a recent romp in the dog park:

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Studieskolen: Prepping for Danish Module 2 Test

The test to finish module 2 for Danish at Studieskolen sort of snuck up on me.

All of a sudden, it's less than a week away.

The whole process has both been spelled out for us and remains shrouded in mystery, so today I'll fill you in on what I know about the process.

The module 2 test for Danish is provided by the government, not by the school.  So everyone trying to move on to module 3 will be taking the same test.

There's a lot more to it than the quick-and-painless oral exam for module 1, which took less than 10 minutes.  This one is set to take a couple of hours, and is broken down into 4 parts:

1 - Writing: We'll likely have to compose an email about a given topic.  We did a practice run in class yesterday where we composed an email to some friends about our Danish class detailing what we do in class, homework, our teacher, our classmates, etc.  There may also be some fill-in-the-blank worksheets to complete for this section.  The practice we did for that was shockingly simple.
2 - Listening: In this section we'll listen to some audio of people speaking Danish and have to answer questions or match up correct answers or fill in blanks as it relates back to said audio.
3 - Reading: This will involve reading various texts and once again include things like answering questions, matching up correct answers, and filling in blanks.  Our teacher also mentioned that we'll have one section that involves crossing out sentences in a text that don't make sense with the context
4 - Speaking:  During module 2, we've been given 3 short novellas to read.  As part of our spoken exam, we'll give the teacher a list of the 3 books we've read and two other topics (either from essays we've written or informational texts in our textbook), and she will choose one at random.  The idea here is that we walk into the test able to talk about any of the 5 topics, but we only talk about one.  We go into the spoken exam in pairs, so that we can also have a dialogue with one of our classmates as part of our "grade."

Actually, the tests aren't given a grade.  You either pass, or you fail.  Failing means repeating module 2.2 and trying again after another 6 weeks of classes.

Passing, of course, means moving on to module 3.

I'd kind of prefer the latter.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Christmas in Denmark: First Impressions

Back home in America, the Christmas season starts earlier and earlier each year.  As early as September, stores are putting out Christmas decorations or stocking the shelves with holiday-related kitsch.

And every year, radio stations have an unofficial race to see who can switch to 24-hour Christmas music first.  Once they do, all of the other stations who'd planned to do so rush to change their format until after the New Year.

And don't get me started on the ridiculousness of Black Friday.

As I'm sure a lot of Americans will agree, the holidays can be an extremely stressful time.  Have to get the best gifts for the best price, have to find something unique, have to impress the family and the friends and bake (or buy, in my case) more cookies and pies than necessary.

Call me a Scrooge if you will, but it's been a while since I was actually a fan of Christmas.

In Denmark, though, it seems to me a much nicer thing.  A few tasteful decorations go up here and there in November, but most wait until December 1.  And the decorations that do go up are so much less garish.  It just strikes me as a much more subdued, tasteful thing, and less of a competition to see who has the most "cheer."

As far as Christmas traditions in Denmark, I don't really know much about them yet.  I can tell you that Danes generally do their celebrating on Christmas Eve, as opposed to Christmas Day.

And then there is the company Julefrokost.

I have yet to experience one myself, but these are Christmas parties hosted by companies all over Denmark.  Technically, "Julefrokost" means "Christmas lunch," but it's generally more of an afternoon-into-evening-into-early-morning kind of thing.

And they're notorious.

It's traditional for employees and their bosses to eat and drink more than is good for them, and to act out.  Rumors abound about how the divorce rate jumps up right after Christmas because of all of the Julefrokost indiscretions, and how bosses and employees are known to regularly hook up at these parties and then never speak of it again.

I'm sure that's the case at some of them.  In general, though, it sounds a bit like a "big fish" story to me. People love to appear to have a wilder life than they actually have.

This Danish Christmas season started with a little bit of snow here in Copenhagen, so I thought I'd share the latest picture of our puppy, Wooster.  Here he is, enjoying his first snow day:

Saturday, November 24, 2012

How to Learn Danish From Your Dog

I don't think I realized how rarely I actually spoke to Danes until I started speaking to them every day.

In fact, the only times I really even heard Danish spoken was either by my classmates and teacher in my Danish classes, or when I overheard conversations while out and about.  I would generally tune out the latter, assuming I wouldn't understand anyway.

Now, however, Danes come up to me and start conversations almost every day.

How have I achieved this sudden conversational miracle?  After all, Danes are not known for being terribly outgoing while amongst strangers (unless they've had a few drinks, but that's true of anyone).

Here's the secret:  Find yourself a tiny, adorable puppy (He's so adorable that he now has his own YouTube channel).

I take my high energy puppy out for a walk 3 times a day, so I have conversations with strangers every day now.  And since they're the ones starting the conversation, and I'm tall and blonde, they have no reason to assume that I am not Danish.

Now, I'll be honest, a lot of the time I still have to stop them and explain that my Danish isn't very good.  But if I understand what they're asking, and know the answer in Danish, I'm actually able to have short conversations in Danish!

Granted, I hear a lot of the same phrases every day.  "Han er så sød!" is the most common.  It means, "He is so cute!"  I also commonly hear questions about how old he is, and if it's a boy or a girl, and what kind of dog is he.  Just being able to respond to a few simple questions has helped to boost my confidence and also seem to be helping me to tune my ear to everyday Danish as well.  While I can't always respond, and I still don't understand a lot of the words that people are saying, I find that I am suddenly having more luck with understanding the gist of what people are saying.

In my mind, this is one of the biggest reasons that it's so difficult to learn Danish while outside of Denmark.  The sound of the language is so different from what folks outside of Scandinavia are used to that it takes some getting used to.  And unless you hear a lot of different people speaking the language on a regular basis, this can be extremely difficult to do.

So, my advice if you find yourself in Denmark and don't have a lot of Danish colleagues or university classmates to listen to:

Get yourself a tiny adorable dog.  Like this one:

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Updated Comment Policy

Hello all!  A reader recently brought to my attention that it was quite difficult to comment on my blog posts.  In response, I've decided to open up commenting on my blog to everyone!

I do reserve the right to change the comment policy again if things get too spammy or trolly, of course.

Feel free to re-read and comment on old posts!

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Shortest "Must See in Copenhagen" List Ever

My in-laws were in town this weekend, visiting from England.  They'd been here once before, so it was actually a little bit difficult to think of things to show them.

That may sound strange.  European capital city, tons to do, right?  Well, sort of.

Copenhagen is a lovely city, with plenty to see.  But it doesn't have the spectacular sights that many other European capital cities have.  The few sights that it does have can usually be seen within a day or two:

- The Little Mermaid statue (which most people are generally disappointed by for one reason or another.  It's either too small, too large, too close to shore, surrounded by too many tourists, etc.),  Probably best seen from one of the boat tours that leave from Nyhavn, as you can then also take in some of Copenhagen's interesting modern architecture (The opera house, the "black diamond" library, etc.)

- Nyhavn (meaning "new port" in Danish, this is a line of bars and restaurants lining the lovely port seen in the background of this blog); as I mentioned above, you can hop on a boat tour from here, or you can eat or have a beer at one of the cafes.  In the warmer months, the locals bring their own beer and sit along the water, while the tourists generally sit in the (more expensive) cafes.

- Helsingør (better known to Shakespeare readers as Elsinore, or Hamlet's home town) can be reached by taking a quick train north.  The castle there is lovely, and the town center is also quite nice.

- Christiania (Copenhagen's hippy commune); I actually haven't been yet.  I have no good excuse other than that I've had other than that I've had other priorities, but my Danish teacher mentioned possibly taking us there for the final module 2 class, which is after we've had our test.

- Noma (foodies will recognize this as one of the best restaurants in the world, with prices and a reservation wait list that reflect this); this is another place that I have yet to see for myself.  Maybe some day.

