Monday, 30 January 2023


Today the whole of Denmark is going wild because they have become the first country ever to win the men's handball World Cup three times in a row.

It's funny when you immigrate to somewhere not too far from where you started out in life. I guess subconsciously you assume the culture in the new place will be more or less the same as at home, but here we are with nearly 6 million people interested in a sport I had never seen and only knew the name of until a few years ago.

Given the hype, I decided to watch a couple of matches. Now that was an eye-opener. Having grown up in a football and to a lesser extent rugby country, I am used to seeing the football World Cup. When you watch football, you watch in anticipation, hoping someone will score a goal. In the 90 minutes, you rarely get more than two or three, so you could miss the goals if you blink, or nip into the kitchen to make a coffee. 

Now that I'm a seasoned handball watcher (I've seen three matches including the final), it seems to me (Danes may correct me if I am wrong), you watch handball for the non-goals, the misses. The match takes a hour in total. One team scores at one end, then the other team gets the ball and rushes to the other end to score in turn, this pattern repeats approximately once a minute for the entire match, so the goals become boring, the exciting bit is when a team misses their turn on goal and the other side get ahead for a few minutes.

It is strange to watch a sport where you are essentially only interested in the misses and not the goals.

Finally, with Denmark four goals ahead last night with only two minutes to go, the French team simply stopped playing, knowing they could not catch up, and simply started milling about the court looking dejected and hugging each other. I can't imagine that in a football match.

Tuesday, 1 November 2022

Polling places


One thing I never understood in the UK was the fact that they always held elections on Thursdays. Because schools are used as polling places, it was always a pain trying to find somewhere else for your kids to go when they were shut out of school for a day, sometimes with short notice. I thought the solution was to be like France and hold all elections on Sundays when the kids were off.
But it turns out that Denmark simply carries on pragmatically as normal. Today is the general election that was called a month ago but I have no worries about where to send the kids as they are at school as always, while the buildings are simultaneously being used as polling places.
The kids found it all very exciting.

Monday, 19 September 2022


Immediately on arrival in Denmark in 2019, we had to start looking for somewhere to live. We'd rented a summer house on a golf course at the coast but it was small, overpriced and with 3m high glass walls was constantly either slightly too cold or waaay too hot! It consisted of four white bedrooms, two white bathrooms and one white dining-living room.

We quickly drew up a shortlist of maybe a dozen houses within driving distance to Thomas's new job which were big enough not only to house the five of us but also my two older children whenever they visited. With most of the schools in the area being of a similar and reasonable quality, the most important criterion to me was space for them, otherwise it would be hard to feel like as close a family going forward.

After viewing a few, it began to strike me that no matter how different they might look on the outside, the inside was much of a muchness. Every room in every house we visited was white. Eventually we found one, the one we ended up buying as it happens, which had one of the 10+ rooms in a different colour (the TV room was pale green), but other than that it was a sea of white. Everywhere looked very clean and crisp, and quite beautiful but also quite foreign to us. Scottish homes tend to have coloured rooms - be that conventional cream, trendy grey, or feature walls in dark colours or fancy wallpapers. Very few houses in Scotland use white for anything other than maybe the bathroom or at a pinch the kitchen. So, although everywhere looked beautiful, it felt very alien.

Once we'd bought our house, the kids asked if they could have one coloured wall each and I agreed. So off we went to Bauhaus, our equivalent of B&Q. Up to the paint aisle we went looking for little tester pots and all the various shades, only to find every single pot was white! Now that was a surprise. There was literally not a single pot of coloured emulsion in the shop! You could get dark green or brown garden furniture paint but only white for indoors. That explained the houses we'd viewed I guess. I checked smaller DIY stores and they were the same. How odd!

