Thursday, May 26, 2011

Photo Backlog - Or Proof Jodi is Always Thinking of Blogging, But Rarely Sits Down to Blog

A few weeks back, Neil and I went on a date to Copenhagen's Ice Bar. We'd read about the ice bar well before we considered moving here. Some travel magazine or another had an article about ice bars and ice hotels - there are several around the world - and we decided we must visit one.

So, after three months of living in Copenhagen, we headed to the Ice Bar. When we arrived, we were ushered into a reception area/gift shop and informed that we needed to wait until the next time slot and that the cost was 60 kroner (about $30) per person which included one drink. This seemed a little steep, but we couldn't turn back. We paid the money and waited.

When it was our turn, the Ice Bar hostess placed large blue faux-fur-trimmed parkas over our heads that had gloves attached. The effect was instant ridiculousness.  
 Then we were ushered into the bar. It was much smaller than I expected and yet also felt empty since they only allow something like 10 people in at a time. My best theory for this is that the more people, the more likely the bar is to melt from the body heat. The room was very cold and also pretty amazing. The bar was made of ice, the tables, the chandelier. Everything but the floor was ice. We ordered our drinks and they cam in ice glasses which melted to the shape of our lips as we drank. (one of the coolest features, for sure)

We spent maybe 15 minutes in Copenhagen's Ice Bar before we'd finished our drinks (which were delicious) and felt sufficiently frozen so we headed back out to the street. No need to rush back, but it was fun.
 As you may know, Copenhagen is a bike town. Everyone here bikes and nearly every street has wide raised bike lanes. In rush hour, it is common to see more bikes on the street than cars. Women bike in skirts and men and women bike in their work clothes. It is fascinating to biker watch for the fashions alone. I think the prevalence of bikes has to do with the fact that Denmark is flat, so it's an easy way to get around, cars are expensive and highly taxed and people just grow up biking, so they bike. I have seen lots of  creative uses of bikes since coming here. The other day, I got a crepe from this pancake bike. The lady who makes the crepes and drives the bike said it's not that easy to pedal because it's so heavy.
 At a grocery store called Qvickly, their in-store coffee bar had a hilarious reference to (dated) American pop culture. So random.
This cafe door cracked me up. The misuse of quotes is pretty annoying, but the great use of both sides of the glass is commendable. It's funny how English is used in signage and advertising here. I see English frequently, but usually only a few words are in English, the rest Danish. I think it might be a cool-factor or cuteness-factor to use a bit of English in your signage here. But I am really not sure. I do, however, enjoy being able to read things once in a while.

In our continuing quest to do the touristy things you're supposed to do in our city, we climbed to the top of the Church of Our Savior. It is a very beautiful church both inside and out and the views from the top are fantastic.Inside is a very old, very large organ that was rehearsing a classical music concert the day we visited. As far as tourist attractions go, this was a highlight.
This is a restaurant in our neighborhood. When I first arrived in Copenhagen, I wondered why anyone would go to someplace so rudely named. "Go away? Fine, I will." But one day I walked by and smelled a delicious aroma coming from inside. It has turned out to be one of my favorite places to get food. It's basically a take out place, which might account for the name. They have delicious curries, sushi and other snacks like salads and cold noodle dishes. I am partial to the banana coconut mango chicken curry - delicious.

And finally, some pictures of our neighborhood swans and baby ducklings, still a highlight for me as I continue to enjoy Denmark. More blog posts coming soon. Happy spring.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Clarifications on Happiness

It seems that my post about my theory on Denmark's high happiness rating was taken in the wrong way by some. I would like to clarify my theory by saying that a) I do not think this country is perfect, b) I still love the US and will gladly move back there in a couple of years. But that doesn't mean I don't see some ways my home country could be better. c) I was simply commenting on one of the reasons I think Danes enjoy their country, not making any statements about what it's like for immigrants here.