- Strøget, or The Walking Street; this is the shopping center in Copenhagen.  Lots of stores (both local and international) and lots of restaurants and cafes.  During the day, it's almost always packed with people.  I prefer to walk it at dusk or after dark, when there's a little more room to breath.

- Tivoli; I almost forgot this one, which is silly considering I was just there last week.  Tivoli is the 2nd oldest amusement park in the world, opened in 1843.  Wikipedia tells me that the oldest is also here in Denmark, but Tivoli is the one to see.  When I was there last week, they were just setting it up for the Christmas season, and it was really nice.  Christmas decor is so much more tasteful here in Denmark than it tends to be in the US.

Like any capital city, Copenhagen has lovely art museums, and like most European cities it also has its palaces and castles that are worth a look.  And I'm sure there are plenty of sights that I've missed.  But these are the top few, in my mind.

When it comes right down to it, though, Copenhagen's culture of "hyggelig," or coziness, makes it more of a nice place to settle down and live, rather than an exciting city to spend a week-long holiday.

It doesn't help that it's an extremely expensive city, making shopping and eating out every day a bit of a financial burden.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Theater and The Theatre

I took in some light-hearted culture this week.

I really enjoy going to the movies and to the theatre, but I haven't had much chance to since moving to Denmark.

In fact, on Sunday I went to the movies for the first time since we arrived.  My husband and I decided to have a date day, and went off to the Palads Teatret in central Copenhagen to see Skyfall before going to dinner.  I had to ask my classmates the following day about some of the differences in going to the movies here.  Turns out, America is the oddball when it comes to seating in movie theaters.  In America, you buy your ticket and then go sit wherever you want.  I was surprised by the assigned seating here in Denmark, but it turns out that's the norm in many other places as well.  I have to say, I kind of like it.  No need to worry about getting to the theater an hour early to get a good seat for a popular movie.  The screen and theater itself were also far smaller than what I'm used to.  It felt more like going to see an independent movie at the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Boston.

In class on Monday morning, a classmate asked if I had any interest in going to see the Crazy Christmas Cabaret in Tivoli on Tuesday night.  I didn't know anything about the show, but I'm always up for a trip to the theatre.  It turns out that the Crazy Christmas Cabaret is in its 30th year.  It's an English language comedy show that has become extremely popular.  This years theme was Hitchcock movies, and my classmate and I had a good time.  The show was silly and completely ridiculous, but fun.

The biggest downside, though... the woman sitting in the seat directly behind me who thought EVERYTHING that happened on the stage was the most hilarious thing that she'd ever seen.  That in itself wouldn't bother me, but her laugh... I've never heard anything like it.  Her laugh alone was louder than the combined laughs of the rest of the audience.  There were moments when it was clear that the actors on stage were struggling to keep focus.  Good for her for clearly enjoying life more than most people, but... yeesh.

All of that being said, I did enjoy my movie- and theatre-going experiences this week.  I enjoyed them enough that I might just hit up a matinee in an hour or so.

Don't judge me for going to see Breaking Dawn on opening day...

Or do.  That's fine.  I deserve it.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Giving an Early Thanks

Today, everything feels like a huge relief.

With the American election finally over, and Obama re-elected to 4 more years as president, plus the passage of some really great, really progressive legislation, I have this feeling that everything is going to be okay.

It also helps that today felt like a really positive day at Studieskolen

It's been a while since I've posted an update about my Danish classes.  As I've just come to the end of the first half of module 2 (also known as module 2.1), I feel like things are going really well.

I have to say, I'm enjoying class quite a bit now.  Maybe it's because we can all speak enough Danish to make jokes, or maybe I'm just enjoying the fact that I can now read (with the help of a dictionary or the occasional check of Google Translate) some short Danish novellas.  Either way, I feel really focused and as though I'm making progress.

It probably helps that I've managed to get a lot more sleep this week than I did last week, now that I'm only having to get up once in the middle of the night to take the puppy out.  And that the puppy has been amazingly well-behaved today.

So, a big thank you to my classmates for being warm and kind and funny.  And a big thank you to our puppy, Wooster, for behaving so well.

Most importantly, of course, thank you to everyone who voted in the American election yesterday.

Today, it feels like I can breath easier.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Week of Worry

What a week!  Where to start?

It has been a week of worry, on various levels.

Starting with the largest:  I mentioned in my last post that Hurricane Sandy was heading straight for most of my family.  Sunday through Tuesday were spent trying to get updates from anyone who still had power, and finding out if everyone was okay.  Seems that they are all fine, thank goodness.

Then there was Monday's module 2.1 Danish test at Studieskolen.  The teacher had sprung the news of the test on the class on Friday.  I happened to be out sick on Friday.  Of all of the days that I decide I need to take my first absence...  I had nightmares about the test the day before.  It was a long test (took an hour and a half), but it was mostly a formality.  It seemed she only gave it to get a reading on who was still following the course, and if anyone should repeat module 2.1 before continuing to 2.2.  My test was full of minor mistakes, but she met with us individually afterwards and told me that I was fine and that I was clearly taking the class quite seriously.

And then, of course, there's the puppy.  Ladies and gents, meet Wooster, our 8-week-old papillon.

I picked him up yesterday out in Strøby.  Did you know that puppy training is exhausting?  I certainly know that now.  He wasn't especially happy overnight, so I didn't get much sleep at all.  Even when he was quiet, I was wide awake worrying about if and when he would cry again.  His little cry breaks my heart, and I have to learn to be less of a pushover.  Puppy training is shockingly tiring.

I think all of my worry over the past few days hasn't helped him to be less nervous about his surroundings, so I'm working on staying calm now.

So far so good.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

All Eyes on Sandy

The "Frankenstorm," also known as Hurricane Sandy, is bearing down on the northeast of the United States as I type this.  Most of my family lives in New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts, so they're all hunkered down for this storm, whatever it ends up being.  They're saying that this combination of a hurricane and a huge snowstorm has the potential to be the worst storm to hit the area in 100 years.  I even read somewhere that flooding in some areas could be the worst they've seen in 500 years.

All of that in mind, my folks seem to be in good spirits.  Prepared with extra gas for their generator, plenty of food, water, booze, and an expectation that they will lose power at some point (and possibly for a while)... they seem to be in good spirits.  Hoping to hear from everyone in the affected area after the storm, as soon as they're able to get in touch.

Back here in Copenhagen, we've got some chilly weather, but nothing extreme.  In fact, my husband tells me that the most extreme weather that Denmark generally is some heavy snow and wind that's no worse than Winters he saw when we lived in Boston.  It's strange to feel like we're in this fishbowl of mild, predictable weather patterns while almost everyone I know prepares for the storm of the century.

Here's hoping it's just another media exaggerated frenzy that results in no more than a few downed twigs.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Puppy update!

Last week, I very excitedly made plans to have a friend drive us out to a breeder west of Roskilde to pick out a puppy.  My husband had called and made an appointment and everything.

He mentioned, however, that part of what made the conversation difficult was that there were loads of dogs barking in the background.  This worried me a little bit, as did the number of dogs they appeared to have on this farm in the pictures on the website.  So, I did some googling.

While opinions of the place varied really widely, and a few people seemed perfectly happy with the puppies they'd picked out, there were far too many negative reviews to make me comfortable.  People saying that they'd bought dogs from there that got sick within the first year or two and died, or dogs that had genetic issues that the breeder had never bothered testing for.  Plus, several reports that this woman has somewhere between 75 and 100 dogs that are kept in unhealthy conditions.

As much as it kills me that I can't go and rescue every single one of them, I just can't bring myself to support a puppy mill like that.

So, we shifted our thinking a bit, and did some looking at breeders approved by the Danish Kennel Club.