I resolved to look next time I was in Germany while cursing Danes under my breath. It was fully six months later that I realised you can, at no extra cost, have any colour you like, you just have to have it mixed from a catalogue of colours. So, you shouldn't try decorating your Danish house before you can speak Danish as you need to know how to ask them to mix paint, talk through whether it is to be emulsion, wood paint or metal paint and then they throw their weird paint numbering system into the mix. Danish already has the hardest numbers in the world so why they need to number their paint is beyond me! They ask if you'd like your emulsion 5, 10, 15... all the way up to 30 or maybe it is even 50, I can't quite remember. This turns out to be their matt to gloss scale! 5 is matt, 30 is gloss. The higher the number you ask for, the shinier the paint. So, if you're crap at Danish numbers, you can only paint your rooms matt!

Once we'd painted a few rooms in different shades, Danes commented on how unusual and daring we were not to have only white, and when I painted the garden bench outside in dark green, I got funny looks again and several people commented on how odd garden furniture looks when it isn't white!

Collective mentality is an interesting thing!

Thursday, 8 September 2022

A&E in Denmark

Since arriving in Denmark in 2019 I have tried the GP,  the out-of-hours GP surgery, I've had normal hospital appointments and even an operation or two, but have never needed to go to casualty... until yesterday.

I managed to nosedive off a ladder in my garden. Here's the full story, for what it's worth. 

In Scotland, I am used to the routine, given the number of kids I have. You fall off your ladder, you go straight to A&E, you go up to the triage desk and they ask you what the issue is. The triage nursing staff take your details and enter them into a computer and then you take a seat in a waiting room. Then, depending on whether it's Tuesday afternoon or Saturday night, you might wait anywhere between 2 and many, many hours, before you are called in for treatment. In the interim, you put up with drunks fighting each other, people bleeding in the waiting room and wailing, people screaming at staff that someone who came in after them has been taken before them, obviously not understanding the idea of triage. On a weekend night, police routinely bring people in handcuffed and bleeding, shouting abuse. It is never a dull spectacle. I figured Denmark would be similar, but I was wrong.

Thomas handed me the phone number for A&E, not 112 (the 999 equivalent), but the non-urgent emergency room. I rang up and was put through to the triage nurse, they took my health number and asked me all the same details I would have been asked at the desk in Scotland. They then checked their computer and gave me a time slot two hours later telling me in the meantime to sit with my leg elevated. 

On arrival I sat in a waiting room with just two other people. One with an obvious finger injury, the other with a twisted ankle. They were taken immediately through a door marked assessment and x-ray. Five minutes after my allotted time, I was called in and I was assessed, x-rayed and back out within 40 minutes of my allotted time. No drama, no waiting, nothing. It was entirely uneventful and very efficient.

Saturday, 20 August 2022


Boom! My mind is blown! I thought I had lived here long enough now that nothing could astound me. I was so wrong. These people are insane! I need outta hereūüėā 

Tonight L√©on has been invited to a friend's house for a little gathering of kids from his class. I said I'd give him a lift. So, he jumped in the car and I asked the address. 31 Rug√•rdsvej was his reply. Rug√•rdsvej is a long road - a bit like Great Western Road if you're from Glasgow. It is 33km long, starting in central Odense at number 1. That bit is in Odense council area. After 10km it enters Nordfyns council area, where we live and 5 or 6km after our house, which is also on Rug√•rdsvej, number 821 to be precise, it continues into Middelfart council area up to the end of the road at a town called Brenderup. No problems there. 

So, when L√©on tells me his night out is at number 31, I know I need to turn left and drive towards Odense. I get to the end of the driveway and he goes: turn right. I tell him in as kind a way possible he's a few bricks short of the load and that given our neighbour on the right is 823, 31 is obviously left. Nope, he says, showing me Google maps, which confirms the first step is to turn right. I am now thoroughly confused. I have driven past 31 numerous times and I know it is five minutes out of Odense. 

I insist that his mate may well live at 931, or even 1031 but he sure as hell doesn't live at 31. Léon shows me the text from his mate with the address. 31 Rugårdsvej but in Harndrup. I know Harndrup is 8km to the right of my house. I also know number 31 is 16km to the left. I give up arguing and drive towards Harndrup assuming it is going to turn out to be 931. As I cross the council border into the next area after driving for approximately six minutes, the numbers on my road reset and start again at number 1! How have I never noticed this before??

