Christmas Markets List – updated

I have been looking around the internet and these are the Christmas Markets here in Copenhagen that took my fancy. I shall remove those that are past and add in new ones so make sure you bookmark this page.Toadstools at Christiania Christmas marketDec 9 – 20 Christiania Julemarked 

Dec 10 – 11 ØsterGRO Julenmarked 

Dec 10 – 11 Jul i Kødbyen

Dec 10 -11 Hyggeligt Julemarked På Bryggen I Den Gamle Smykkefabrik

Dec 11 The Lab x the lab kitchen’s julemarked

Dec 11 Balders Julebiks

Dec 17 Tekstilskolen Julemarked 

Dec 17 Julemarked på Allegade 7 

Living in temporary housing

Many people find that living in a temporary place whilst house hunting is an effective way of moving to a new city. Having done this a few times I shared some experiences and ways to make it easier in my book – My Guide to a Successful Relocationdsc01805

Here is a snippet from the chapter.


 

The benefits

The biggest benefit of taking a temporary rental is you are already on the ground and able to view apartments more easily than if you are only travelling for short home search visits. In a fast moving rental market you will often need to arrange to see an apartment within a short time to avoid missing out on it.

It also means you can start to get settled and explore the city, especially if you are unsure about where exactly in your new city you wish to live. I spent a lot of time in Berlin visiting different areas to see if they appealed to us. I would advise, if possible, taking temporary housing close to at least one of your preferred neighbourhoods so you don’t end up spending too much time travelling unnecessarily, and where you can easily experience the local area and community.

Another big benefit is that the apartment has the basics you need and will, for a cost, be cleaned for you, with bedding and towels provided. We lived for almost four months in temporary housing in Berlin and there were certainly benefits to this.

The downside

It can be stressful with no set time limit to living in a temporary home, especially if you don’t like the area around your place or it just starts to feel soulless and you yearn for your own space and things.

What can you do to make it a positive experience?

We learned a lot from living in corporate housing and there were a few things we did, or could have done in hindsight, to make the experience better:

Technology

Something of a no-brainer but make sure you have a laptop or tablet to connect to the Internet as this is essential for entertainment, research and keeping up with people at home, especially as you may not be able to get a phone contract easily at the start. However, the Internet access may not be great if you are living in a large complex – we had to sit in the kitchen pressed up against the wall in our place to get any decent connection!

 

Bring your essentials

Although the places will be furnished and equipped you still should pack a box of essentials from home before you pack up and move to the temporary housing, and have it sent to arrive when you do. We moved in the autumn to Berlin and hoped to be settled quickly but this didn’t happen so I was pleased I had shipped a box of our winter essentials. Other things to consider sending in a box are: favourite toys and books (if you have children) and a change of season clothes if you are moving towards the end of a season.

The kitchen in our place had a very basic selection of utensils. I bought some cheap things from the supermarket such as a cheese grater and measuring jug. So be prepared, if you like cooking perhaps add some of your kitchen essentials and basic cooking utensils like a measuring jug, measuring spoons (basically anything that measures!), a cheese grater and a tin opener to your box you send from home.

Capsule wardrobes

As you will probably be travelling quite light at this stage, be prepared to be sick of the small selection of clothes you bring by the end of the stay. Don’t bring anything you love too much. There were washing facilities in the block we stayed in and they needed tokens, which could be bought from the management office on certain days of the week. As the machines are used by lots of people, they are not the most efficient in the world. Unless you want to buy a drying rack, make sure all the clothes you bring are dryer friendly.

Keep positive

Living in temporary housing and searching for a home can start to become emotionally draining. It can feel like a never-ending jail term if your home search is longer than you hoped, but the main thing to keep in mind is that this is temporary – this is not your ultimate home and you will have your own things again.


If you found this interesting and/or useful you can buy the book to read more and the rest of the book, of course.

Every dollar (or Kroner) spent is a vote

When I was at the opening of think.dk, there was a quote that stuck with me.

“Every dollar you spend is a vote for the world you want to live in.”