Readers, it looks like I'll be picking up this gorgeous little man next week:

He's a papillon, and will be 8 weeks old when I pick him up on Tuesday.  His name is still under consideration, and we are open to suggestions.


Friday, October 19, 2012

The Kunst Conundrum

I like living in Copenhagen.

I can't really explain why, but I feel comfortable here.

In Boston, I had a job, friends, a busy social life, lived fairly close to family... At the same time, I always felt out of place.  I was always looking for an excuse, any excuse, to leave.

Despite my minimal skills with the language, I don't feel out of place here.

At the same time, I've been feeling like something is missing for a while now, and I was having a hard time putting my finger on the culprit.

It took a trip to the art museum to figure it out.

A couple of classmates from Studieskolen and I took Wednesday afternoon to go to Statens Museum for Kunst (translated, it's The State Museum for Art).  The Matisse exhibit was nice, but most modern art doesn't do much for me.  It was the European wing upstairs that I liked the most.  My preference is realism.

I guess I liked it so much that I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn't fall back to sleep, because I was plotting how I was going to start up drawing again in the morning.  A few years back, I bought a "22-piece colored pencil" kit from an art supply store in Boston, but I'd never bothered to open the damn thing.  So, first thing yesterday morning, I went to my bookcase, took out my sketchbook, and hunted down the colored pencil kit.

What I was expecting to find when I opened it:  22 colored pencils.

What I actually found: FIVE colored pencils, TWELVE instructional flash cards, a pencil sharpener, some paper, and a piece of plastic with the shapes of leaves for the purpose of rubbing the shape onto paper...

It was a huge disappointment.  Of course, it's my fault for not reading the box to find out what was included.  I just assumed... what else could it possibly be other than pencils?

It shouldn't have been much of a big deal, but the foul mood that it put me in made me realize what's been missing...

A creative outlet.

You might be thinking that writing this blog should be a creative outlet, but this is more like talking than anything else.  I think something, I put it down.  I re-tell life events here just like I would tell them in conversation.  Not much creativity involved.

I've applied for a few jobs in arts-related fields lately (one in the music department at a library, and one in an administrative role at a local theatre).  I think that if I were to get either job, it would help to fill that place that's been feeling empty lately.

For now, though, I think I'm going to make my way to an art supply store today to buy some colored pencils.

At least 22.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Potato Vacation!

Happy kartoffelferien, everyone!

What on earth is a kartoffelferie, you ask?  Why, it's a potato vacation, of course!

At least, that's the literal translation. "The potato vacation" or "the potato holiday."

And why do Danes have a potato vacation, you ask?

Well, technically, they don't anymore.  The tradition of having this week in October off started so that students could help the family with the potato harvest.  These days, however, it's really just the Danish version of the Fall school holiday.  Think of it this way: Danish kids don't get a Thanksgiving break.  Instead, they get a potato vacation!

I started the week off with a bit of sightseeing with my husband and an American colleague of his.  We decided to climb the many, many steps of the Church of Our Savior.  Copenhagen has quite a few tall, beautiful church spires.  This one, however, is the only one with stairs on the outside, that you can climb all the way to the top.  It was a chilly, windy morning, and it had just rained.  All of these factors made for a terrifying, somewhat slippery hike up the spiral staircase.  But we did make it to the top, and the view was spectacular.  It looked a little something like this:

(The above picture is courtesy of my Instagram account, which you can follow at "thisgirlsaysow" for many more pictures of my adventures in Copenhagen and elsewhere)

Here's a little tidbit about my kartoffelferien that you may not expect:

I wish I didn't have one.

Strange as it may sound, I'd rather have class this week.  It's been really good to have something specific scheduled for my week.  An excuse to get myself up in the morning, and a way to keep my brain working on something useful.  Plus, I'd much rather finish up module 2 at Studieskolen a week earlier rather than spend a week watching too much television.

If my 15-year-old self were to read that, she would shake her goth little head in dismay.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

'Scuse Me, Pardon Me, Coming Through

If there's one quirk about the Danes that seems to annoy both Americans and Brits more than anything, and that every one of them notices fairly quickly, it's the strange way that Danes behave in crowds.

The first thing you'll notice if, for example, you take a stroll on a sunny day through central Copenhagen, is that everyone seems to be very rudely bumping into you.  In America and the UK (and probably other countries that I've never been to) there tends to be an unspoken rule about which side of the sidewalk to walk on so that everyone can pass without being jostled... in Denmark that unspoken rule doesn't seem to exist.

My husband warned me about this before I ever set foot here.  He refers to it as their "lack of spacial awareness."  My first experience with it was more than a year ago, when I visited Denmark for the first time.  If I remember correctly, we were standing on the platform at the Roskilde train station and a woman turned around without looking and elbowed me.  She didn't hit me hard enough to do any damage, but certainly hard enough that we both noticed.  Or, should have noticed.  She didn't seem even vaguely aware that she'd done it.  Had this happened in America, even in cities that are considered to have the rudest people, she would have at the very least turned around and apologized before going about her business.

This is not the case in Denmark.  Indeed, it must be such a normal thing that apologizing didn't seem to even cross her mind.

Foreigners that I've spoken to about this usually think that this behavior among Danes is extraordinarily rude.  Personally, I don't think it's actively rude, but it is certainly passively rude.  Rudeness through obliviousness, or perhaps a certain social awkwardness that makes talking to strangers too scary.

Even if it's to apologize for accidentally hitting them.

In fact, there's another side to this "spacial awareness" coin, and I think it very much relates to this awkward fear of talking to strangers...

Let me set the scene: This particular grocery store is set up so that as you enter, there's a bakery counter on the right, and the cash registers on the left.  This can create a small bottleneck if there are people finishing checking out, a line at the bakery, and someone trying to enter to store.  Yesterday, I encountered this very scenario as I was leaving.  One woman in line at the bakery was clearly standing directly in the way of a women with a stroller trying to enter the store.  I would have politely tapped the woman on the shoulder and said, "Excuse me."  The woman with the stroller, however, instead of talking to a stranger who was quite obliviously standing directly in the middle of the walkway, moved a stack of grocery baskets out of the way so that she could squeeze past without touching the other woman.

The question I have is this:  Do the Danes find making their way through crowds as awkward and frustrating as we foreigners to?  Do they know that there's a better way?

I say we foreigners band together to teach them.  Who's with me?

Sunday, October 7, 2012


I want a puppy.

Have I mentioned that I want a puppy?

Also... I want a puppy.

Oh, you weren't aware?  That must mean we haven't had a 30 second conversation in the last month.

Yes, I've gone a bit overboard with my obsessive hunt for the perfect puppy, and I've also gone a bit overboard with my own excitement at the prospect of it.  To the point where I tell pretty much everyone I speak to that "we're getting a puppy!!!"

This overly enthusiastic statement on my end is usually responded to with a look of "woah, chill out, lady," and me having to apologize for being a bit of a freak of nature about the topic.

Truth is, we haven't actually found the right puppy yet, so we have no idea when we're going to get one.

I will admit that not only have I been watching the local pet classifieds obsessively closely (I check them at least half a dozen times a day), but I've also been watching videos on YouTube about how to raise puppies, and how to choose the right puppy, and about the temperaments of all of the various breeds of dogs... and also videos of puppies being adorable.

I grew up in a house full of cats, and I've lived with pets almost my whole life.  That is, until 2006, when I moved in with someone who was allergic to cats.

Six years without a pet has been quite enough, thank you very much.  It is now time for a puppy.

I promise to shut up about it once we get one.

Have I mentioned that I want a puppy?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Beslutninger, Beslutninger

Get your mind out of the gutter and put the title into Google Translate.

I came very close to writing another blog post about how I'm still studying Danish, and what grammar/vocabulary/pronunciation we have been working on this week.

And then I remembered that I actually do have a life outside of Danish class.

