Sankt Hans Aften – a Danish midsummer tradition

 You may have heard people talking about Sankt Hans Aften (St John’s Eve) or seen posters advertising events for the evening of the 23 June. It is the midsummer celebration in Denmark, which is typically marked by the burning of huge bonfires with a witch atop close to water. Across the beaches and lake areas on this evening there are big public and private gatherings with speeches, picnics and traditional songs which culminate with the burning of the bonfire.
It is a little confusing for some people from outside Denmark as the summer solstice is celebrated in astronomical terms on the 21st June. In Sweden midsummer is celebrated on the Friday or weekend closest to the solstice, and Danes and Norwegians will observe it on the 23rd.

We have been to the event in Frederiksberg Have a number of times and it gets very crowded but is great fun, even if the speeches do seem to go on for ever (and longer if your Danish isn’t great). Not sure how it will pan out if the weather continues to be cold and wet but the Danes are nothing if not resourceful. The legend says if the fire can’t be burnt then there will be less hazelnuts come the autumn.

Find your local celebration and enjoy a real Danish midsummer (hopefully without rain, we need our hazelnuts!)



Danish Summer makes me wish for autumn

I know it sounds weird but the average Danish summer, such as we are having now, makes me wish for autumn and even winter. There is that joke that started going around on social media last year – the Danish summer is the best day of the year!


Danish summer is a confusing beast. Two days ago it was so hot and humid that I was falling asleep in the afternoon and then the next day it was breezy and chilly. I dashed out of the house this morning in cotton trousers (which was fine)  and a coordinated  T shirt, feeling pretty good until I realised that a long sleeve or jacket was really needed. The sun may be shining but it’s still blooming chilly.


Yesterday I found myself saying to my son that we should stand inside the station to keep warm – it’s almost July and this isn’t what I should need to say!

With Autumn and Winter you know where you are and there are no weather surprises. I know the expression is that there is no bad weather just bad clothes but I like to know what section of my wardrobe I need to raid rather than wearing clothes to cover four seasons in a day.

I hope, as we go into the school holidays, that the summer will stop being so schizophrenic and stick with warm and sunny with a light breeze – lets hope the weather goddess is listening!

Tackling plastic waste this summer (and beyond)

As we are enjoying the summer at last here, I notice even more how much plastic waste is accumulating in the bins in the city. Whilst there is a good system of recycling from homes there is none really for public bins and that is where people are putting a lot of plastic waste from smoothie cups and coffee cup lids to straws and ice cream spoons. Bins are overflowing with plastic.Whilst we can put pressure on supermarkets to reduce the amount of plastic they use, there are many steps we can take to reduce the single use plastic we use ourselves. I read last week that Americans throw away 500 million plastic straws a day  and that every piece of plastic ever made is still in existence somewhere on the planet.

I recall working on campaigns to reduce plastic waste over 15 years ago when I worked for the Women’s institute and it astounds me that the same campaigns and advice is still needed now. It is easy to look at the huge issue of plastic waste and feel that we are powerless but unless everyone takes even the tiniest of steps themselves there will never be change.

I am as much of a culprit as many others but I do try and takes steps to reduce our plastic consumption and when I don’t I feel a twinge of guilt. So today I thought I’d share some ways you can reduce your plastic waste this summer and beyond.

First up plastic bags. This is an easy and inexpensive one to tackle – cloth bags. Pop into any Søstrene Green and you can pick up a cloth bag of a few Krone, roll it up and keep it in your bag and you will never need a plastic bag again. For heavier shopping bags from Onya are amazing and they pack up into little pouches so you can again keep them in your bag. You can also find these kinds of bags in many shops in Denmark.  I bought a selection of these bags about 10 years ago and the first one has bitten the dust this summer.  We have a selection of strong cloth bags in our shoe closet so if anyone in the house goes shopping they can simply grab one.