This Christmas I took this to heart. Many gifts I have bought have been from Etsy, handmade or vintage and from small businesses (where apparently an actual person does a happy dance). If I have bought a book, it has been either a very old favourite or well-chosen book that I hope the recipient will enjoy. For friends I created something they will enjoy but not clutter up the house after Christmas. My son will, as usual, hand make something for his grandparents.screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-21-05-01

This year I also gave myself a budget for charitable donations. I donated to Danske Folkehjælp Christmas fundraiser after reading this article. I also donated to Snap og Sokker, who are raising money to buy socks for homeless men in Vesterbro (read more here, their fundraiser is nearly over so don’t delay). A friend of mine instagrammed this photo and I popped over to The Fmly Store and bought one of their cool Christmas jumpers which they donate half the price to Save the Children.screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-21-06-32 Finally, each morning we see a homeless man who has been sleeping at Sydhavn Station and has such an awful cough. He has clearly been living on the street for a long time. I bought a hot coffee and a cheese roll for him on a cold morning last week. I got a smile for the coffee but the cheese roll resulted in the widest, most genuine smile I have been lucky to receive in a long while.

In the wider scheme of Christmas, when I am very aware of how fortunate and privileged my family is, these small things really make my money vote for a world I want to live in.

Royal Copenhagen Christmas Tables 2016

As usual I visited Royal Copenhagen to see their Christmas tables. I enjoyed this year’s a lot more than last. If you are in Copenhagen this Christmas I heartily recommend you take a look at these sumptuous tables. But for those who aren’t here are some pictures for you to enjoy.

This year the tables were created by six Danish fashion designers or design duos.

First is Leyla Piedayesh, founder of Lala Berlin, with her table inspired by the three wise men.dsc01849 dsc01850

Then, surrounded by gauzey curtains is the table by Mark Tan. It is entitled Labyrinthian Snail Shell and represents complexity and togtherness and features a fabulous display of mistletoe.dsc01854 dsc01856 dsc01858 dsc01859

Then the one by Cecilie Bahnsen, with a table that represents to marrying of different traditions and also shows a Christmas table scene where work and home life collide.dsc01862 dsc01863 dsc01865

The next by the duo behind Baum and Pfedgarten is on a rotating table which was hard to photograph and represents an eclectic whirlwind of ideas.dsc01871

Ole Yde has chosen to show Christmas Eve at Le Petit Trianon and a decadent scene.dsc01876 dsc01877 dsc01878 dsc01881

Finally one that was really far too pink for even me was a table scene by Charlotte Eskilden, the designer behind Designers Remix showing a minimalist Christmas (as long as you like pink!)dsc01882 dsc01884 dsc01887

Black Friday

This Friday is traditionally known in the US as Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving when all the shops have massive sales – and there are usually stories of at least one person being crushed in the mass shopping frenzy. In fact in 2008 when I was last in the US for Thanksgiving someone was crushed to death in the rush for bargains in a Walmart on Long Island.

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Last year was probably the first time we saw the concept of Black Friday creeping into Denmark. Like many US exported traditions it was looked at rather disparagingly by many Danes. However this year Black Friday has landed with a bang. You can’t travel around the city or pick up the free newspaper without being bombarded with adverts for Black Friday sales.

We all like to save some money and if your child’s wish list for Christmas includes something pricey then this Friday is the time to put on your Santa hat and get a bargain (unless its a Hatchimal as I understand they are now sold out). I don’t think I need to tell you where to go but unusually the malls at Fisketorvet and Fields will be open from 8am until midnight on Friday.

Perhaps it is a reflection of the world economy at the moment that the desire for bargains is greater than usual. I do hope that this Friday sees Danes behaving in their usual moderate way and there are no scenes similar to those in the US and the UK of rabid consumerism and people think before they buy something simply for the sake of it.

What do you think about Black Friday here in Denmark?

{From my book} Managing a relocation consultant

I thought I’d share another chapter from my book (My guide to a successful relocation). In the last month or so I have spoken to a number of expats who are just finished with their initial relocation to a new country and many of them have shared not so positive stories about their relocation consultant experience. I was lucky with one relocation to have an excellent consultant but with my second a below average experience. I learned a lot about how to handle a consultant. I know that on one hand people who get a relocation consultant offered to them by their new employers are lucky as not all people have this but even if they are not paying for the service out of their own pockets, someone is and the consultant should be offering the best service they can. Anyway onto the chapter below….dsc01792Managing a relocation consultant

Depending where you are relocating to and the level of the new job you may be fortunate enough to be offered the services of a relocation consultant, or at least decide to use your own.  There are enormous benefits to using a relocation service, especially when it comes to finding somewhere to live that suits you and your budget. Having the inside track on life in the new city, from the culture to the bureaucracy, is also really useful.