I am in a privileged position of living outside the Danish system and not trying to stay here permanently. I know that immigrating to Denmark is very difficult, and increasingly so. I also know that a segment of the population would like Denmark to be only for Danes. Just as I do not agree with those in America who want to keep all foreigners out and force everyone to learn English, etc, I do not agree with much of the Danish immigration policy. However, I did not start this blog to discuss Danish politics - it's a blog to document my experience living in Denmark.

I hope to come up with subsequent theories on the happiness of the Danes and I will post them here as well.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


When we considered moving to Copenhagen last winter, we were often told that it was one of the happiest cities on the planet. This seemed like a compelling reason to move here - happiest place? Sign me up.

When we got here in late January, I really wondered how Danes could be even remotely happy. It was cold and dark. The banks of the canals and river were barren and brown. Everyone traveled around in many many layers of clothing.

Now that it's Spring, the city has come alive, everything is green and I am really falling in love with Copenhagen. I also have more insight into Denmark and I have some ideas for why the Danes are the happiest people. Let's start with socialism.

In Denmark:

Childcare is guaranteed, high quality and extremely affordable.

Healthcare is free.

Moms get a year of maternity leave and get paid part of their salary the entire time.

College students are paid to go to school. (This means no Danish parents are worrying about setting aside money in a college fund)

If your income is too low, you automatically get government subsidies.

If you stay home with your child and care for him or her, you get paid by the government.

Most Danes only work until 4 or 4:30 pm.


Essentially, the Danes don't have to worry about much. Things that Americans obsess over are all taken care of here. Sure, there's a 25% sales tax on everything to help the government afford to take care of everyone, but if you don't have to worry about paying for healthcare or your child's education, if you don't have your unborn infant waiting on a list for daycare that he or she never stands a chance of getting into, if you get to take a year off with your new baby and still have some income, you can afford the sales tax, no problem.

Sure, there's a cold dark winter, but when the sun comes out in the spring, the carefree Danes have a plethora of parks to enjoy, they're uninhibited enough to take their tops off on the beaches, and they have enough disposable income to purchase stylish swimming suits.

When I tell people here about how I was supposed to return to work when Riley was three months old, how I didn't get paid at all while on maternity leave, how we already started a college fund for him, they look at me in shock. When American politics come up, Danes often say they don't understand what's going on in America.. Why didn't we want universal healthcare? they ask. I don't know what to say. Form where they are coming from, high taxes and lots of services look really good. Heck, from where I'm coming from it's beginning to look really good, too.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Becoming a Bit Danish

I have a new friend from Scotland who moved here about a month after I did. We met for coffee this week and I suggested grabbing a table outside and then heading in to purchase our drinks (and pastries). I parked Riley's stroller at the table and headed into the bakery when I realized my friend was hesitating by the table and, perhaps more accurately, her son. It was at this moment that I realized I have become a little bit Danish.

Three short months ago, I was first horrified at the thought of leaving Riley outside in his stroller and then I was reluctantly dabbling in leaving him outside. Now, I still don't leave him if I can't see him, but I also don't hesitate to park him outdoors and head into a shop or restaurant as long as they have nice big windows and/or an open door so I can hear Riley if he cries. I have learned that if I always take him in with me, he's more likely to wake up. I've also come to realize that the chances of someone taking him away in his stroller are quite low, especially if I have my eye on him. Yet, it's a bit shocking how quickly and completely I have adjusted from being the paranoid American to the trusting expat. Someone please remind me not to leave Riley out in his stroller when I go home for a visit next winter.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Copenhagen in Photos

 I am still finding beauty in this city almost daily, whether it be an old street lined with cobblestone and ancient-looking houses (see left) or watching the flower shop employees set out their sidewalk flower displays in the morning while drinking a latte and breathing the crisp morning air.

I realize that I am very fortunate to have the time to explore Copenhagen and to pause to take in its beauty. There is something special about learning the rhythms of a city and I have the luxury and freedom to really learn Copenhagen's.

Many mornings Riley and I walk Neil to work downtown. On most of these walks Riley falls asleep and I am left with time to walk around on my own. This is how I came to enjoy the morning flower shop setup. I sit at an outdoor cafe (which is usually empty at that hour) and watch the young employees bring out crates of flowers and turn them into a beautiful flower display. Also on these mornings, I like to walk along Copenhagen's walking street and watch as the businesses set up for the day. Hanging flags, putting shoes out on the sidewalk, etc. There's something nice about watching a city wake up and come to life.