When you are shopping for loose fruit and veg (which isn’t always easy to find this kind of produce without packaging) you can use cloth bags instead of the plastic ones in the supermarket and they can be used time and time again.  There are other places that sell these kind of bags but keep in mind you are reducing plastic waste so try and find cloth ones. You can buy them very cheaply in Løs in Vesterbro (as well as package free foods).Coffee cups and lids are an obvious one and again an easy one to tackle with reusable coffee cups. If a coffee shop refuses to use your cup then find one that does – Riccos certainly oblige. You are spoilt for choice with insulated coffee cups here from expensive ones from places like Imerco to cheap and cheerful ones from Søstrene Green, Tiger and supermarkets. Again be mindful about what the cup is made from as you are trying to reduce plastic waste. Drinking bottles are another thing you can buy and refill with water – you can get metal ones easily. You can also get smoothie cups with lids in some shops for that smoothie on the go (not tried to ask the guys in Joe and the Juice to fill one of these but I can’t see there would be an issue).

As mentioned above one time use plastic straws are a huge issue. An alternative is paper straws which again can be found easily in (you guessed it) Søstrene Green. But an even better alternative is reusable straws such as these Eco StrawsWe all love a bit of ice cream in Denmark but think of all those colourful plastic spoons used every hot day. Easy fix is to keep a little spoon in your bag for such occasions. Nothing fancy just something you can wash and use again. Same goes for cutlery you may use with takeout lunch food.

Finally a real bug bear of mine is the little plastic gloves supermarkets provide at their self-serve bakery shelves. There are also tongs there – use the tongs, people and save on plastic, it’s just as hygienic. And if there are no tongs available vote with your feet and money and go elsewhere (after mentioning it to the manager).

I know you are probably thinking that is a lot to carry around but it isn’t really and it makes all the difference to the city and the world around us.

Some other actions to consider are buying things such as washing detergent, hand soap etc in eco bags and filling your bottles at home. Neutral do Eco Pack which use 75% less plastic than a bottle. Also direct action by complaining to your local supermarket head office about their plastic use. Little steps create big leaps.



Where to have a decent breakfast for a good price

If you watch a Dane eat breakfast it often contains the same elements – bread or a roll (rundstykke) with a slice of cheese and jam (yes together), maybe a boiled egg, coffee and a fruit juice. Sometimes a pastry but this is often reserved for weekends. Many of the city’s cafes and coffee shops have made eating this kind of breakfast even easier by having little set menus you can choose from. In many cases they offer pretty good value and also alleviate the need to make too many decisions before that first or second coffee of the day!

In this post I am going to talk about these quick breakfast plates rather than more brunch type ones you find in places like Mad og Kaffe.

Here is a round-up of some of my favourite spots to have a little breakfast combo but as I say most coffee shops have some kind of breakfast plate available – look for morgen complet, morgenbræt or just morgenmad on the menu.

First is an exciting discovery in the Lagkagehuset at Nørreport, opposite Humac (I’ve not seen this in other locations). This breakfast plate above consists of an egg or omelette with loads of lovely fresh toasted bread, cheese slices, jam, avocado smash and some fancy salt. The coffee and juice are extra. The breakfast is around 50dkk and will certainly give you a good start to the day.

Next is Baresso (locations all over town) with this plate above where everything is included in the price of 69dkk. You can choose two things to go with the roll and butter is not an automatic addition to the plate but your coffee or tea is part of the deal.

Another place I like is Kaffeplantagen on Enghave Plads in Vesterbro. They have a few morgenmad plates to choose from. The one above is the basic one with a roll and two pålæg not including the butter this time. I am delighted that they have little jars of traditional English marmalade and you can get a slice of chocolate as one of your toppings – always a winner for me. I think the coffee is included.

Honourable mentions go to places such as  Original Coffee, Andersens and Riccos, but like I say this breakfast plate idea is super popular at the moment so pop into your local coffee shop and you may certainly get lucky.

Getting rid of unwanted things

Sadly in the modern world we tend to accumulate too many things – whether it is clothes, books, furniture etc – the list goes on. No matter how hard many people try they are still left with things that they no longer have use for. Of course a big step forward is to declutter and stay decluttered – who hasn’t read the Marie Kondo book over recent years, even if you didn’t put it into practice?

But the question is where to get rid of unwanted things?Sell your stuff

If you want to sell your unwanted things there are a number of places to do this in Denmark.