The relocation company will be chosen by the new employers hopefully because they have been successful in finding people suitable accommodation. They will also often handle registrations and opening bank accounts in your new country. However, not all relocation consultants are created equal and there are certainly a number of ways you can make sure you get the most out of their services.

Being Clear from the start

You need to be clear from the outset what your relocation consultant can do for you within the package offered by your new employers. There may be a maximum number of properties they are permitted to show you, as was the case when we moved to Berlin, and if the market is tough you may get through your allocation pretty swiftly.

Find out from the start what is offered within the package and perhaps renegotiate the terms before the process starts. It may be the case that you will want to do some things yourself and keep the areas where their expertise lies in reserve.

Think about your budget carefully

One of the first things they will ask is what is your budget for rent. For many people moving to a new country this is a total guess. Make sure you ask your consultant for honest advice on what you should expect to pay for your desired level of accommodation before you think about this figure. You should also consider other associated costs such as heating and TV which may be added to the base rent price but will need to be paid.

It is important that you set a reasonable budget, but it is also useful to set an absolute maximum as you may find that your first figure is not enough for what you need or what is available. You don’t want to have to scramble about doing calculations. Tell your consultant the first figure but keep the other one in reserve.

Take the initiative

To a certain extent you can’t be totally reliant on your consultant. Use property rental websites to get an idea of the type of accommodation you are likely to be looking at, both in your budget and desired location. In our case when moving to Berlin our consultant gave us a login to the rental portal she used so we would browse ourselves and also make notes about places for her to see. Making notes about properties is essential as after some time looking you can forget which property was which and why you liked or didn’t like one. Also, if you see a pattern emerging of reasons why you are rejecting places you need to make sure your consultant is aware of this.

Think realistically

I know this is something I will keep coming back to but realistic expectations are essential. This is another area your consultant should be able to help you with.

Before you start working with the consultant you need to do some clear thinking of your own about how you see your new life. Do you want real city living in a central apartment or a more suburban lifestyle in a house? We downsized from a four bedroom detached house in the UK to a 100square metre, four room (excluding kitchen and bathroom) city apartment, but we loved it. The space was perfect for us at that time. You need to think about how many rooms you really need. When we were just a couple we wanted a second room which could be used as a guest room for the few weeks of the year people visited, and it also doubled up as office space. But you need to think about how important that extra room is, and is it worth the extra money in rent.

Set your priorities honestly

Setting your priorities is important, but you need to be prepared to be flexible. We were advised to think of our top three priorities for our new place. Was location very important? Was the number of rooms and size of the apartment an issue? Do you need an elevator (a dream in some period apartment buildings in Northern Europe)? If so, and one isn’t available, then what is the highest floor you are prepared to trek up to? Are you bringing a pet? Do you have a car? Parking can be an issue in some city areas. Do you need your own laundry room or washing machine, or are you happy to share a communal one (as is often the case in Copenhagen)? There are many things you may think are important, but what are the real deal-breakers? You need to be realistic but at the same time flexible, as what you normally expect from your home country may not be possible.

Location, location, location

I truly believe that location is the most important thing that can make or break a new relocation. I really think you can make an average apartment work if you are living in a great location; it is harder to make a bad location work even if the apartment is perfect. Think about areas of your new city you think you might like to move to, and again order them in priority. Usually this is dependent on the location of your new workplace, especially if you want to keep commuting time to a minimum, but you may be prepared to compromise on this for your perfect location or to find somewhere that fits your budget. Research beforehand is helpful, but so is asking your consultant for an honest view, and perhaps arranging a time with her or alone to visit some second choice areas. You can explore the areas around your potential apartments to get a feel of the local community. Also, take a look at Google Maps and Street View. It might not be immediately obvious what is close to you and potentially disruptive or disturbing if you were living there – like a school or a late night bar.

