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.