  • Den Blå Avis is the first place to think about selling things and also to get an idea of the going price for your item. It costs to list an item but the reach is pretty good and the investment is worth it for more expensive items. Be prepared for people to haggle you down so be strategic in the amount you list for and the lowest price you are prepared to take.
  • Loppemarked or flea markets are another option if you have a lot of things to sell or you could go in on a stand with a friend. Many of the popular markets get booked up very quickly so you may need to plan ahead. Generally you pay a set amount of money for a stand and you need to get there early with your own table. I’ve made a reasonable amount of money taking a flea market stand every couple of years but I’ve learnt to be aware of light fingers around my stand and also to take a lot less for items than they are genuinely worth.
  • To sell kids stuff such as toys and clothes you can use the website Reshopper or join some Facebook groups such as Copenhagen Parents  
  • The Sell, buy, swap Facebook page is also one worth looking at.

Giveaway your stuff

Quite honestly for small things and clothes giving away can be the best option for the money you will get back is minimal if you sell and donating stuff helps others less fortunate.

  • The most obvious and easiest place to donate clothes is in the Røde Kors clothing banks located all over the city and country. You can often find them in the car park  of a supermarket or outside, outside some schools and various other locations. To find your nearest one you can use their website here. They are running a campaign with TV2 called Smid Tøjet Danmark 2017 and you can find out more about this here – many schools are participating in the programme. You can also donate non clothing items to Røde Kors shops.
  • Other charities run charity shops and look for donations including Danmission and Kirkens Korshaer.
  • Blå Kors also take donations including furniture.
  • Also for furniture you can take it to your local Kommune recycling place or contact the Kommune to arrange for the item to be taken away (although there is a cost to this).
  • Mødrehjælpen shops are also a great place to donate children’s (0-6 years) clothes and toys. Find your local place here.
  • If you want to give to an individual you can list your item on the Facebook group – Free your stuff Copenhagen but be prepared to be messed around by some people who will agree to take your item and then never respond to messages or simply don’t turn up to collect it. There are always more people interested in your item so if people are rude or not responding move to the next person in the queue. People will add kø on a thread and this indicates they are interested and waiting in line. Once you have given away your item, remove it from the listings.
  • For book donation you can post your books on Free Your Books Copenhagen on Facebook.

Food sharing

We waste a huge amount of food in Europe and at a time when we are seeing a rise in Food Banks in places like the UK and also here (this organisation FødevareBanken is a example and they are also looking for volunteers). There is a very active movement in Copenhagen to reduce food waste and to encourage food sharing.

  • The Facebook page, Food Sharing Copenhagen, is a great place to start to find out more about food sharing events in the city and their website explains more about the scheme
  • Kultur Nørrebro, a Kommune initiative, also runs a food share initiative, more information here.

Hope this gives some help to reduce your clutter and help the world a little!

Ready for summer cloud bursts

After a rainy few days we are aware that risk of heavy summer rains is always a present  in Copenhagen. In the time we have lived here we have experienced flooding in our apartment buildings twice. IMG_4976I can’t forget the floods of 2011 when, as you can see from the poor quality photo below, the basement in our apartment building in Frederiksberg was severely flooded when many centimetres of rain fell in just a few hours. The water came up from the drains and sewers and left our basement under about a metre of putrid water. Like many places across the city we were left with a poisonous sludge in our basement and many of our neighbours’ belongings stored in their lock ups were ruined. Once we realised what was happening late in the evening (an example of when being nosey pays off), myself and another neighbour (all the other younger residents where at the Roskilde Festival) pulled out what we could save. The next morning most of the water had subsided and we were left with a big clean up. The sewage that had come up through the drains left a smell that took months to disappear.

flooded basement

There are precautions you can take. If you store your things in basement lock up, invest in plastic storage boxes and shelving to keep the boxes a few feet off the ground.

After 2011 many apartment buildings invested in making sure their basements were as robust against floods as possible. However, the Kommune gives this advice if there is a heavy rainfall that could lead to flooding.

  • Keep doors and windows to the basement closed and put weights onto the top of drains.
  • Remove flood water as soon as you can.

Tips to take care of yourself

  • Do not stay in a basement when the water is rising. It can suddenly go faster than you think.
  • Remember the risk of infection – use rubber boots and rubber gloves if you remove the water yourself or when you clean up the basement after flooding.
  • Avoid touching your face while you work, do not eat or smoke.
  • Take care if you have open wounds.
  • Be aware that rats may come up with the sewer water.

