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.


Here's another weird thing about Denmark. On the first Wednesday in May every year they test the national air raid sirens! Who knew they had air raid sirens still in working order?! And this isn't a capital thing, we even have them over here in our nearest villages. So I guess if I hear this weird sound any other day of the year I should run for cover, as it probably means Boris Johnson has possibly declared war on the EU over some silly matter like fishing or bacon exports!

Monday, 3 May 2021

Ice cream vans

We're all familiar with ice cream vans back home... the tinny bells play a jingle and half the kids swarm out to buy a wafer, an oyster or a 99 and mull over whether or not to add raspberry sauce, while the other half stay home as their parents try explaining to them how much dearer it is than buying a six pack of own-brand Magnums round the local Aldi! My family, needless to say, with all those kids fell into the latter category.

Last week our ice cream van came round, same tinny bells, same jingle, so we thought we'd give it a go, mainly out of curiosity. What an odd experience! There's no price list or pictures of ice creams and lollies on the side, because they don't sell any! No oysters, no 99s and no sauce either! It turns out that what they sell is large tubs of ice cream for your freezer and bulk boxes of cones or lollies not for individual purchase! I'm not 100% sure why this needs to come round the houses? Maybe because most people cycle to the supermarket, it's too bulky to get home, or too likely to thaw? No idea. We've also now found out they have a website so you can pre-order your bulk ice cream flavours with free delivery to the house. 

It is strange how something that looks like it is going to be so similar to home turns out to be the exact opposite. This is a weird country sometimes!


Sunday, 2 May 2021

Toddler hats

I don't find the climate here in Denmark significantly different to home, not in the winter anyway, the summer might be a bit more predictable and warm and all in all there are greater numbers of sunlight hours here but winter is definitely no wetter or colder. One thing that is different, however, is how Danish parents dress their kids for the outdoors. I've mentioned the flyverdragter before, but another thing Danish kids seem to live in is this type of balaclava. It seems to me that all Danish kids own one of these, without exception. They are so omnipresent here that I would probably assume a toddler walking by in a normal, beanie-style winter hat to be a foreigner!

Here's a random selection I just happened to capture as part of a larger picture when photographing my way around town the other day, hence the anonymisation.


Saturday, 1 May 2021


In a country where everyone cycles, aren't these useful things to see along the roadside?

Personalised number plates

In the UK, personalised number plates are popular - there is probably at least one on most leafy residential streets. Some people go with their initials and a number or two, others try to be witty, spelling out words using the obligatory mix of numbers and letters. Marcel has a number of friends named Ross (it was a very common name in the late nineties, thanks to a certain sit-com). Those Rosses often end up with cars with a number plate starting RO55... as that appears to read ROSS from a distance. Likewise I have seen KI5S ME, 5EXY etc. In Denmark, however, no ingenuity is required. First, they are so uncommon that I have only seen a handful over the last couple of years and secondly, they simply use letters and write whatever they damn please!😂

Here's one I saw yesterday when I was in town. Drink-driving anyone?


Store bededag

To my mind, Denmark is a crazy weird country when it comes to religion. Although on the surface it is as secular as Scotland, it seems to cling overly to lots of religious hand-me-downs, perhaps for want of something better to do. 

Thomas has a theory that it stems from Denmark being a fairly insipid place when it comes to unique national culture. There is little in Danish culture that is exclusive to Denmark, not shared by its Nordic neighbours or their German cousins to the south. Their high school leaving traditions with their sailor hats and trucks full of drunken kids, that you might be familiar with from having seen the Oscar winning film 'Druk' (Another Round) are something quite unique but many of their traditions harp back to a time when people were much more religious. Their extremely alien approach to Protestant confirmation - something that a huge number of teenagers take part in every year despite never setting foot in a church before or after year 7 stands out as one of the most bizarre - Anna is currently the only child in her class not being confirmed this summer, but that is a blogpost on its own. 

This theory could also explain a rather surprising attachment to the monarchy from a land where equality is so prized that gay marriage and similar was legalised long before we saw it back home. 

As a Scottish person, we have obvious ways to celebrate our Scottishness and to differentiate ourselves from England or elsewhere. We have Scots and Gaelic, we have tartan and clans, we have ceilidhs and Scottish country dancing, and haggis (and veggie haggis just to make it culturally inclusive) and much more. 

Anyway, whatever the reason, Denmark clings somewhat to its religious traditions and yesterday, according to my calendar, was the amusingly named 'store bededag' - 'great prayer day'. Great prayer day is so big, it is on a par with Christmas from a shopping perspective, almost nowhere is open! Thomas and the kids all had a day off, so there were no complaints there. The idea, historically, seems to be that people were taking too much time off work for religious holidays so those religious holidays got combined into one great day, where quality was meant to count over quantity. You were to spend the whole day praying to make up for taking fewer religious holidays, but that went for everyone, including the bakers, so banned from opening, they came up with wheat rolls that could be bought the night before and kept till great prayer day was over. In typical Danish style, great prayer day now, as far as I can see is no longer a religious holiday but an excuse to stay home from work all day and gorge yourself on some rather delightful warm, toasted rolls known as hveder with a hint of cardamom dripping in luxurious Danish butter. Even this atheist could get into that kind of religious celebration!


Léon has taken to eating quite a lot of marmalade since we moved here. He just loves Danish marmalade, which has even more peel in it than the UK equivalent!

Over lunch the other week, he joked we should start calling him Paddington. Thomas, then happened to mention, that when he was a child, he had read many Paddington books, translated into Danish of course, because he couldn't speak English back then. They'd been badly translated though, as many books are, and had translated marmalade simply by 'marmelade', which is just any kind of jam in Danish. I was less aware of this as the standard word for jam that I know in Danish is 'syltetøj'. He sheepishly admitted that until he'd seen the English originals, when he had had kids of his own, he'd always pictured Paddington eating strawberry jam! 

So Denmark appears to be a land where Paddington Bear dines out on strawberry jam sandwiches... Unimaginable!

Weird Danish traditions

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