How to fly the Dannebrog

You don’t have to live in Denmark for long to notice how much the Danes love their flag, the Dannebrog. It is used for almost all celebrations and you can get hold of a variety of little flags for parties, napkins, bunting, etc,  and wooden flags on stands for the table at a special dinner or meal. In restaurants if you tell the waiting staff you are celebrating a birthday they will often bring a little flag for the table. I think we are fairly lucky here in Denmark that the flag hasn’t been appropriated in a negative way.Since we moved to a house with a flag pole out the front, like most of our neighbours, we decided to look into the rules about flag flying especially after I read this article .

I also recall a funny chapter in Helen Russell’s book, The Year of Living Danishly,  about how she fell foul of the local flag ‘police’. So what are the rules about flying the Dannebrog?

There is an organisation called Danmarks Samfundet who are in charge of the flag rules here so here goes!

  • The flag must be of the correct proportion and this is related to the height of your flag pole.
  • You must face the flag when it is being raised and it must never touch the ground.
  • It must be lowered before sunset unless you have a light to illuminate it. If you fly the flag after sunset it is known as flying the flag for the devil (at flage for Fanden). If you have a flagstaff and you want to fly the Danish flag but you can’t be doing with raising and lowering it everyday you can use a Danish streamer (see picture below) and this must be half the height of your flag pole in length.
  • No other flag must be flown from the same flagstaff at the same time.
  • Other Scandinavian flags, the UN flag and the EU flag are also permitted to be flown in Denmark, but require special permission from the local police.
  • If Dannebrog is to be flown alongside nearby flags, it must be raised first, and from the left side. Following that, the other flags are raised in alphabetical order (so the Norwegian flag would be raised before the Swedish one, for instance).
  • When the flag is worn out and needs to be disposed of, it must be burned.
  • The flag must be raised and lowered slowly.

Want to know more? Danmarks Samfundet have produced some helpful guides in English here and here.

NB This post contains an affiliate link.

Refuse services in Copenhagen

So this may not be the most exciting title but believe me this information is gold, especially if you are new to the city or have moved from an apartment to a house, like we did.

How does it work?

First of all how does the refuse and recycling system work here and what can you put where? The kommune has produced this useful set of signs, which should technically be put on the bins, but these are so useful to have a quick guide to recycling. Here is the link to the one  in Danish and the one in English.

Where are my bins?

So now you have an idea of what you can put in what bins but the next question is where are these bins located. Copenhagen Kommune has a nifty site called Easy Refuse ( You enter your address and in the summary page (overblik) you can see all the different bins associated with your address and their locations.

When will they be emptied?

You can also see how frequently they are emptied. In the calendar area you can find the schedule of collections to either print out or download to your own electronic diary. This is a godsend if you live in a house where you have the responsibility to put out your own bins. In our first week in our new house we forgot to put out our household bin until we heard the bin trucks at 6am.

In you live in a house (villa) you can see the bins you are obliged to have and the ones you can order if you need them, such as green waste, cardboard (strange this one is a request bin and not obligatory) and a compost bin.

But what about bigger items you need to take to the tip?

There is a web page dedicated to this ( where you can see the ones closest to you and their opening hours. There are guides to how the tips work and what can be taken there. There are also swap centres where you can take decent things you want to get rid of and also go and see what there is you might need. This website helps a lot with more detailed information about using the tips.

You can apply to have access to the tips 24 hours a day using your phone  – you can apply here.

This information is also on the Dejlige Days Welcome website along with a ton of other free resources and guides about life in Denmark and Copenhagen. Did you know you can also buy my book – My Guide to a Successful Relocation – directly from me on that website to. In many cases it will be cheaper this way than via Amazon.

Light pollution in Copenhagen

Just before Christmas I was heading back into the city from Ørestad and I noticed just how dark it was over the city. Of course street lights were on but that orange glow you come to expect over cities wasn’t there. I also noticed that whilst my street was well lit enough for me to feel safe, it was not excessively lit.On an index I found online comparable light pollution in Copenhagen is half that of London.