Not an easy thing to remember, because... well... I don't have much of a life outside of Danish class.

Most of my spare time is spent hunting down jobs that don't require fluent Danish, hunting down hobbies that don't require fluent Danish, and playing housewife.

That last one is the one that takes up the most time.  And as someone who has spent half of her life working, I find not working to be strange and vaguely uncomfortable.

Truth is, I've found myself in a situation where I have a lot of options, but don't know which path to choose.  Or rather, I will have a lot of options, once my Danish is good enough that not being good enough at it is no longer an obstacle.  Right now, it's a major obstacle.  Yes, all Danes learn English at an early age.  But most workplaces here still speak Danish in their day-to-day interactions.  Yes, some schools teach some of their programs in English.  But none of those programs in English are programs that I'm interested in.

Except one.

I had a little college reunion with a classmate of mine from my time at a musical theatre conservatory in New York City more than a decade ago.  She and her husband have been traveling the world for the last year, and spent a few days here in Copenhagen.  We were able to catch up for a few hours, which was great.  And reminiscing with her was another reminder of how much I miss music, and how much I wish I was still singing.

If I were to go back to school to study music, there are two options here in Copenhagen: There's the Rhythmic Music Conservatory (or Rytmisk Musikkonservatorium), which is focused on non-classical forms of music, and also tells me that they teach their classes exclusively in Danish.  And then there's the Royal Danish Academy of Music.  Their focus is more on the classical side of things.  They tell me that they teach their classes primarily in English.  Great, right?

It would be... if I could get through the audition process.  

Just getting into the vocal music program there requires skills that I never even considered learning, despite years of voice training.  I'm not sure that I have the time to learn German and how to play piano on top of learning Danish.  Not to mention... I'm not all that interested in focusing entirely on classical music.  A little bit here and there is great, but I'd miss showtunes and jazz standards and belting as loudly as possible way too much.

So... decisions, decisions.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Studieskolen - Module 2, Back to School


Module 2.

Class started Monday, we this time the classes are longer, but only 3 days a week.

So far so good.  It mostly feels like a continuation of module 1, since we're in the same room with the same teacher, and almost all of the same students.  We have a few new people, and a handful who didn't continue with us for one reason or another, but it's mostly the same.

We're starting to get a bit more into the nitty-gritty of Danish grammar, and that's good.  I wish there was a bit more focus on vocabulary, but that's probably just me being impatient.

I've found it kind of funny that the few Danish speaking people who I've told that I passed module 1 have assumed that I am now pretty much fluent.  From friends to my hairdresser, as soon as I passed the module 1 test, they started speaking to me and sending emails in Danish that were way beyond my current skill level.

I think it's easy to forget how long it really does take to get to a conversational level.  I'm definitely not there.  I can understand most of what my teacher says, but that's because she knows what she's taught us, and tries not to stray too far from that when she speaks to us in Danish.

We've been told that module 2 is longer than module 1.  Twice as long, in fact.  So it won't be until December that we take our test for module 2.  My impatience to be fluent made that news a bit frustrating.

But they know better than I do how long it takes to learn the language.  Best to trust the professionals.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Studieskolen - Module 1.1, THE TEST

Today was the big test to see if I would move on to module 2 in Danish at Studieskolen.  Here's how the whole thing went down, in as much detail as I can remember:

Since the module 1 test is a spoken test, the teacher gave each of us a 10 minute time slot.  My test was scheduled for 11:50, so I spent the morning doing some last minute studying, and writing down key words for the stories we were supposed to talk about (we were allowed to bring one page of notes containing key words into the test).

I left my place by bike around 11:40 and was home again by 12:05.  The test itself took a total of 8 minutes, and seemed much shorter.  For a big test, it was an awfully small test.

Walking into the test, I was feeling mostly confident, but with that little, irritating voice in my head whispering "Don't choke..."

The teacher had me pick from a few overturned scraps of paper on a desk, on which were written either "A" or "B."  The letters indicated whether we were supposed to tell her about our day-to-day life, or tell her about our families.

I pulled an "A."

I decided it couldn't hurt to start with a bit of humor, so I spoke about how I wake up at 6am, when my husband gets up for work... and then go back to sleep.  Until 9am.  Once that got a laugh, I started feeling like I was going to be okay.  I went on to tell her about how I study Danish, and how I make dinner during the week, but my husband cooks on the weekends.  She seemed amused by that as well.

Next, it was time to talk about the little stories we'd read in our textbook, for which I'd spent the morning writing out key words.  She chose to have me talk about Katrine's family.  So, I spoke a bit about Katrine's half-brother, whose father is an artist in India, and who moved out when he was 16 because he didn't get along with Katrine's father.

These are not the kinds of stories we read when I was learning Spanish in high school.

And I hear the stories get more and more tragic as the classes get more advanced.

Finally, the teacher had some cartoons taken from our workbook, and we had to figure out the dialogue for each picture.  That wasn't all that difficult either, which meant...


She then handed me a slip of paper with the details for starting module 2, and we chatted briefly about the class itself.  It was really nice to hear her talk about what a smart, nice, balanced class we were.

I have to say, I completely agree.  I'm not sure I've ever been in a class where everyone seemed to like each other so much and be so genuinely curious to get to know everyone else.  I guess that's just how it is with expats.

On to Module 2 on Monday!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Studieskolen - Module 1.1, Week 5 of 6

Less than a week to go until the end of module 1 in my Danish classes at Studieskolen.

Providing I pass the test, that is.

What I know of the test itself so far is very little.  It will be a spoken test consisting partially of re-telling a couple of stories from some texts we were given over the last two weeks, and possibly some talking about ourselves (where we're from, what we do, etc.).

In yesterday's class, we were told to turn to a page in our books that had a page of text and read through it looking for anything we didn't understand.  My first instinct when I opened to the page was to be overwhelmed and assume I wouldn't understand much.

I was actually completely floored by how much I did understand.  A few words and phrases stumped me, but not really enough that I didn't get the context of the story.  As disastrous as my previous attempts at learning Danish were, I really didn't expect to have much luck with this method either.

It feels pretty good to be wrong sometimes.

I certainly can't pick up a Danish newspaper and understand any of the stories yet, but the progress doesn't seem to be slowing at all.

In fact, providing I manage to pass the test on Wednesday, I move right onto module 2 the following Monday.

I'll spend the weekend cramming, and we'll see how it goes.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

"9/10 of the Way to Fun"

There's a word in Denmark that we don't have in English, and it's so prevalent here that it's basically a preferred way of life.

The word in Danish is "hyggelig" (pronounced kind of like WHO-glee)

The word roughly translates to a sense of coziness.  Like getting together with friends, lighting some candles, having some drinks and conversation. Hyggelig.  When everything is just nice.

Or, as my husband likes to call it, "9/10 of the way to fun."

This concept of hyggelig is one of the things that makes Denmark a great place to settle down and have a family.  But it may also be why some people find Denmark to be a little bit dull.

On Friday night, we went to a "garden party" at the home of one of my husband's colleagues.  It was supposed to be exclusively a work party, but they made a very kind exception for me, as I actually haven't met many Danes since moving here.  Most of the people I know are expats.

There was a tent set up in the back, under which were two long tables to sit at, and a table loaded full of food provided by the office cafeteria (office cafeterias in Denmark often put up amazing food, and this was certainly the case on Friday night).

Lots of food, plenty of wine and beer, a sing-along of a Russian song along with a shared shot of some kind of pear schnapps, as well as really nice conversation with a bunch of Danes... it was an evening rife with hyggelig.  It wasn't a party where people were rocking out to loud music, or hooking up, or drinking so much that they got sick (at least not while we were there).  It was a party where everything was just... nice.

The older I get, the more this is all I really need from a social gathering.  I guess that makes moving to Denmark a pretty good idea.