Stay off the street is there is flooding, again it can rise very quickly and also drain covers can be dislodged and can be dangerous. Watching this video from 2011 shows the extent of fast flooding. For more advice check out this information.

Mini street food place in Teglholmen

There is a new street food pop up market in Teglholmen for the summer before the area will inevitably be built on with more new apartments. There is a small beach area outside with deck chairs, picnic tables and the old warehouse behind has a number of food trucks (and it looks like more are coming) and a bar. It has only been open a few weeks and as the Danish summer has gone AWOL, it has been a little quiet over the last week or so but there is definitely potential there for when the sun does shine again.

It is not on the scale of Copenhagen Street Food and probably isn’t a destination for those living beyond Teglholmen and Sluseholmen, however this is an area with a lot of high density apartment blocks but with very little amenities as yet so this place is certainly meeting a need in the area. Why not stop off here after a swim in the harbour baths at Sluseholmen?

To see more about the place and what is coming on their calendar visit their Facebook page here.

What is a murermester villa?

Earlier in the week I mentioned that our new house was a murermester villa. As this was a new kind of architecture to us when we started looking at houses, I thought I’d talk a bit about what this kind of house is and about the history.Typically murermester villas were built between 1915 and 1930 and were the first example of a standard designed house. They were built for middle class families in residential areas in a ring around major cities in Denmark. In Copenhagen they are mostly in Vanløse, Brønshøj, Hvidovre, Lyngby and parts of Amager.

The design was a reaction by architects to the style confusion which had dominated the late 19th century and a group of Danish architects initiated various measures to promote the construction of good yet simple classic family houses.

Typically they were built over three floors with the ground floor arrange into four equal sections – one for the kitchen and pantry (at the back of the house), one for the entryway and stairs and the other two for living rooms one of which would have a bay window or way out to the front garden. The first floor would contain fewer rooms as they would be under the roof and there would be a full basement for storage. They would have been originally built without an inside bathroom or toilet. There would have been an outside toilet.

Gardens, which previously would have been for the wealthy, were an important element, especially one at the front of the house behind a picket fence so passersby could admire both the house and garden.

The original aim of a strong and robust home was one that has been borne out by time. These types of houses are still very popular with middle class families now but due to the small nature of the top floor most now have converted basement with some living space in them. They are difficult to extend outwards and in some cases the exterior of the house is protected from being altered.

Guide to having a baby in Denmark

Having a baby is one of the most exciting and scary things we do in life and that is when we are in our own countries. Having a baby in a new country can be even more daunting as you are navigating a different languages, process and culture. This was one of the reasons I decided to write a ebook guide to having a baby in Denmark (and it covers the first year too).

For many expat parents to be in Denmark this may be your first baby and you need a lot of help, advice and support in the journey through pregnancy and into that first year. Equally you may have other children but had them in your home country or somewhere else completely.
Almost eight years ago I had my son Frederiksberg Hospital. He was one of the last babies born there before they closed the maternity unit. As he was my first child I had no idea about anything really, not having been a particularly  maternal young woman and being one of the last of my friends to have a baby. I muddled through in some parts of my pregnancy and in others I was led by the medical team around me and the rest of advice from books, the internet and friends and family. I enjoyed my pregnancy and despite a difficult birth, my experience in the hospital here was also excellent. I found the first year a little tough but then who doesn’t?

Things have moved on a lot from those days all those years ago, both in the consumer landscape of Denmark to the services that are offered to pregnant women and young families. In some ways this makes things a lot easier but in others there is more information to find and to know where to look.

In preparation for this guide I thought about all the things I learned when I was pregnant and a new mum but I also had a great focus group of expat mums and mums to be who really helped me out, both endorsing the information I was including but also sharing with me the things they had found tough or information they had wished they’d had. So a big thank you to those women.

If you are expecting a child here in Denmark or have just had a baby then this guide will be an enormous help to you, I wish I’d had something similar myself all those years ago. If you would like to get hold of the guide you can visit my secure shop here.


9 things I love about living in a house

Almost 10 years ago we sold all our garden tools and said good bye to living in a house as we prepared to move to a new life of apartment living in Copenhagen. As I have written before, this suited us for many years until a year ago when we decided that it was time for a change and a move to a house.