Communicate

I cannot stress enough the importance of communication – both ways – with your consultant. You need to be sure that they understand your ideas so they can give you relevant advice. If you feel really strongly against a place they have shown you, tell them and explain why. It will save time in the long run as you will avoid seeing more of the same. If you are very new to a city, get advice from your consultant about the areas they recommend in light of your budget and priorities. Also ask them if your priorities are realistic. I realise that time is often a luxury when relocating, but there is a lot you can do virtually to help aid your decision and maximise the time you do have with your consultant.

You are the boss

Remember they are working for you; be confident but open to advice. If you are really not happy with the service your designated consultant is offering you, ask if you can have another one. I know no one wants to offend anyone, but once they are off the scene you can then be stuck in a situation that is wrong for you in the long term.

Give feedback at the end

You will probably breathe a huge sigh of relief once the final box is unpacked in your new home, but it is very worthwhile to share your experience with the relocation company. I am a big believer in giving feedback – both good and bad. Once you have found your home and registered and your contract is over with the relocation consultant, make sure you give feedback about the service you received. If things worked well, tell them, and if others didn’t, say this too. If there were things where you could have used help or more assistance, tell them this too. All of this will help the next people.


If you enjoyed this chapter you can buy the book either in paperback or for the Kindle here.

Materials for making a Danish advent display

Around this time of year a number of things start appearing in supermarkets than can raise a question mark if it is your first Christmas here. First up are bags of damp looking forest moss (skovmos) and small tubs of similar. Then there is oasis or floral foam (something that can be useful all year round but not usually very available so stock up now if it is something you like to use) and dekorations ler, which is essentially a thick heavy clay like substance.img_6740img_6685 These are all things you need to create your advent kranse (see below), a display with either a single candle counting down from 1 to 24 from the first of December or an arrangement of four candles, one lit each Sunday of advent until all four are lit. DSC01441The idea is generally to bring the outside in with the forest moss. The oasis obviously keeps it moist and you can also add bits of Christmas tree branches (which can also be bought in bundles) to your display. The ler or clay can be pushed into the base of your display to give a steady base for the candles and other things you don’t want to topple over.  All of these things are pretty cheap especially by Danish standards and mean that you can have a lovely original display to count down the time to Christmas day. (more on Christmas traditions here)DSC01450

When you have more than you need, build a longer table not a higher fence

Last week and the result of the US election affected me a lot more than you might imagine. I watched both Trump and Clinton’s speeches after the election and one sounded like a president and one did not- I’ll leave you to decide where I stand on this. I don’t intend this blog post to be political but the aftermath of the election made me take a stance on many things.img_6687I read on Saturday that Lego had pulled its advertising budget from The Daily Mail and this coincided with me deleting the Daily Mail app from my phone and their feeds from my Twitter account. I used to hate read this newspaper but now I have decided that there is no place in my world for their brand of bigotry, lies and negative editorial policy. I know I am one person but I hope I’m not alone and if Lego are making this stand hopefully others will follow.

With all this talk of walls, and whilst Trump won’t (hopefully) build a physical one, he has built and legitimised the building of many metaphorical walls between people. In his world one side of the wall are winners and the other side losers and I don’t want to live in a world where there are these divides. So for me it is looking at my actions and the actions of others.

This weekend a furore erupted on an expat Facebook group as the moderator said that posts offering illegal services would be removed and the poster reported. It was a move to protect vulnerable people from being scammed. Result he was send messages threatening him and his family. An instagrammer and former blogger I follow posted a picture of herself at an anti Trump rally and she got a lot of support but also a lot of negative and threatening responses.

There are forums that exist online simply to rip people down, there are people who cruise the internet to find people to attack and then move onto the next person with no regard for feelings.

What can we do in this world of negativity to help the majority of positive thoughts and people be heard?