It also didn't hurt that, on the few occasions that I spoke a few words in Danish to the Danes at the party, they seemed really impressed with my pronunciation.  Feels pretty good to hear after only a month of classes.

Now I just have to work on remembering all of the words.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Pronunciation Problems

When I was back in America, there were a few standard questions that I was asked every time I told someone that I was moving to Denmark.  One stood out as the most common question.

Is Danish a difficult language to learn?

At the time, I would laugh at what an understatement it was to call it difficult.  If you've never heard Danish spoken before, here's a sample from the original Danish version of the TV show "The Killing" (known as "Forbydelsen" in Denmark).  For comparison, the guy on the phone is speaking Swedish, while the man and woman in the field are speaking Danish:

It's definitely a difficult language.  Though, my own experience hasn't been nearly as rough as I expected it to be.  After several failed attempts when I was back in Boston, I was worried that I was going to seriously struggle.

I seem to be doing alright, though.

What I found especially interesting this week, though, was how the level of difficulty varies a lot depending on what language you were brought up speaking.

I recently wrote about how I felt that our Tuesday teacher spent too much time focusing on the minutia of pronunciation, and not the broader picture (vocabulary, grammar, etc.).  Turns out, quite a few of my classmates prefer the focus on the pronunciation details, as the pronunciation is what trips them up most.

For me, my own memory is what trips me up.  I can say the words, I just have to remember what the word is and which pronunciation is used, and then I seem to be okay.

On Tuesday this week, the teacher mentioned that she would not be teaching us on Tuesdays for the next module, as she'll be giving classes focusing only on pronunciation.  And not only that, there are different pronunciation classes for people from different countries.

It makes sense, but I'd never considered it: being brought up speaking some languages gives folks different speaking habits than others.

So, the teacher is teaching one pronunciation class for Asian students, and another for those brought up speaking Slavic languages.  The Russian girl in my class seems incredibly relieved, and said that while she knows how the words are supposed to sound in her head, she's realized that her mouth doesn't know how to make those sounds.  It's a matter of muscle memory, I think.

For me, I think I'll skip the pronunciation classes for now.  My focus is going to be on forcing myself to remember all of the words and phrases we've learned, and using the various grammar rules.

The good news is that, much like getting a song stuck in my head, I find myself getting Danish phrases stuck in my head fairly regularly.

It's either a sign that I'm learning, or a sign that I'm losing it.

Either way... Fun!

Friday, August 31, 2012

The Sad Horns of Confidence

Recently, I went to lunch with some of my classmates.

At first, the waitress was speaking to us entirely in Danish, so I thought to myself, "Self, you should order in Danish."

Glancing over the menu, I realized that I actually knew how to order in Danish.  Simple stuff.  No problem.  All I had to say was "Jeg vil gerne have en burrito med kylling.  Tak skal du have!"

No problem.

And yet, when came to take our orders, what did I say?

"I'll have the burrito with chicken, please.  Thanks..."

*cue Price is Right sad horns*

It's an issue of confidence at this point.  I worry that I'm not pronouncing things quite right, and that whoever I'm speaking to won't understand.  So I stick to English, even when I know the Danish.

Not to mention the fact that I worry that, if my Danish is decent enough that they don't switch to English right away, they'll then ask me a question in Danish that I don't understand or can't answer in Danish.

Hopefully, I'll look back at this post in a few months and think, "Remember when I was too scared to speak Danish to the Danes?  That was silly."

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Stød: Nails on a Chalkboard

And now, back to your regularly scheduled Danish language talk.

I'm just about halfway through the 6-week program that is Studieskolen's Danish module 1.1, and I'm still feeling really good about it.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that, if you have the means, it might be worth taking the first few weeks of the full-time course even if you're only going to be in Denmark for a month or two.  They pack so much basic Danish into the first few weeks that I already feel so much more comfortable interacting with Danes in my every day life without having to tell them that I don't speak Danish.

The class hasn't been perfect, though.  Today, I thought I'd discuss the few negative thoughts that I have about the program.

I'll start with the teachers.  The problem with my particular class is that there are two teachers.  One on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and a different teacher just on Tuesdays.  I don't think this is the norm, but I also know this isn't all that unusual, as one of the other daytime classes I was offered had the same type of breakdown.  It may not always be a bad thing, as getting different perspectives on the language could be very helpful.  But I find that the Tuesday class isn't as productive.  To be frank, as nice as our Tuesday teacher is, I think it's more about her teaching style in particular.  She's certainly as nice as can be, but she doesn't seem to really listen.  When she asks us a question, she barely gives us enough time to respond before answering the question herself.

I also think that our Tuesday class tends to focus too much on differentiating between the many Danish vowel sounds.  Don't get me wrong, this is important.  But I think it takes a while for the non-Danish speaker's ear to tune in to the differences, and I think it's too early to discuss this as in-depth as she's trying to discuss it.  My opinion is that we need to spend more time on the basics in the first module, and less time trying to process the differences in sounds that we cannot hear yet.

And finally, there are the glottal stops, also known as "stød" in Danish.  Both teachers have discussed the use of the stød in spoken Danish, but our Tuesday teacher seems to be pressing the concept more than the other teacher.  She has, on several occasions, said "In Danish, we use stød every few words."  That's certainly true when Danish is spoken with a Copenhagen accent, but my understanding is that much of the rest of Denmark doesn't use it nearly as much, if at all.  Now, I've barely been outside of Copenhagen since moving here, but I'm under no illusions that Copenhagen is all of Denmark.  And I also feel that Danish pronounced without glottal stops on every other word is just as easily understandable by most Danes.  I'm not saying it shouldn't be taught, as it's clearly important to a lot of Danes, but I think that it's not something that needs to be so heavily stressed in the first module, when we could be learning more useful things.

Not to mention my inner vocalist shudders at the idea of using that many glottal stops in day-to-day life.  My fellow theatre school and vocal training alumni will back me up on this: After all of the time we spent in voice lessons and vocal production classes learning not to use them, as they're terrible for the vocal cords...

It kind of makes me cringe.  Like nails on a chalkboard.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Smart Carnations, Or: How to Meet Important People

There are some people in this world who always seem to meet the right people at the right time.  The truth is, these people are so socially confident that they're willing to talk to whoever is near them, and some of those people happen to be "the right people at the right time."

My husband is one of these socially confident people.

He is heavily involved with the local rugby league program, so we went off to London this weekend for the rugby league Challenge Cup at Wembley Stadium, so that he could meet-and-greet with other representatives for the international rugby league scene.  This was only my second rugby game ever, the first having been at a game that my husband played in back in Boston where the crowd would have been lucky to top a full dozen.  At Wembley, we were two out of 79,000.

Now, I'll be perfectly honest: I'm not really into sports at all.  I don't have any particular sport that I watch, or any team that I support.  But I can also say honestly that I've always enjoyed going to games whenever they've come up.  There's nothing like a happy sports crowd, and this one was an amazing.  Rugby league fans are incredible.  Sure, there are rivalries amongst the fans, but they're all so amazingly good-natured.  It felt like everyone was so happy to be there, no matter who everyone else was supporting, and it gave the whole event a really happy, festive feel.

Since my husband was at the game representing Danish rugby league, we were given fun little VIP passes to the post-game schmooze-fest in the Great Hall at Wembley.  I've never had a VIP pass for anything.  I've never even had a backstage pass for a concert.  So, this was an interesting event.  The snacks were good, and the people were nice.  Most of them seemed dressed more for a cocktail party than for a rugby match, but there were enough casually dressed folks there for me to feel comfortable in my jeans and sweater.

Towards the end of the event, after my husband had rubbed elbows with everyone he'd planned to rub elbows with, we sat at a table to rest our feet.  We were soon joined by two men in suits, both with carnations in their lapels.  I would never have thought to start a conversation with them, but my husband loves to chat with everyone.