If you have lived in the city for more than a couple of years you may have spotted that the council has been gradually replacing the old 1970s street lights with new modern LED lamps. It was something of an end of an era and the old lamps were snapped up at auction to retain the nostagia.img_1875

But now we are in a brave new world of street lighting. But what does this mean? Firstly the lack of light pollution means that our bodies can naturally keep to our physiological rhythms and helps us rest when we need to, which of course leads to less stress.

It also means we can see the stars and the sky better at night, indeed just the other morning my son and his friend were gazing up at the sky as dawn was coming, pointing out stars. This was outside their school in Sydhavn, not in a field in the middle of nowhere.

I am curious if readers from other major cities have noticed the difference here and what your thoughts are. Do you think the streets are too dimly lit?

If you are interested in the issue of light pollution, this is an Interesting article.

Koldskål – the taste of Danish summer

The weather here in Copenhagen was glorious last week and like all good Danes when the sun shines, I hotfooted it to the supermarket to get some koldskål, kammerjunkere and strawberries. Koldskål literally translated means cold bowl and it is a typical summer dessert (or snack or breakfast – there are no rules as far as I can tell on its consumption) of cold buttermilk soup with other ingredients such as egg, vanilla and lemon. It has slightly tart taste which is counteracted by the addition of little crispy biscuits, kammerjunkere, made specifically for koldskål and fresh sweet strawberries. CIMG6495 It is possible to make your own koldskål but it is widely available in cartons in all supermarkets through the summer months but when the weather is hot is sells very quickly.blossom breakfast 2

Svanholm – the biggest intentional community in Denmark

On Saturday I had a chance encounter with some members of Svanholm intentional community at the small farmers market in Østerbro. They were displaying an array of ‘ugly’ vegetables grown on their farm and giving away bowls of the most amazing soup made from the uglies. They weren’t really advertising where they were from too much but as we got into conversation about ugly vegetables, food waste and Hugh Fearnely Whittingstall, I asked more about their farm. The girl put the web address into my phone and I promised to look at it later. I thought it was a simply a local organic farm, which, of course, was of interest to me.IMG_2539Yesterday I was thinking again about food waste having watched the latest episode of War on Waste last night and reading tweets from friends on the issue so I took a moment to follow the link in my phone.

I was delighted to discover Svanholm is much more than a farm. As I mentioned above it is what they refer to as an intentional community or what would be more widely understood as a commune. Svanholm, located around 60km from Copenhagen in Skibby, is a group of people living together with the common goals of communal living, ecology, income sharing (80% of all income goes into the community), self-government and active decision-making which is consensus driven.

The community was founded in 1978 out of dissatisfaction with existing society and the desire to create something better and sustainable. It is Denmark’s largest and arguably most successful intentional community, with around 100 residents. Some parallels can be drawn with Christiania, another state within a state, but Svanholm wanted to start off legitimately so rather than squatting and having the fights associated with that kind of ownership, so they bought their 988 acres of property. This brings responsibility for the whole community as they share the burden of debt. Every member must be of value to the community in some way.

Whilst I don’t think I could live like this myself, I am a great believer in the value of intentional communities like this. They do not come without their own set of issues and problems but the idea of being separate from a lot of the wider issues of life and having a real control over things that impact you personally is very appealing. On their website they are very honest and say that their societal model is not utopia but they work hard to create the kind of place they are. I particularly liked this statement. “…people who, for some reason, don’t really fit-in “out-there in the big world”, but find a place at Svanholm where their oddities are not that odd and where there’s a need for them because there’s always a need for an extra pair of hands.”  This is a sentiment I believe in.

If you are interested in visiting Svanholm, they operate tours in the summer months and there are a few market days through the year. They will be holding a Christmas market on the 6th of December and there is a chance to take a tour of the community then.

Useful links

Svanholm (English)

Svanholm Story: Throw greed away and find happiness.


