2016 Review of Copenhagen Part 2

Posted in Copenhagen

For Part 1 Click Here

 

Good #2 The Meny Supermarket

So our local supermarket is the Fakta. It’s a short walk from our apartment and offers a good range of products at reasonable prices. It’s slightly more posh than Lidl but not quite a Sainsburys. I’ll always like the Fakta because its:

  • Local
  • Cheap
  • Sells 12 cans of 4.6% ABV Royal Pilsner for 45DKK making it one of, if not the, most cost-effective beer you can buy in Denmark

It’s also slightly nicer inside than the Netto and Kiwi (Denmark’s other home-grown budget supermarkets) which often have the look and feel of a post-looting event.

Down the road at Amager centre we have the more upmarket Supermarkets. Fotex tries to do everything from selling clothes, to homeware, to books to groceries. Sadly its one of the worst designed supermarkets in terms of layout and I spent a good thirty minutes looking for cous-cous. While everyone in Denmark speaks perfect English, whenever I’m out doing daily chores, I, for some reason, try to pretend that I’m Danish so I blend in better and thus I find myself incapable of asking for help in such situations.

Posh Supermarkets

Next to Fotex is Irma which is Denmark’s attempt to do a posh Waitrose, it’s all birch-smoked gravlax, coquilles st jacques and artisan sourdough bread. A nice play to go occasionally for a meal for two but we can hardly afford Copenhagen at the best of times so it isn’t really going to provide an affordable approach to the monumental amounts of fish fingers, chips and pasta that my children need to keep growing (they refuse to eat anything else in case you are wondering… we’ve started counting Haribo as one of their five a day to get us over the line.)

However, recently I bought Emma’s birthday present and got the parcel delivered to one of the pick up points/parcel lockers because I now live in an apartment and have no idea how parcels can actually get delivered to my house (Like seriously, how do postmen get in… do they have a key to every apartment lobby in Copenhagen…answers in comments please, I don’t know how this system works). Anyway, it was supposed to get delivered to the parcel lockers at Fakta but all their lockers were full so they redirected it to the Meny supermarket…. and thus began my love affair.

Walking into the Meny was like:

 

First off when you walk in, its clean, spacious and well laid out. Then I walked past the luxury bakery to the luxury chocolate shop to look for present ideas and the woman outside gave myself and my kids a free hot chocolate sample. Already the Meny supermarket knows how to get me on side. (If I’m perfectly honest, I went straight for the free hot chocolate but then pretend to look for presents in the way that you do… Like I might actually buy some of your 300 kroner chocolates… Get real…do they even realise how many cans of Royal Pilsner I can get for this?).

Then we go into the main supermarket and start shopping and they have ickle-little trolleys for the kiddies to push round. My daughter absolutely loves this and so is in heaven for the rest of the shopping trip:

 

Then we get to the produce. Fresh, well stocked, delicious, oh and they give out free samples of orange juice… Well, don’t mind if I do, oh and the kids love the orange juice too… so they help themselves to two or three glasses…. No one is about and no one tells us off. The whole system is based on trust. We continue onto the butchers where they are giving out free samples of sausage and savoury rice… again, no one is guarding these taste stations, you just go right up and help yourselves. Amazing.

We then turn down the expat isle and find baked beans, tartar sauce and haggis… Well, now I’m becoming pretty emotional as the nostalgia of these goods hits home. You won’t find any of these things in normal supermarkets in Copenhagen… In fact Haggis is pretty hard to source even in English supermarkets… It’s like they’ve designed the Meny supermarket just for me.  However, my watering eyes are just a precursor to the  emotional tsunami that is yet to hit me.

When I get to the beer aisle, I find they have several taste stations where you can sample any one of their special seasonal beers.

Free tastings… For Free…

That’s right… those crazy, trusting Danes just put beer and shot glasses out on the supermarket floor and trust on everyone’s good nature and socialist upbringing to ensure that the system is not abused.

Oh, Denmark I think… What a wonderful child-like and innocent utopia you have created. I imagine how long such a system would last in Glasgow if you tried to pull the same stunt… About 3.48 seconds I reckon, after-which there would be a fight and that would just be between the shop assistants, the customers wouldn’t even get a look in.

It gets worse/better, as I pull into the checkout, there are tasting sections in the spirit section… You can literally help yourself to a glass of Schnapps as you wait in the queue. I’ve never flown first class but I imagine the feeling is something akin to what I’m feeling now. It’s a wonderful and pragmatic system when you think about it… if a big queue is formed because one of the barcodes won’t scan… sit back, relax and have a schnapps; if an aging customer is slowing down the payment process by searching for a coupon, just take a breath and pour yourself another schnapps. Whichever way you look at it, you are going to leave this supermarket happy.

With happiness brimming through my eyes, I pay for my goods. The kids are thirsty so I give them a Faxe Kondi to share. We’re about to leave as I don’t think my experience can get any better when we notice the PANT recycling area.

I go and check it out. The kids have already drained the bottle of Faxe Kondi so I stick in the machine. Suddenly a rift opens up in the fabric of my reality and my mind becomes blown

 

 

After a bunch of star wars noises, the machine informs me that it wants to give me 1.5DKK for my empty bottle I give it. Wait, I think… surely this is some introductory offer… but no, the next day I go back armed with 12 empty cans of Royal Pilsner and the machine gives me 1 DKK for each can.

So we all know by now that 12 cans of Royal Pilsner costs only 45 DKK… well now it seems that the Danes want to give me a further 12DKK back just for returning the cans back. Essentially, the Meny has just slashed over 25% of my Royal Pilsner costs in one crazy, automated, environmentally-friendly swoop. It’s essentially a ‘buy 3 packs of Royal Pilsner, get one free’ deal that will last forever.