So, he turned to them and said "Those are smart carnations.  You must be very important."

As it turns out, they were.

One was in charge of the Warrington Wolves, the team that had won the Challenge Cup that day.  The other... happened to be the Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons.

When he found out I was American, he started asking me what I thought about the upcoming American election.

I had a conversation about politics with the Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons.


My husband leads a ridiculous and surreal life, and my life has become ridiculous and surreal by association.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Accentuate the Positive... and the Negative

There are up sides and down sides to living in any country.  Over the last few days, I've seen a few clear examples of Denmark's good and bad sides, so I thought I'd share.  

I'll start with the positive.  

The Danes are an extremely trusting people.  They trust their government, and they trust each other.  Over the weekend, my husband and I went to a second-hand shop and bought this little sideboard:

Since we don't have a car here, we made arrangements to have it delivered on Monday afternoon.  Well, actually, my husband made the arrangements.  In Danish.  I understood that the cabinet was 500 kroner, and the delivery cost was 200 kroner.  What I didn't catch was that the delivery cost was to be paid when it was delivered, not when the cabinet was purchased.  So, when the guy showed up at our place, and after we'd brought the thing into our "pub room," he surprised me by asking for the 200 kroner.  Which I didn't have on me, having assumed it was already paid.  Once I called my husband to verify that the delivery charge was to be paid upon delivery, I apologized profusely and ran around the block looking for an ATM.  Didn't find one.  Closest one was a good 10-minute walk away.  So the delivery guy not only drove me to an ATM, but he also navigated the one-way streets, going out of his way, to then drop me back off at home.

Now, you might be thinking, "Of course he did.  He wanted his money."  True enough, but we later discovered that one of the doors on the cabinet was locked, and we didn't have a key.  So, my husband called the second-hand shop to see if they had the key.  They said to stop by the store and they'd see what they had.  When I got to the store yesterday, the man at the counter handed me a bag of keys, supposedly keys to every piece of furniture in the store that needed a key, and told me I could take the bag home, find the key that works, and bring the bag back when I was done.  So, today, I'll head back and drop of the bag of keys, having found the working key and opened the cabinet door.

This is all totally mundane stuff, but it's stuff that just makes me feel really great about how kind and understanding and patient people can be.

But then, they go and screw it all up.  

A couple of days ago, the Copenhagen Post posted this article.  The article discusses a flyer that was posted by the management at a local movie theatre warning movie-goers that, since the Muslim holy month of Ramadan was coming to an end (a month in which Muslims are not supposed to do things like go to the movies), they could expect an influx of "annoying" Muslims at the large blockbuster movies, and that security guards would be on hand to deal with any "unacceptable behavior" by said Muslims.

It's just so wildly, blatantly racist that I don't really even need to say anything about it to make the point.  Other than... Hey Denmark... This shit is not okay.  Anyone who says it's okay is also a big, giant racist, and you shouldn't be listening to the advice of racists.

The people in Denmark have been extraordinarily kind to me, but I fully recognize that part of this is because I'm tall and blonde.  I look like one of them.  It breaks my heart that people who don't look Scandinavian often have an exponentially more negative experience.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Whether the Weather Be Fine...

There's a stereotype that Danes love to talk about the weather.

So, today, I'd like to take a moment to talk about the weather in Denmark.

We got to town right in the midst of a horrible heat wave in America, and stepped off the plane in Copenhagen into beautiful, Fall-like temperatures.  Mid-60s (fahrenheit) and breezy.  And that's fairly normal for a Summer day here.

But the one thing that Denmark has that I've never adjusted well to is humidity.

This is something that I realized when we were on our honeymoon in New Orleans in June.  I expected my husband, who is used to northern-European temperatures, to have the hardest time with the weather there.  Turns out, I was the first to have issues with it, and it was all because of the humidity.  The places I've lived in New York and New England have been fairly dry compared to New Orleans.

And also compared to Copenhagen, it seems.

So, on a day like today, where the temperature is currently 77 degrees fahrenheit (what would be a lovely, mild Summer day in Boston), with the humidity hovering around 70%...

I'm a sweaty mess.

And it's not attractive.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Studieskolen, Week 1 - Jeg Kan Tale Lidt Dansk

I'm told that the class is moving extremely quickly.  However, compared to the insane class that my husband and I took in Boston this past Fall, it seems like a cake walk so far.

I think that if I hadn't taken that class, and if I hadn't been completely overwhelmed to the point of tears after each one, I would probably feel differently.  But even if that class didn't teach me much, it did give me some perspective about what's effective when it comes to learning a new language, and what isn't.

One week in, and I'm able to have very basic conversations about who I am and where I'm from.  I've learned the Danish way of telling time, and all of the numbers from one to one billion.

With our teacher speaking mostly Danish during the class, I've certainly had moments of complete confusion.  The most frustrating of which happened in class yesterday morning.  We had a new student start yesterday, and he is from India.  Now, the teacher turned to me and was trying to explain to me why someone from India is called "en inder" rather than "en indianer."  Having been brought up as a politically correct American, it didn't occur to me that she could be telling me that "indianer" is the term for an "American Indian."  She further solidified the point, and further made my inner political correctness cringe, by then switching to English and referring to them as "red Indians."  This was certainly not the first time that I'd heard the phrase come from a European, but it's always a little bit shocking and always makes me uncomfortable.

All-in-all, though, I feel really good about how the class is going.  I feel like I'm following at least as well as most of the class, and for now I'm feeling cautiously confident that I'll be able to learn Danish in a reasonable amount of time.

In other news, after more than 6 weeks waiting for our furniture and whatnot to cross the Atlantic on a cargo ship, everything was finally delivered this week.  Now we can work on really making that dining room into a proper English pub.

Also, it's nice to see the Superlambanana again:

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

It Makes the World Go Roooound

Have you ever seen Danish money?  If not, here are the coins:

They go from 1/2 of 1 krone on the left (also known as 50 øre) all the way up to 20 kroner on the far right.  20 kroner is currently equal to about $3.30.

I'm of two minds about all of these coins.  Part of me likes them.  It's fun to have all of that change jangling around, and who doesn't like coins with holes?  They're like tiny metal donuts.  Fun!

Another part of me finds them irritating.  Since I'm not used to which coin is worth how much, I'm constantly standing at the register flipping them over, trying to find the amount on them.  Also, they're bulky and heavy.  Europe generally finds America silly that having bills for amounts as small as $1, but paper money is much lighter and much easier to fold into a wallet.  With all of the change I get, I often can't close my wallet at all, which often leads to me spilling change all over the inside of my purse.

But all of these things are really no huge deal, beyond being something to get used to.  Here's what I really don't get about Danish money:

As I mentioned, the smallest denomination is 50 øre, or 0.5 of 1 krone.  But if you go to buy something, often it will cost something like 12.95 kroner (as did the parmesan cheese that I bought today).  And since there is no way to give them .95 kroner, they just round up.

And you end up paying 13 kroner.

Why not just charge 13 kroner?

As my husband and I discussed tonight, the only way not rounding up would save money is if you're buying something in bulk.  Hundreds of that one thing.  And then, maybe you'll save a few kroner.

Otherwise, I don't get it.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Studieskolen - Module 1.1, Day 1 Recap

This morning, I started my first day at Studieskolen studying Danish for absolute beginners.  It seems that, like me, a few of the folks in the class may have tried to teach themselves with Rosetta Stone, or some other method.  For the most part, though, we're all right at the same level.

While the Danish class I took briefly while in Boston made my head spin, this class seems to be much more my speed.  About 10 minutes into the class, the teacher started speaking almost primarily Danish, but at a level that was easy enough to decipher based on the context.

