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.

Wednesday, 1 September 2021

Weird Danish traditions

What are you doing for your copper anniversary, we were asked recently. This struck me as an odd question. Firstly we were married in February and it was August so I had little notion I should be celebrating anything anniversary related. Secondly I believed copper was quite an early - one six, maybe seven years so why would I be celebrating several years after the event? And thirdly, I'm not into that kind of traditional stuff where each anniversary should supposedly be celebrated by a different material. I could just about imagine celebrating the big ones, but Thomas and I lived together for a number of years before marrying so the anniversaries always feel a bit off any way and having married so late in life (I was 41, he was 37) the chances of reaching the significant ones seems less likely. 

That was when I learnt two new things. Not only are several of the traditional anniversaries different in the two countries: Danes have some odd things like a Pomegranate anniversary (19 years) and a Tulip anniversary (23 years) and though the UK says year 7 is copper, Denmark reserves copper for 12.5 years! You see Danes don't start the big ones at 25, they go down to 12.5, so last Saturday was in fact our Danish copper anniversary! 

Danes always have very set ways to celebrate things. Obviously we've no friends or family in the vicinity who know when we got married. But with Thomas's folks in the country anyway because of our niece's confirmation, another very Danish tradition, we were awoken by Léon playing his violin, followed by Brita, Peter, and the three kids singing us Danish songs. We came out to find our dining room door decorated and then got a huge breakfast from the bakery in Vissenbjerg. We even got a Happy 12.5 years wedding anniversary card and were made to pose in our nightwear for a photo in front of the decorated door!

It is always interesting to take part in a celebration of something alien to your own culture because you get to see the world through another's eyes.

Friday, 21 May 2021

Supermarket talk

Danish checkout operators, for the most part, are teenagers. Unlike at home where you often get bored middle-aged women who slowly check your stuff through while telling you their life story, here all supermarket checkout operators, no matter the supermarket, have a set script that is almost never deviated from, and customers also have a script they are meant to stick to, it's all very odd and quite tedious...

Translated into English it goes:

Checkout operator: Hi

Customer: Hi

They scan everything in silence.

Checkout operator: Anything else?

Customer: no, thanks.

Checkout operator: That'll be 250 Kroner (or whatever). Would you like your receipt?

Customer: No, thanks

Checkout operator: Thanks, have a good day/afternoon/weekend! 

Customer: Thanks, same to you!

So, it's neither riveting nor particularly good for my Danish skills, but I guess it means every foreigner knows at least three phrases in Danish. Sometimes, I'm tempted, when they are scanning to ask if they are going anywhere nice at the weekend, just to see if they actually die of shock. 

Anyway, today I nipped into Aldi to buy some chips and after scanning my stuff the boy on the checkout, to my shock, came out with 'Have a nice Whitsun!' You could have knocked me over. Who knew my afternoon could be this interesting! I don't even know what Whitsun is in English, let alone in Danish, nor do I know how to have a good one. I'm now on Facebook quizzing my Danish friends as to whether there are any special cakes connected to Whitsun, given most of these religious holidays in Denmark seem to be cake excuses, as far as I can see! 

I'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, 11 May 2021

No sex please, we're Scandinavian!

I had never set foot in Denmark until Xmas of 2006. At that point I'd seen a lot of central and southern Europe and been over to New York, but Scandinavia had just never happened. I had always opted for warmer climes and Aarhus, my first point of touch-down, was on the same latitude as Glasgow, so why would I go there in December? Then I fell in love with a Dane... 

One of the most surprising things to me, on arrival, was their sleeping arrangements. The several houses I visited and stayed in all had this, fairly standard set-up, with a double box mattress, almost always with no headboard, so you invariably lose your pillow down the back of the bed several times a night, and two single duvets. 

I know jokes about your partner stealing or hogging the duvet are age-old, but still, there's something very alien to me about sleeping in a double bed with two single duvets, especially with someone you might happen to find yourself in the grips of passion with! I could almost conceive of it if I was sharing a double in, say, a hotel with my daughter or a female friend but not sleeping under the same sheet as the person you are intimate with, is just a wee bit odd to me! You can't really hug them without great gusts of cold air wafting in. And if you fancy trying to get cosier, you almost have to unwrap your other half to find them. 

Aesthetically, it looks kind of weird too, like an unspoken warning that you had better not try any hanky panky in their bed! I, for one, never had the Scandies down as frigid prudes, somehow! 

I guess if you were looking for a positive spin, you could argue that you can theoretically both opt for a different tog value, if you have different core temperatures - could be handy during menopause! And single duvets are definitely easier to put on, wash and dry... 

But this set-up really isn't my cup of tea. If I'm going to share my bed with my man, I don't just want to get to share the snoring, I want to make use of his warm body to heat me up and make me feel all cosy and warm too! Maybe Danes just don't like to cuddle? Fortunately for me, my very own Dane is very much on my wavelength in this regard. We've gone one step further in so much as we decided early on that we wanted a double bed, not a king-sized like most people we know, so we could stay close and cuddly but with the sneaky addition of a king-sized duvet so there's no hogging and no stealing, just total hygge, Scandy-style, or not so Scandy-style, maybe!

Sunday, 9 May 2021

Weird tree circles

I've noticed in two of the Danish towns close to where I live there are trees planted in a circle with large rocks placed under them, also in a circle. Both are fairly close to the local church or manse. I'm quite intrigued as to their purpose. Is it just a nice shady place to sit if you're out on a walk and suddenly feel tired? Maybe kids gather around to hear stories, maybe they grill sausages in the middle (hoping the trees won't catch fire)? Or maybe they are some kind of Stonehenge equivalent? Perhaps witches meet up there at night and place their cauldrons in the middle and dance in a circle with their cats. I've no idea, and I'm not sure I want to know what they are for, I think I'd rather concoct more and more outrageous stories in my head instead!


Thursday, 6 May 2021

Drain covers

I've just started noticing how fancy the drain covers are over here. I think I'll start adding them here to see just how many different ones I come across.

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 cla...