Money for nothing

My eyes light up and as I’m cycling the kids back I become obsessed with thoughts of perpetual motion machines and the PANT recycling process…. If I could just find the right formulae of bottle size versus consumption versus expenditure then I’m certain it will provide free beer for me throughout my time in Denmark. Perhaps if somehow, i could just increase my beer consumption, I could provide  more for my family… Does this make sense? My brain is confused…

Then it hits me:

 

 

Do you remember the whole recycling debacle…? Do you remember there was a recycling bin in my apartment block marked METAL…

What do you think was in there when I looked in that bin….? I tell you what:

That’s right. People in my apartment block are literally throwing kronor away with little concern for the potential wealth this provides. What’s more it’s not just limited to my apartment block. My work has  a huge recycling bin full of cans and most of the public bins have slots where people can place can and bottles so homeless people can pick them up and get the recycling deposit. That’s right… people are giving the cans away rather than claiming the money for themselves.

I suddenly realise that Denmark is a country which is very rich in two resources:

  1. Trust
  2. Recyclable Metal

What’s more, I now realise I can exploit both of these resources to create an inordinate amount of wealth for myself. I calculate that the bucket bike without children can easily carry 87-95 cans (they need to be uncrushed for the PANT machine to give you money). That’s almost 100DKK for a 20 minute round trip. If I can get access to other apartment recycling facilities then I could be earning around 300DKK an hour.  What’s more (iøm getting excited now) this is a business that really scales…If I could buy a van, then suddenly my earnings could increase by over 1000%… not even Apple achieved that kind of growth. I start to think whether my Danish is good enough to recruit street children to form a gang who can then scale the business even more by expanding our access to the untapped resources in the other apartment recycling bins throughout the city. I’m already composing the five-act musical in my head that would be based on this rags to riches story when I arrive home.

I tell my wife that our money worries are over and let her in on my plan on the ground floor, with a limited equity proposition. I’m sorry to report that she just gives me a look and doesn’t share the same enthusiasm I have, nor does the risk-reward business and corporate strategy plan that I present to her convince her otherwise. The kids however love putting the cans in the recycling bins and they don’t require any pay but sweets so I’ve already got an invested workforce. For the benefit of my marriage, I let the subject drop over dinner but in the back of my mind the schemes are still hatching.

In short, the Meny is fantastic for so many reasons you can’t  even begin to comprehend. I can now call my wife after work and offer to pick up some milk and pop in for a ‘pre-dinner tasting session with amuse bouche and aperitifs’ and have any purchases paid for by the cans from work I’ve smuggled into my saddlebags… What’s not to love.

 

Bad #2 Learning to Run in the City

I like running. I don’t do enough of it but in 2016 I actually started running on a regular basis again. For the first time in 10 years, I actually reduced some of my times to run a 10K and a half marathon. It took me ages to find some beautiful running routes that went down past the Isis River in Oxford, over fields and through forests away from the hustle and bustle of city living.

Now, running begins again in a new city. There’s a few barriers I need to get over:

  1. Fear – running at night in a new place is really scary. Especially when I don’t really know where I’m going or what the terrain will be like.
  2. Cold – I don’t like being cold. A long time ago, when I started losing my hair, I realised I could either focus on trying to be cool or trying to be warm. I chose warm. It seemed the more achievable option of the two. Running means going out into the cold so I need mental reserves to deal with this
  3. Dark – I can’t run in the day so I run at night. It’s dark and dark = scary. When my kid is going to sleep and says ‘Dad can you leave the light on’, I of course like every parent reply:
    ‘I’ll live the outside hallway light on but there’s no need to be scared of the dark’.
    What I actually want to say is:
    ‘I’m sorry to do this kiddo but I need you to sleep and lean diurnal behaviour. Hold on tight to your duvet little man cause I still remember how shit scary things become when I flick this switch. I made it through to adulthood, so you need to get through this too but I can’t guarantee the monsters will ever truly go away’.
  4. Motivation…. It comes and goes in waves depending on priorities such as family, relationships, work and finishing off this damn blog post (not sure what purpose these posts sever but I hate starting something and not finishing).
Fighting Back

To combat these barriers I do the following:

  • Fear – Strava on my phone and bluetooth headphones playing my eclectic running mix. This masks any noises that might scare the bjeebez out of me and brings a familiarity to my runs
  • Cold – I wear running tights, a thermal running top and a funny skin-tight hat thing that’s a bit like a swimming cap only made of polyester
  • Dark – All the aforementioned gear is reflective and I wear a super bright head torch on my head

In short. I look like a total idiot. This has causes serious problems with number 4 motivation. On the last run I did, I ran through the dark paths behind Christiania void (a kind of lake thing), only to loop round and find myself then running in city streets. I then ran past Christiania (a kind of hippy commune), where I had to stop at traffic lights and jog on the spot, just in case people hadn’t worked out I was a running.

Christiania is where they openly sell marijuana and a crazy stoner hippy walks up to me and says tells me that  I should turn off my headlight as I look a bit strange.  Now, in the dark the head-torch makes sense , but under street light it has the effect of just making all my reflective gear shine extra bright and me look like an even greater idiot.

I thank stoner man and carry on my way, a bit more embarrassed than when I started the run. What really annoyed me though was the guy started talking to me in English…. Like just because I look like an idiot and I’m running through the streets of Copenhagen with a head torch on… why does that make me automatically English/British… Surely there are plenty of crazy Danes who might perform similar behaviour.

Anyway, running in the city sucks. I need to find some better routes and I long for runs where I can lose sight of the city and drift into a meditative piece. Sadly nothing compares to the New Forest where I first started running regularly, but hopefully I can fin enough motivation and anonymity to continue running in this strange and beautiful city.

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