They have got to be having a laugh! What kind of mad, insane place has a road that spans three council boundaries and resets the numbering on entering the third? I would so hate to be a postie around here. Yeah, we have postcodes, but still. This is the maddest and most unnecessary street numbering I have ever encountered in my life. What on earth were they thinking?

And for those of you who think that's too mad. Check out these directions on Google maps from my house. 

Tuesday, 14 June 2022

Primary class teachers

I remember this time of year in Scotland. The kids would become apprehensive and excited in equal measures waiting to find out who their class teacher would be for the following year. Even though mine were usually fairly unfazed, they fed off the more timid kids and of course there was always the odd ogre everyone wanted to avoid. In the kids' old school a certain Miss M... often popped up in primary six, for example, and was known to eat male children for breakfast!

Not so in Denmark. In Denmark, in our school at least, and Thomas confirms it was the same in his day in a different region, you get assigned a team of teachers from the outset and they take you through till around the age of 12. For example, for Amaia's class the team consists of Henriette for Danish, Art, and PE, as Danish teacher she is seen as the class's main teacher, and all correspondence goes through her. They have Sten for Maths, Tech, and the sciences, Signe for History, Modern Studies, and RE, Birgitte for English, Lone for German, Morten for music Maria for Home Economics. Obviously there is the odd change over the six years - a teacher may go on maternity leave for a year or whatever but the team is large enough that one change tends to go fairly smoothly.

It all seems a little less stressful, though I guess it makes June a little less tense and exciting!

Tuesday, 24 May 2022

Shy or efficient?

I've often read that Denmark is a particularly difficult country to move to because it is extremely hard to infiltrate. Danes in general don't talk to strangers and when you move here from somewhere else, you are, by definition, a stranger, so it is incredibly hard to find a way into their society. 

As a Scottish person, it is really apparent from day one. When you are standing in a queue at the local supermarket, even for an extended period of time, no one turns to you and mentions the weather, you don't get their plans are for the evening, you're not introduced to each of their grandchildren, be that in person or in snaps they carry in their purse. By the time you reach the front of the queue, you still have no idea of the person in front of you's native language, let alone their holiday plans, their politics, or the name of their cat. It is just plain weird. In Scotland, as a bit of an introvert, I did find it a bit much at times that you were almost always forced to talk to everyone in the queue, especially the older people and a full-on conversation at the till was compulsory rather than a rather stony Danish 'Hello, that'll be 200kr,. Would you like your receipt? Have a good evening' However, these interactions with strangers are one of the things I now relish most when I am back in Scotland. Never once do I find myself at a till without a full-on chat. I talk to all the little old ladies who are looking for company and I positively enjoy the human interaction. It's funny the bits of your own culture you had no idea mattered to you. In Glasgow in particular, these interactions remind me so much of my childhood and all the working-class Glaswegian matriarchs of my past - the strong, no-nonsense, salt-of-the-earth types who without a penny would give everything they had.

From the outset here, you are left wondering if Danes are really stand-offish or if they are simply the shyest people on the planet. Sometimes, I feel they are looking for an in to chat to you, other times they simply seem efficient and disinterested. I read somewhere that Danes dislike the superficial, preferring to have meaningful relationships, but as someone who is very alone here, superficial would actually feel meaningful. I guess, in a more equal society, where everyone works, there isn't that same need for human contact that I know from back home, especially when I was a child. Many women in my mother's generation saw no one all day long and got their only human contact in these situations. Here everyone has colleagues for that, presumably. 

Sometimes I wonder if I should just be a Scottish person and talk to strangers. Some will think me weird but I guess the odd old person might actually enjoy a chat with a foreign stranger... The jury's out.


Today the whole of Denmark is going wild because they have become the first country ever to win the men's handball World Cup three times...