Module 1.1 at Studieskolen focuses mostly on pronunciation, and only a little bit on the reading and writing of Danish.  Much of this first class was spent going through sentences and crossing out the many, many letters that are silent.

So far, I feel really good about the whole thing.  I feel like I've already learned a lot, but I don't feel so overwhelmed that I'm scared to go back tomorrow morning.  And the 3 1/2 hour class goes surprisingly quickly.

There's a really varied mix of people in the class as well.  It seems that only 3 of us are native English speakers (one other American, and one Brit), while the rest are from all over Europe, Asia and South America.

We'll see how many come back tomorrow.  There are 17 of us now, but I've been told it's fairly common for classes to shrink drastically after the first few days.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

This Pub is My Pub

This week was all about painting.  I wanted to make sure to paint the dining room before my husband came to his senses about letting me go with red.

The guy at the paint store did his very best to subtly convince me to reconsider by suggesting that I take the paint chips home and thinking about it.  Then he tried to convince me to take a few small paint samples home to try out on the walls.  Then, when he was calculating the amount of paint I would need, he said, "You're painting the red on all of the walls?"  In fact, I had to go back the next day for a few more supplies before I started painting, and he was still skeptical.  "So... the color is... okay...?" he asked.

I'd say the color is just fine:

My husband is putting on a brave face, and has decided that the color reminds him of an English pub.  And as he is an Englishman, I think that's probably a good thing.

Though, he would probably repaint the walls white if he could.

In other news, I start Danish classes at Studieskolen, so I will likely have an update on how that went some time soon.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Painting the Roses...err, Walls

Back in March, long before we moved to Denmark, I started to get the design itch.  It was probably because I'd been spending my days watching far too many episodes of whatever I could find on HGTV, but it lead me to write this post.

We've been in Copenhagen for just over a month now, and we have yet to really do much with the apartment aside from small projects like finding a brass lamp for the bathroom and scrubbing the floorboards.

Our furniture, however, is due to arrive some time soon.  Hopefully in the next week or so.  And that means that we need to get done any painting that needs doing.

After so many conversations with my husband in which he half jokes that I can paint the walls any color, as long as it's a shade of white, we actually agreed on a color for the dining room really quickly.

Ladies and gentlemen, he's letting me paint the walls RED!

Don't call immigration.  I kind of like it here.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Shocking Things...Only Not

I'm about to blow the minds... of absolutely no one.

It should surprise absolutely no one at all that moving to a strange country is an emotionally taxing endeavor.

It's also probably not at all surprising that it's really easy to assume you'll be fine before the move happens.  In fact, remember this post?

Here's me laying it all out there:  While I'm still completely content with our decision to move here, it's started to be really emotionally taxing.  Turns out that when you move really far away from everything you know, and you have to learn to do a lot of really basic things over again, it can cause a certain amount of anxiety.

In fact, since my husband is my anchor here, my subconscious has decided it would be fun to give me reoccurring nightmares about my marriage ending for one reason or another.

My subconscious can be a real bitch sometimes.

The good news, though, is that in a little over a week I'll be starting daytime classes at Studieskolen.  Having more of a schedule will help to make me feel more secure in my day-to-day life.  Not to mention that I'll finally start really learning Danish, which will make everything infinitely easier.

I hope.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Drop In, Tune Out

We had a few friends drop in for a small gathering over the weekend.  Some Danish friends and some non-Danish ones. One of the non-Danes and I were discussing the tendency to start to tune out the Danish being spoken around you when you don't understand it.  

The tricky thing will be training my ears to tune back in once I do understand it.

With Danish classes likely starting up in just over a month, it seems appropriate that the British economic magazine The Economist happened to come out with this little pronunciation guide just this month:

A very rough guide to Danish

The best part, though, is the little video that is included in the article, also found here.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Studieskolen - The Placement Test

I decided to go ahead and go in for my Studieskolen placement test today, instead of waiting until Thursday.  I know myself, and I know that if I give myself too much time to think about things like this, I'll just over-think it and get overly nervous.

So, I showed up about 20 minutes before the test, and was the second person there.  I understand that they can only test a handful of people at a time, so I was glad to get there early.  There were maybe 8 of us there for the test today.

As I entered the testing room, I was handing a sheet of paper by the proctor and was asked... something... in Danish.  I had to come right out and say "I'm sorry, my Danish is really minimal."

Luckily, the guy was really nice about it.  It seemed he was just asking a few questions to get an initial feeling for how everyone's Danish was.  And mine... was minimal.  Which seemed to be okay.

The sheet of paper asked for basic information (name, CPR number, address, etc.), and then asked that we write a paragraph about ourselves, including why we were in Denmark, what we had been doing before, and what are our hobbies and interests.

I managed to write a total of 3 lines.  More than I expected to be able to come up with, but extremely pathetic compared to everyone else, who filled up the front of the page, and then turned the page over to continue their autobiographies.

As for the interview part, I had expected to go in and be asked questions about grammar.  I'd been told that they generally ask you to identify parts of a sentence (subject, object, etc.).  That didn't happen at all.  He asked me a few simple questions in Danish, some of which I understood and could give one-word responses to, and some of which I didn't understand at all.  In the end, he said I would be best in module 1.1, which is exactly where I'd hoped to be placed.  He also suggested that I go to the daytime classes (which are 4 days a week, for a few hours each day), which is also exactly what I'd hoped to do.

Next step, they send my information to the government to ensure that the government will pay for the course.  I asked if there was any reason they might not pay, and the proctor said that they only say no if you've already taken the allotted number of Danish courses provided by the government.  Not the case for me, so...

I think I'm probably in.  I find out for sure in a few weeks.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Dansk Dash

With CPR number in hand, I can now take the first step towards my first formal Danish class.

Last week, I submitted an application for enrollment in the beginners' course at Studieskolen, which is the Danish school in Copenhagen that only accepts "Danish Education 3" students. "Danish Education 3" generally refers to those who are native English speakers and have had schooling beyond high school.  The courses at Studieskolen, from what I understand, are intensive and taught in English, so they only accept applicants who they think will be able to keep up.

I'm not sure if it's fortunate or unfortunate, but upon sending in my application I received an email from them stating that because I have taken a Danish in the past, I must come in for a placement test so that they can determine what level course they can place me in, if any.  I almost wish I hadn't mentioned my Danish course on the application, as it won't take them long to figure out that I'd need to be in the beginners' course.

The placement tests are usually given four times a week (in the afternoons on Mondays and Tuesdays, and in the mornings on Wednesdays and Thursdays).  However, since it's July and many people are on Summer break in Denmark, it seems they only do the tests twice a week.  Tuesdays and Thursdays, in the afternoon.  You cannot reserve a space at these tests.  You just have to show up and hope that there's space for you.

So, I'll try for Thursday's test and see how that goes.  If that doesn't work, I'll wait until next week.

I'm just hoping I am accepted and that there's enough space for me to start in the Fall.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Dudette Resides

About a week ago, I wrote this post after submitting my application for Danish residency.

If you recall, they told me it would take one to six months to hear back.

Turns out, they miscalculated.  I received my Danish residency letter yesterday.

That letter (which was written in Danish, so I had to type the whole thing into Google Translate to know what it said) says that I am now a legal resident for the next five years, with the option to apply for permanent residence some time before that five years is up.

That letter also allowed me to walk into the Kommune office to get my CPR number.  And now that I have that number, all kinds of doors are open to me.  I was given a doctor on the spot, so I now have medical coverage.  I was able to go into a bank and open an account.  And I was also able to get myself a phone with a local plan.

Most importantly, though, I can now register for Danish classes and hopefully start full-time this fall.

Looking forward to bidding a less-than-fond farewell to my regional illiteracy. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Get Lost

It's good for you.

No, really.

