So, we are here. We finally did it and now Oxford seems a world away as I look out the window to the neon glow of the Thai restaurant opposite. All around me are candles and blankets and pools of light from eclectic Danish lighting giving off a cozy glow. So far everything’s been great but its only been five days. Here a quick run down on what’s happened on each day:
I quickly learned that the apartment Emma picked is super nice and in a good part of town. After the taxi drops us off and we unpack our four suitcases; I transform into hunter-gatherer mode and head out to the Fackta supermarket to round up some provisions. However, before I can get to the Fackta, I have to go past a pub….
‘Well’, I think to myself, ‘it would be rude not to see how the Danish pub system works\ and so I head in.
Turns out my local has lots of sports but isn’t super busy. I order an ‘ale’ (that’s what the local Øl is called) and pay my 45DKK (£5.20) and have a quiet pint.
Next its the local supermarket. Outside they are selling candles:
Just inside they are selling Hygge socks for 10 kroner soIi pick up some of these for the cold nights. I pass the second section of candles for sale:
Then I buy some groceries and pass the Christmas candles section
I then realise that was only the 1st section of Christmas Candles. The real Christmas Candle section is just round the corner.
Please bear in mind, that the Fackta is a non-candle specialist supermarket and it is about the size of a medium single story ‘Metro’ Supermarket. It isn’t a big supermarket by any means. Some, non-Danes might begin to argue at this point that this supermarket was oversupplied with candles relative to its size but the law of supply and demand in Denmark means that this is a pretty typical sight in any small supermarket round here. The Danes have a winter fever that only candles can cure.
Finally I realise there is a main non-Christmas, all year round candle section. It dawns on me that the Danes feel the same way about candles as Americans feel about guns.
The conveyor belt at the checkout is an interesting system, its got a divider in it so that you can pay immediately and then have time to pack your shopping while the other customer is served. This, in my opinion, is a vastly superior system to the having to stand impatiently in the Sainsbury checkout listening to some idiotic small talk between the customer ahead of me and the cashier where they discuss the weather, their future plans for the day and their favourite Jamie Oliver recipe. I’ve never understood the need to make polite conversation when I’m buying toilet paper, fish fingers and a bottle of wine…surely my purchases tell you everything you need to know about me.
Anyway, I head back and we make a nice dinner (some sort of weird fish thing) and drink some Duty Free Tuborg. While putting the shopping away, we discover candles in nearly every cupboard.
- Beer in the pub is expensive
- The Danes fucking love their candles
- The split conveyor checkout system is superior
All our stuff arrives in the moving van. Thus entails several dashes up and down the stairs to an illegally parked white van driven. The bloke who did the driving is immense. I notice he has a bottle of vodka in the footwell and a camping stove in the back. I’ve now idea how he got all our things here in one piece or how and where he slept but I’m grateful he’s on time. After the twentieth or so trip, I’m knackered and our flat is now full of boxes. We can’t move for boxes and crap everywhere. We decide to leave it for now and try out our new Nicola Bicycle and head into town to get our CPR number which is essential for doing anything in Denmark.
The cycle ride is great, but the CPR number is a massive ball-ache. You have to fill out forms x, y and z and only then can you ask for a reservation. We force-feed the kids sugar and give them our phones while we fill out the forms. Finally we ask for a reservation and find out that anyone who had a clue was waiting outside the office from 9 as they only take 16 people a day and only on Wednesdays and Thursdays. No CPR number means no bank account, no healthcare, no schools for the kids and loads of hassle getting anything that needs a contract. We take the kids to the Lego shop on the way back.
We come back defeated and I take down some cupboards and put up some bunk bends. Taking down the cupboard involves removing unnecessary massive screws that completely knacker my arm. Once the bunk beds are up I decide I’ve earned enough man points to head to the Fackta and buy some beer.
It’s here that I discover that 12 cans of Tuborg cost just 49DKK and 12 cans of Royal Danish (Pilsner or Classic) costs only 45DKK.
Wait I hear you cry…. didn’t you say that a pint in the pub next door cost 45DKK? Why yes I did…. I imagine like me you are already doing the calculations and conversions in your head. Well let me save you the time as I have already done them.
It’s maths time
In the UK, let’s say a pint in a reasonably pricy Oxford pub costs £4.20 for a Kronenberg. That would buy you approximately 565ml of ABV 5.5% at a cost of £8.20 per litre.
If you went to the Co-op you might be able to get 4 cans of Kronenberg for £5 (they often have this offer on) at a cost of £2.50 per litre.
Therefore it is between 3-4 times more expensive to drink in the pub than it is at home in the UK.
In Copenhagen it will cost around 90DKK per litre in a pub (ABV 5%), but for the same amount I can get 24x330ml cans in the supermarket at a cost of 12DKK per litre. This means it’s about 7.5 times cheaper to drink beer at home than it is to go out for pint in Copenhagen. I think I finally discover what Hygge is actually all about and plan on getting very Hygge.
- The CPR process is a totally mare
- Its way cheaper to drink at home
- As I sit with a beer surrounded by candles, I think I may really grow to love Denmark if I don’t end up burning down the flat after stumbling to bed after drinking too much Royal Pilsner
Right today we go back and get a CPR number.