 Ever since my early posts, I have been trying to photograph Riley's stroller next to a traditional Danish stroller to show the massive size of these Danish strollers. At last, mission accomplished. Perhaps not the best photo, but I think it illustrates the fact that the strollers in Denmark are like little baby houses on wheels. It was a nice day when the photo was taken, so you don't get to see all the crazy bedding and warm layers these strollers have in the winter, but you do get the idea. Danish strollers are huge!

 Please note two relatively normal looking guys I saw on the metro the other day and then take a close look at the guy in shorts's socks. These brightly colored stripey socks are sold all over the place. It is harder to find a pair of plain black men's socks than it is to find a pair of orange striped socks in this country. Often a man will look completely normal (to this American) until I glance down and see the crazy colorful socks he is wearing. These are worn with suits, jeans, and apparently shorts (if you're that guy in the photo). I don't get it at all, but I do applaud these European men for embracing bright colors.

 During a rare trip to the mall, I was browsing a new toy shop when I noticed the shopkeeper was wearing a New Mexico t-shirt.

"Hey! That's my home state!" I exclaimed after looking at her. She seemed sightly shocked by my outburst, but I was not dissuaded. I proceeded to pepper her with questions. Had she been there? Where did she get the shirt? etc.

Turns out that among our many exports, we have sent Urban Outfitters to Denmark and that is where this Danish woman who has never been came to be the owner of a New Mexico t-shirt. She was nice enough to allow me to take her photograph.


Denmark has a thing for vikings. They were part of the country's early history and if you ignore the whole pillaging bit, they're cool. One of the few items of clothing we have purchased Riley since arriving is a viking t-shirt (see photo at left). I couldn't resist, the cotton was too soft and the viking was too unique, you wouldn't come across that shirt in the US! One of my favorite features of the t-shirt is the fact that the Danish flag is actually in the viking's helmet.

Aside from Riley's shirt, if you wander around Copenhagen you will see every manner of viking souvenir and many viking establishments. (see below)

 There is actually a viking ship museum nearby and I can't wait to go when it warms up a little bit more. We definitely do not (did not) have vikings in the US. Score one for Danish history.  Vikings are cool.

To the left are my neighborhood swans. Riley and I like to visit them as often as we can because they are huge, beautiful and very interesting to both of us. Recently, the swans have been missing from their normal shore where they hang out and get bread scraps from visitors. I was worried at first, but yesterday I located them by a nest with big white eggs in it. I am SO excited to see baby swans. I have said it before, but the swans are definitely one of the coolest things about living in Copenhagen. I feel so fortunate to be able to have them as neighbors.

Ice Hockey - (Not exactly about Denmark)

I am still clinging to Washington, DC. As much as I am enjoying Denmark, I came to love DC during the five years we lived there and I am holding on in many small ways. I still get the breaking news updates from the Washington Post so I know when my friends are going to have a tough commute and I also know when the president announces the death of Osama Bin Laden in the middle of the night. I still get the DC Groupon emails and am often tempted by the deals, only to realize it would be a bit tough to cash them in. And perhaps the largest way in which I am clinging to my old city is my love for the Washington Capitals hockey team.

Last night, the Capitals ended another season once full of promise, promise that was quickly and efficiently squandered. It was another heartbreaking finale and I must say, I am happy I didn't slog through it as a season ticket holder. When we were thinking about moving to Denmark, I worried about leaving my beloved Capitals and felt sad that we might miss their winning of the Stanley Cup. Thank goodness I didn't let that keep me there. Instead of moping around, wondering what to do with all of my red Caps clothing in the off season and worrying about which of my favorite players would be traded, I spent today exploring another part of Copenhagen, enjoying the weather and only occasionally feeling the familiar pain of a sports fan mourning a season. Thank you Copenhagen for being a fantastic distraction from another early playoff exit by my favorite team.