If I am honest I found the first few weeks living in our new house something of an adjustment – it was a lot quieter than I was used to and I was constantly finding I was at the opposite end of the house to the thing I needed so spent a lot of time going up and down stairs, which was great for my step count on my Fitbit. But within a month I was settled and starting to love living here, so I thought I’d share the reasons why in case you are also thinking of making the transition.

1 The quiet

One of the biggest reasons why we wanted to move was the lack of control we had about the noise around us. With a neighbours who enjoyed a ‘social life’ at 4am at the weekend on far too frequent a basis and when they weren’t doing this they were stamping around. As the weekends rolled around, a time when we wanted to relax and sleep, I would start to feel tense and nervous about whether this weekend would be our neighbour’s turn to host the ‘social life’.  The flipside of this was the noise we made. I don’t think our family noise was in anyway extreme but it is nice to think we can be noisy if we wish now. Living in our own house, the noise we hear is our own. It is also lovely not to hear traffic noise but beautiful bird song instead.

2 A garden

We are lucky enough to have gained a mature garden which the previous owners had spent time thinking about and planting in. They have chosen shrubs that are pretty self sufficient and yet beautiful. They have also staggered the times of the season when the shrubs bloom so we have had wonderful colour in stages and there is still more to come. We are delighted that their choices are also some of our favourites including hydrangea, red maple, peonies and lilac. Oh, and a whole bed of strawberry plants! This we are are just seeing what is coming out before we decided what to add next year. It is wonderful to have a garden that people turn to look in admiringly as they walk past.

Plus it is wonderful to have your own space outside to enjoy the summer weather and also the snow in the winter.

3 A laundry room

Living in an apartment, if you are lucky enough to have your own washing machine, means that you hear the washing machine all the time if it is located in your kitchen. If you don’t have your own and share the communal one, you are dictated by when the machine is available to use. Living in a house we are now lucky enough to have our machines in the basement on a solid tiled floor so the noise is very minimal. Plus I can hang my washing outside on a warm day.

4 A basement

Whilst the actual floor space of our house is not that much bigger than the largest apartment we have lived in over the last nine years, it is spread over three floors. This means we are really lucky to have a large basement room perfect to use as a play room cum office space plus a storage room for all our junk. No more traipsing up to the cold attic to find things stored there.

5 A feature wall

Now this is specific to our place but I have coveted an exposed brick wall for years and years. In our previous apartment this wasn’t possible but here we have one, which I adore. Even if we hadn’t it would have been a hundred times more possible to make our own.

6 History and variety 

Although our house was built in the 1930’s and not the 1890’s ( as our previous ones were), it still comes with a lot of history. It is a muremester house and as such the exterior is protected. It is fascinating to look at all the houses in our street and not see one that looks the same, even the other muremester ones. I shall write some more about this style of house soon.

7 Community

I thought that one of the things I liked about living in an apartment was a sense of community but in our last place this seemed to be lacking. In the first few months of living in our new street we have found neighbours coming up to introduce themselves when we have been outside in the front garden (thankfully, for me, the Danish way of not calling on your neighbours is the same here as in an apartment), when they have been passing walking dogs or as we walked past people’s gardens. We in turn have also introduced ourselves and everyone has been friendly. Our opposite neighbour was collecting for Doctors without Borders at the weekend and took the opportunity to introduce herself.

8 Encouragement for healthy living

I no longer walk past tempting bakeries on my way home from dropping off my son at school and added to the extra walking which is now part of my day, I have been feeling and looking a lot healthier. We live close to a place where I can pop and sauna in the evening and the beach is just a short walk away.

9 Easy transport access

Although we are living on the very edge of Copenhagen and Tårnby, it is surprisingly easy to get into the city from here. In less than 15 minutes I can be at Kongens Nytorv and the journey to my son’s school takes half the time it used to and is one easy bus journey and a healthy walk. This gives me and us a lot more time to spend doing what we love, such as sleeping later in the morning and having more family time in the afternoons.

Two years ago I wouldn’t have thought this would have been for me but I wouldn’t change it at all now. With Copenhagen being such as small city, if you are thinking of buying your own place here then don’t discount exploring the option of a house instead of an apartment.