It is such a pain. Emma is up early and waiting outside the door with a thermos of tea. Its all chaos but we feed the kids more sugar. If you want to read about it more you can read about it here on my wife’s blog:
Personally I’m glad to wipe the whole thing from my memory. For a lunch break we return to the lego shop and the kids get a free model to make. I eat lots of mackerel salad and rye bread. The mackerel salad looks like its rotten fish waste covered in mayonaise but you know when in Denmark etc…..In the evening we get a massive pizza and the kids play lego while we listen to MØ.
- Only 16 people get a CPR number on Wednesday and Thursday at International house. If you aren’t one of the lucky few then you have to wait another week
- Our local Pizza place is pretty decent
- Thank God for Lego
With our CPR numbers in hand we now feel like proper Danish residents. I take the kids on a cycle ride. We end up going through Christiana, an ex US Navy base now a hippy commune with colourful murals and very open acceptance of cannabis. Its an interesting place, some parts are slightly edgy but in the daytime its more of a colourful, fun place.
I have to pop into my new work so the kids play in the playpark outside (yes another playground) and have lots of fun. I’ve learned now that the secret to living on the cheap in Copenhagen is to pack a thermos of tea and a packed lunch *more mackerel Salad and rye bread) In the evening we go to Amager’s (our area) Night Light. There’s some super cool Icelandic/Nordic band playing. I discover my new super-warm jacket can hold at least eight cans of Tubrorg…maybe more. There’s lots of artistic lights and smoke machines, its a really cool night and we suddenly start to realise how much is going on in Copenhagen. It’s a hip place.
- You are never far from a playground
- The music scene here is good
- My Fjallraven Jacket may be my favourite jacket of all time.
Saturday, we have some fun. We go to the aquarium. Its totally epic. We buy season passes and see sharks, otters, octopuses/octopi and play in another exquisitely designed Danish playground. There are so many playgrounds round here and they are all ridiculously beautiful and way above the level of interaction you get in UK playgrounds. I eat more mackerel Salad and Beetroot Salad and Rye Bread. We try some snegles (Danish Pastries) and feel happy. In the evening we have some slow cooked stew and I buy some strange thing from the shop. It says Bacon in big letters across it but it turns out to be liver pate with added Bacon. It tastes….ok….I think.
- The aquarium will be our place of refuge when the winter properly kicks in.
- I’m eating a lot more mackerel than I normally would
- Snegles are great
I wake up and suddenly realise that 3 days of mackerel indulgence combined with Danish Liver Pate, massive amounts of Rye Bread and too much Royal Pilsner is starting to play havoc with my digestive system. I eventually manage to get up and out and do the recycling. The whole recycling business is a bit of a headfuck round here. Back in Oxford, I had a blue bin, a green bin and a clear conscience. Here, there are bins for:
Paper (ok I’m cool with that)
Glass (Ok, this is still sensible)
Paper and Cardboard (So why the hell have we got a separate one just for paper…. plus no one puts paper in this, its just got cardboard in it)
No Idea what this one is but people have put plastic in it…. Is this not Hard plastic? Is this medium plastic?
I think this one is electronic waste but can’t be sure
Biohazard Waste (OK…this is getting weird). Plus this one has a funny lock.
There are also these blue bins. I dare not open them. I reckon they are for either recycling run-off waste from methamphetamine production or they are for disposing of bodies.
Once the recycling is done, we go to this amazing park in Østerbo. Its called Falledparken and has these amazing towers that are replicas of famous towers in Copenhagen. The slides are massive and my daughter nearly kills herself going down it. I’m filming on my phone so don’t have time to catch her. I give her some juice and she cheers up again.
Then there is electronic pigeon tag. You have to go around and catch electronic pigeons. The kids go mental for this an are playing it for about an hour.
Its super cool and a great example how tech can make incredibly enriching play experiences.
Then the mackerel and rye bread come back to haunt me again. This time I end up in a weird situation being stuck in the park toilet with my two kids. My kids end up give me advice on going to the toilet and how to breathe properly complete with explanatory actions on how to have a successful poo. I realise all the things I’ve said to them as a parent when they suffered from tummy issues are going to come back to haunt me again and again.
We then head to Østerbro library as they are showing Monster’s Inc. The kids library has loads of toys and Kiddiecars. Play is definitely a big thing out here which suits me fine. I sneak away for a coffee after a while and drool over designer goods in the shop windows of Østerbro. In the evening, I go for a run. It’s only 2 miles but I feels like its an epic milestone in my conquering my fear of the cold outside. Its actually the right kind of cold that makes you want to run faster and makes coming back in for a warm shower feel wonderful. I have an early night and head to bed, wondering what my first day of work will bring tomorrow.
- The recycling is complicated
- Someone my be a serial killer or cooking meth in our apartment block
- I need to calm down my mackerel and Rye Bread consumption until I’ve fully acclimatised to the cuisine
- The Parks are amazing
- Running in the cold feels great.
Thus far the adventure is definitely worthwhile… How long the honeymoon will last, I’m yet to know for sure. Wish us luck