First  we can take on the internet. If you read something you agree with on Twitter, Facebook or some other social media platform, don’t just read it and move on. Say something supportive, like it, share it and pass it forward. Post positive things of your own (I have been posting a photo a day on Instagram that shows something that made me happy that day and sharing three things I was happy or grateful for, maybe you’d like to join me?). Flood social media with positivity even in response to negativity.img_6665In real life, take a moment to say or do something kind or helpful to someone. Give up your seat on the bus, say a kind word to someone you don’t know, take your empty coffee cup back to the counter in a coffee shop as you leave, compliment someone, find a few coins to give to a homeless person, stop and help someone who needs it, share a tip of something you know to someone to make their life easier, thank someone for something they have done, give the parent struggling with a toddler and shopping a hand. Donate your time to help a charity, turn up to event that support a small business. Just take one action a day that makes someone else’s day a little better, the list is endless.

This Christmas head to one of the many creative markets in the city and support makers and creatives by buying something unique as a gift. Or handmake something for your loved ones yourselves, you don’t have to be massively creative to do this (tons of ideas here). I recently sent a close friend a gift I had handmade. She didn’t realise initially that I had made it and when she did said she loved it even more. I know there is the argument that Christmas cards are bad for the environment but in the wider scheme of our carbon footprint they are tiny and the joy that a genuine handwritten message gives to someone cannot be replaced by an e-card. Kids get some much at Christmas so this year I am picking one of my favourite books from my childhood to send to my friend’s children.

It may all sound like tiny things but they add up. Come on, together we can make a difference to our world, I promise.

 

Is winter swimming crazy?

I was walking along the beach on Amager today and although the air temperature was well below freezing I still spotted a winter swimmer. Whilst I gather my thoughts for new posts this month (it been a bit quiet here whilst I’ve had my mum staying), I thought I’d share this post from last year about winter swimming.

Last week I found myself in the well-to-do suburb of Hellerup as I was craving a browse around a book shop for some Christmas gift inspiration. I found myself drawn down one of the side roads leading to the front as the sun was actually shining and glittering off the sea. I was sitting looking out towards Sweden when I realised that I was sitting right by the Vinterbad or winter swimming area. A young woman emerged from the wooden building (which I now know is the sauna) wrapped in a small towel, which she discarded at the end of the jetty and jumped stark naked into the cold sea. She swam around for about thirty seconds, dipped her head under the water and then climbed out of the sea, wrapped herself in the towel and disappeared back inside, looking pretty pleased with herself.

IMG_2594A number of things struck me about this scene (although not the first time I have witnessed winter swimming). One was the complete comfort she had in being naked, she wasn’t super skinny or an exhibitionist, but seemed completely at ease. There was a building site nearby and not one builder even glanced over. Secondly was the total lack of hesitation in jumping into the sea which at a guess was probably well below 5 degrees in temperature. I ease myself into even a heated pool, shocked at the cold. And finally the sheer joy she seemed to have after the swim.

There are 80 official winter swimming clubs in Denmark with 20,000 registered members. Most official clubs, which seem to have saunas in a lot of cases, are full but you can be added to a waiting list.

The oldest club (I think) in Copenhagen is Det Kolde Gys (The Cold Thrill or Shiver) based at Helgoland baths since 1929 and there is a new one at Sluseholmen in the newish harbour baths there with a sauna and a special rotating ice breaker in the main pool. I believe they also have a waiting list. But don’t let waiting lists stop you, there are plenty of jetties all along the coast just waiting for you to dive in to the icy seas. You just won’t have the luxury of a sauna. Last winter I saw a number of winter swimmers at Bellevue coming from their cars in dressing gowns, disrobing, diving in and then returning to their cars to go home.IMG_2595I made me think that perhaps I was missing out on the Viking experience of winter swimming. I love swimming in the sea and the liberating aspect of it but only on a hot day. I have been warned that starting winter swimming is not a whim thing. If you are new to it, it’s best to start at the end of the summer so your body gets used to the gradual change in the seasonal temperature of the water. They say the sea never gets colder than minus 2 degrees otherwise it freezes, although the surface may freeze and need to be broken before you can dive in – you definitely need to be feeling brave. But is it worth it?

There are supposed health benefits to winter swimming even if you only dive in for a few seconds. It invigorates blood circulations, raises your metabolism and flushes out your system of toxins add onto that the amazing natural high that can last for up to four hours afterwards due to the release of endorphins, there is no wonder it is so popular here.

Are you a winter swimmer or is it a step too far into the Viking way of life?

A version of this post appear in The Huffington Post