Celebrating Easter

It wasn’t until I moved to Denmark and then Germany that Easter really meant more than chocolate and being made to eat fish on Good Friday. In Denmark we get an extra day free from work on Thursday before Good Friday and the Danes take the extra long weekend as a chance to enjoy family and friends, often at summer houses if the weather is good (and even if it isn’t). Easter comes at the end of a long winter and is very welcome as the days get longer and brighter.DSC00550It has become tradition for us to decorate for Easter with an ever-growing collection of decorations. I usually make an Easter wreath for the front door and a few other little bits and bobs.DSC00547This year I decoupaged feathers and pressed flowers to some blown eggs from Pandura Hobby. The feathers were a success but the dried flowers less.easter egg makesWe also have a number of special decorations particularly ones handmade by my son, beautiful ones from Royal Copenhagen and Georg Jensen, gifts from friends and ones from individual artists but the whole effect is one of joy of Spring and rebirth. To me that is why I celebrate Easter (oh and of course there is chocolate and cakes!)DSC00542

How the Nihola motor changed my life

I have raved before about our Nihola cargo bike. It made our lives so much easier when we bought it 18 months ago. In the summer we moved to Østerbro but my son was still going to school in Valby. Suddenly my working hours got considerably shorter and a little more harried as it took me almost three hours each day to make the journeys there and back. We varied between cycling to Nordhavn and then training to Valby or cycling all the way there, which was tiring especially with the hill at the end.

We had been talking about getting a motor fitted on the bike but at almost the same price again as the bike we wanted to be sure. I test rode one of the shop’s bikes with it on and I was immediately hooked. I dropped the bike off and three days later my life changed. To say I am evangelical about the motor is an understatement. Suddenly my journey time has been cut by a third, my legs aren’t screaming as I now whizz up the hill and my son loves it. He does startle other cyclists by shouting ‘full steam ahead!’ and I am much more aware of some of the more irritating habits of fellow cyclists but it us probably one of the best investments we have made for making our daily life more workable.

I’ve had a few questions from readers so here goes. The motor is a permanent fixture on the bike and the battery pack slides out from a lockable slot and is charged exactly like a laptop. It lasts for approx. 25km depending on the terrain. There are three settings on the bike with increasing degrees of speed and help. And yes you do still need to pedal!

Photo credit

The scourge of pantry moths

Am I the only person who hadn’t heard of pantry moths? Earlier this summer when we first moved into our new place I noticed little moths flying out of our dry food drawer. In my ignorance I thought nothing of them. Anyone who knows me well will know I hate bugs and their ilk. So you can imagine my horror when reading The Wednesday Chef’s instagram feed I discovered these moths were a little more sinister than I first thought.CIMG7395

She talked about having an infestation of pantry moths and having to throw out all her dry goods including flour and rice. With trepidation I ventured into the drawer to discover a colony of them in an open pack of straws. I chucked these and any other older foods stuffs. Next I went on the internet and found out a lot more. Lots of opened packs of flour went and I doubled bagged the rest up, thinking the fight was over.

Sadly I was very wrong! I spotted some more fluttering out of the drawer a few days later and on further investigation found little caterpillars inside the sealed bags. I spotted three heads poking out but reading that one female can lay 300 eggs, I fear that was the tip of a more horrific iceberg.  More bin bags filled with more wasted food, the drawers hoovered out and disinfected. We then hot footed it to Ikea and bought some lovely Kilner jars for the uncontaminated food, followed by a trip to Matas for an eco friendly trap to put in the drawer to monitor any further attacks.

It seems these little buggers are more prevalent in the US and one friend told me she had eggs on her ceiling so I think we got off lightly. I have no idea of our source, perhaps eggs (which are tiny) were left from the previous owners or perhaps they arrived in a bag of rice from a local shop, who knows but I am now an expert on the elimination of pantry moths!