It's taking me some time, but little by little I'm venturing out into Copenhagen on my own.  Up until today, the only times I'd gone out exploring on my own, beyond trips to the grocery store, had been with other people.  Today, though, after dropping off some dry cleaning for my husband, I decided to go and get myself lost.

Technically, I had a goal.  I wanted to find the two big department stores in the center of town to look for a dress to wear to a wedding this weekend, as a serious lack of foresight has all of my dresses on a boat on the Atlantic at the moment.  I found those two department stores, may have found a dress, and then found myself good and turned around and unsure which direction was best to go.

So, I just kept walking.

The exploring I'd done with my husband and with friends before seemed to give me just enough context to recognize a few landmarks here and there, and I found myself not far from the hotel where we spent our first two nights in town.  Once there, I was able to find my way home fairly easily.

I think the little adventure has made me braver.  At least, I hope so.  I'm heading out again tomorrow for my first overpriced Copenhagen hair appointment, and I still have to actually buy the dress that I found.

Then, who knows.  Maybe I'll take the train somewhere.

Or maybe I'm adventured out for the week and will head straight home.

Only time will tell.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Social Media Saves Minds

Facebook is my lifeline.

Seriously, it's helping to keep me sane.

If you're planning on moving abroad and are not on Facebook, I recommend that you change that right now.

I understand that a lot of folks don't really like Facebook and social media and how it makes internet stalkers out of people, and keeps you informed of mundane daily activities of people you barely know.  But the value it has for an expat is immeasurable.

Before moving, I went hunting all over the internet for forums and information for expats living in Denmark.  I did find a few forums that have occasionally been helpful.  Specifically, Expat Blog and Foreigners in Denmark.  But neither has been as instantly helpful as the Americans in Denmark group on Facebook and its various offshoots (there's a group for moms, and a group for folks who don't want to talk politics, among others).

Before moving, I posted countless questions in those groups, looking for information about everything from how to get legal residency to where to get my hair done and how to adopt pets.  My questions were always answered quickly and thoroughly, and I was always grateful.

And now that I'm here, I've been able to meet up with some of the folks from those groups. Already, I've met up with three amazing gals who have taken the time to show me around areas of Copenhagen that I hadn't seen yet, and to tell me their stories and give me their insights into the best way to approach a move to Denmark.

This early on, when I still have moments that my brain goes on the fritz from trying to decipher too much Danish, it's a breath of fresh air to hear a familiar accent from someone who has been in my shoes.

Plus, in a country where it is notoriously slow process to make friends with the locals, it's really great to feel that I have a head-start by making friends with the Americans.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A Smørrebrød-ebration

Apparently, I have now officially applied for residence in Denmark.

What I thought I was doing was registering as a resident, but apparently they still have to approve me. 

Since I've moved to Denmark as the wife of a non-Danish EU citizen, it's unlikely that they won't approve me, but the process can apparently take some time. 

I was told that I'll get a letter.  Some time between 1 month... and 6 months from now.  

How specific.

The bad news?  This means it could be up to 6 months before I have my CPR number and can do things like enroll in Danish classes and get a phone plan.

But there's also good news: I got a fun little stamp in my passport saying that I get to stay in Denmark, as I have applied for residence, which means I'm actually allowed to live here now, and I'm not just a tourist!

We celebrated with some smørrebrød at a restaurant on Baggesensgade called Mijo.

I totally recommend it.  It was goooood.  

Monday, July 9, 2012

The More You Know, the More You Nap

Before we moved to Denmark, my husband told me many times about how mentally exhausting moving to a new country was.  I believed him, but the level of exhaustion is tough to wrap your head around until you've done it yourself.

I'm a bit of an introvert as it is, but I find these moments of quiet much more important now.  These moments when I can shut the curtain and not be reminded that I'm almost completely illiterate at the moment.

We were discussing the difference between visiting another country as a tourist, and moving to one.  Part of what makes it so tiring is that, as a resident, you actually need to remember where things are and how to get places.  You're constantly having to learn new things, whether it's a conscious thing or not, just so that you won't have to think about it next time.

So, what I've been trying to say is... I've been sleeping a lot.

That's not to say that we haven't managed to get out to see the city more.  We've met up with friends of my husband's, and some mutual friends.

And we had an early glimpse of the frustration of Sunday store hours here.  We went to hunt down a light for the bathroom, and some Brasso for the brass fixtures.  A store at the local mall was supposed to have it, so we checked the website.  The website said that the mall was open, so off we went.

Oh, the mall was open, sure.  It's just that none of the stores were open.  And most of the lights were off.

Luckily, we were not the only ones confused by this.  There were plenty of people wandering around with the same confused look on their faces that we had.

Some day, we'll be able to clean our brass.  And that will be a good day.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Fear the Danes. FEAR THEM!!

The Danes are not scary.  In fact, every Dane I've met so far has been really nice.

And yet, I find that I'm kind of scared of them.

Mostly it's a language thing.  I know almost all of them speak excellent English, but I feel guilty that I can't even attempt to speak to them in Danish.  It's the constant fear of having to go up to a stranger and start with "I'm so sorry, I don't speak Danish... Is English okay?"

Unfortunately, Danish classes don't start until the fall, so this is a fear that I'm going to have to get past quickly if I intend to leave the apartment before September.  Which I do.

Tomorrow, I will venture out and see how far I can get without getting lost and without making a complete ass out of myself.  It's good to have goals.

In other news: Yesterday, we bought bikes.  We took them for a ride out to a store called Jysk (pronounced "Yoosk") to look for fitted sheets for the new bed.  I was reminded of the tendency for stores to close at 5pm in Europe, and we left with nothing.

That's another goal for tomorrow.  Find fitted sheets.

So far, my life is full of mundane tasks that are all far more intimidating than they normally would be in America.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Vi er i Danmark!

I'm not someone who believes in fate or signs or that the universe takes us one direction or another.

If I were, though, I would say that the universe wants me in Denmark.

I didn't particularly think that before coming.  I just knew that I wanted to live somewhere new, and Denmark was the place that made the most sense for practical reasons.

But when we got on the plane for the first leg of our journey (via IcelandAir... can't recommend them enough) and realized that our cheap budget seats had been upgraded to fancy seats... I had a feeling things were going to go well.

And about an hour before we landed in Reykjavik, Iceland, the cloud cover broke.  It broke just long enough that we could see the snow-capped, mountainous southern edge of Greenland.

We reached Reykjavik around midnight, and while the sun was technically down, it still very light when we landed.  And still by the time our plane left at around 1:30am Iceland time.  Yet not long after take-off, I watched the sun rise.

Big-time jet lag aside, and not counting the couple of times that my brain went on the fritz from trying to read too many Danish signs, Denmark has been really lovely.  From what I understand, it had been a bit rainy and miserable in the days leading up to our arrival, but we've only seen sunshine so far.

And while the Danes have a reputation of being a bit distant at first, the drunken Danes at local pubs have been nothing but warm and friendly.

Last night, we were sitting at a table outside of a local dive bar, and a little old man approached the table.  He was clearly very drunk, but also quite clearly harmless.  He walked up to our table and kept repeating "Hvor er du smuk, hvor er du smuk."  I had to turn to the Danish friend we were with to ask her what he was saying.  "How beautiful are you," he was saying.  Over and over.  And then he shook my hand and repeated it again.  It was the sweetest thing.

We had booked a room at the Radisson in Copenhagen for two nights, as we had no bed to sleep on when we arrived.  The room is a fun 1960s futuristic.  Mid-century modern in a way that reminds me of the Jetsons.

We thought we'd need the full two nights here to get our apartment to a point where we wanted to settle in, but after a trip to Ikea and an hour or two putting together furniture... I was almost sad to head back to the hotel.

Tomorrow, we head off to the Kommune office, where my husband re-registers, and where I will then register as a resident.  And then, we're officially home.

I think I'm gonna like it here.