Link 1

School Uniform

One of the first things you will notice about school children in Denmark is that they don’t wear school uniforms. Having grown up in the UK where all children wear uniform this was a bit odd for me at first, but as time went on I started to like it more. I saw that the arguments for school uniform seemed irrelevant here.

school uniform

You hear in the UK that school uniforms are important to give a sense of belonging, to make sure that everyone looks the same and that children aren’t bullied for not having the most up to date fashions, they are cheaper than normal clothes and that if children misbehave outside of school their school will hear about it.

Even when I was at school, looking back, none of this really worked. You felt a sense of belonging to your school if your school made you feel that way, of the three schools I attended I only felt a sense of loyalty and belonging to one yet I wore school uniform to them all. Yes, we are all in the same colours and the same outfits but not all uniforms are created equal and it is still possible to see who’s family have less income than others; they are not always cheaper than other clothes, especially if the school expect you to go to a specific shop to buy the clothes and finally if kids are going to misbehave outside of school a colourful tie isn’t going to stop that!

I read the argument for no school uniforms here on one of the school websites and it made a lot of sense to me. It said “we don’t have school uniforms as we want to encourage children to choose appropriate dress for appropriate occasions, which is a valuable learning skill for later life.”

Looking at school children here you see a variety of clothing choices but in the main they are all totally appropriate. Most seem to come from H&M, what I jokingly call the school outfitters. Denmark is quite a level society so I doubt many kids turn up in very obviously designer clothes, they certainly don’t at my son’s school.

And when it comes to behaviour, society’s norms and unwritten rules have more to do with that here. It is normal to see big groups of school children from the age of four to sixteen using the public buses to travel to outside activities with their teachers. In the UK you would groan and probably try and get off the bus at the next stop if twenty teenagers piled on. But kids have been doing this for years, they may be noisy, smelly and full of hormones (they are teenagers after all) but they give up seats for old people, help people off the bus and move along to make space (sometimes with a little nudge from their teachers). Recently I was on a busy bus route when a group like this got on the bus and I witnessed a lovely moment between an old lady and one of the teenage boys. He treated her with respect and kindness and she treated him like a grandson.

Not one of these kids was in school uniform, some dressed like hippies, some like goths but most like teenagers more intent on living life than tying their tie.

I recently got hold of some things from my childhood and showed my son my old school ties. I put one on and he screwed up his nose and said why did they make you dress like a man? I was at  loss to explain why girls wearing ties was important.

So although my son won’t have that rite of passage of wearing his first school uniform like I did (above on my first day at a new school age 11), I am not that bothered as school is about more than a blazer and tie. Its about knowledge, fun, friendship and learning skills for later life.

For the love of porridge

Porridge is a big deal in Denmark – when you have a baby you are recommended to start weaning them with baby porridge and for adults there is a vast selection of porridge oats available in supermarkets – the oldest and most popular brand being Solgryn with its eye-catching red and yellow box which has hardly changed in design over the years. Porridge here is the real thing, no Ready Brek glow for the Danes!


There is even a cafe, Grød, (with an outlet in Torvehallerne) devoted to porridge of all kinds from traditional oats to millet and spelt. A friend of mine said the porridge she had at Grød was the best she had ever tasted outside Scotland – a compliment indeed.

But what is it about porridge and Denmark (and indeed Scotland)? It can probably be traced back to Viking times. Vikings were big consumers of grains and also dairy products and of their two meals a day at least one was porridge. Before Industrialisation in the 1860s, porridge was still a very popular dish in Denmark and continued after that time.

Solgryn was first produced in 1898 and over the years has been advertised by a number of high profile Danish sports people, most recently Micheal Laudrup (I confess I had to Google him but then I know nothing about sport).

You can easily get your hands of porridge on the go here, MacDonalds offer it on their breakfast menu (which I have noticed are often very influenced by local tastes), you can get little pots from Grød at the 7Eleven which you just add water to.

As we move into the winter months, my magic porridge pot will certainly be getting some use. How about you, are you a true Viking porridge lover?