Back to ‘school’

So here is the post I planned for last week. The summer holidays are over and this year the Danish ‘summer’ has been something of a very confused season. Some days have felt almost autumnal and there have been a handful of proper summer days. In fact the DMI said that July was the the first one for decades with no real summer days (defined as a day with temperatures over 25 degrees c). August is shaping up to be more of the same. What’s the betting we get a hot September and October? I read somewhere that instead of moaning about the weather we should be looking at why it is like it is these days and thinking about what we can do about it. DMI have said that this summer’s weather has been the hardest to predict for a long time. But we should be thankful for longer hours of daylight and more exposure to the precious Vitamin D the sun gives our bodies before we head into the darker winter days.With a sense of optimism the end of the school holidays always has the clean sheet vibe to it. New stationary, new bag, new experiences and a sense of excitement are what I recall from my youth of going back to school. I usually feel a little of this even as a adult and also living through it with my son now he is settled at school. But this year I have found myself sluggish and less motivated to get back to things. We had a very relaxed summer, which was just what we needed, but the change of gear is taking some time. I need a metaphorical kick up the backside.

I had pages of notes for the blog and some other projects (I am still a bit old school with paper and pen at times) and these were also taken with my laptop so I need to do all that thinking again and that is adding to the bottleneck in energy flow.

I have also let negativity get the better of me recently – my nerve pain is increasing and yet more tests are on the horizon. Sadly I have found myself fixated with worse case scenarios rather than best case ones. (In case you missed it I wrote this about my experience with medicinal cannabis.)

World events also feel like that are pushing down on us all, no matter where we live in the world, the Internet makes sure we are constantly aware. I have shut off all my news alerts so I have to actively read and watch the news but like a car crash it seems hard to look away and I want to be informed but with this comes a burden of anger and frustration.

So here I am getting some words down and giving myself the first kick up the backside. Sorry this is a bit more real world and less fluffy unicorns but hopefully there will be a little more unicorn sparkle on the horizon.

Now off to plan (again).

Dealing with theft

I had planned a little inspirational back-after-the-holidays post but yesterday I had my laptop stolen literally from right under me and I thought I’d talk about that instead.

If you are on any of the expat Facebook forums here you will regularly read about people who have had wallets taken from their bags in busy Metro stations and bank accounts cleared out before they have a chance to notice the missing wallet, and phones and laptops lifted in seconds. These people have worked hard for what they have and to have it casually taken is truly horrible.

So my story. I was eating lunch in Lele Street Kitchen on Vesterbrogade. I had tucked my rucksack with my laptop in under the table and was sitting eating my noodles and reading a book. I never once left my table. A small squat man in a loud checked shirt walked in and passed me to the toilet and then presumably left as he wasn’t eating in the place. I finished my lunch a few minutes later and reached down to pick up my bag. I noticed it was a few feet behind me and I thought ‘how did it get there?’ and in the next split second my stomach fell as I realised what had probably happened. Sure enough the bag was light and missing my Macbook. He had taken it to the toilet and taken what he wanted, zipped it up and put it back, looking exactly as before but in a slightly different place. All in the matter of minutes. As one guy said, these people are professionals.

Shouting and swearing started and the other diners gasped and looked shocked (at the theft not my swearing). I called the police to get a crime number and report the theft. Without CCTV there was little they could do and to be fair my excellent  description of the man wasn’t really a lot to go on. The police call centre bloke was very helpful and seemed relieved that I had a CPR number to the process for him was simpler. Humac helped me lock the laptop, which was passworded anyway, to render it pretty useless in the short term for the thief and my insurance will hopefully pay out. No one is dead but the thought that he looked at me, a real life human being, and casually robbed me is what gets me. But as my mum said, these people don’t have any rspect for anyone, even themselves.

So in the spirit of learning and sharing, here are my tips on avoiding and dealing with theft.

Number One – Keep your wits about you

I was reading a book, other people are studying, dealing with kids and push chairs, looking at Twitter on smartphones,  just normal day to day life which distracts us but this is when we are the most vulnerable. I always carry my phone and wallet in a little bag on my front and can see it at all times but larger items such as tablets and laptops will be in bags. Keep your eyes on your bags, on public transport have them on your lap or wrap the strap around your foot. The latter also in a restaurant or coffee shop. And never leave it unattended.

Number Two – Tiny acts of security 

I joked last night that I shall carry a bear trap around in my bag from now on or at least a mouse trap! But in seriousness, although it may not always help, a little padlock on the zips of your bag will deter would-be pickpockets who are looking for a fast theft. In my instance it may of caused him to abandon my bag in the toilet as it would have taken crucial seconds to bust the zip during which time I may have noticed it missing. Of course this is only a tiny and probably pointless thing to do in many cases but it may make them miss you off their spree.

Number Three – Tech security

Set up your computer or tablet with passwords which need to be entered at all times to open it. Seems obvious but not everyone does this. Also you can set up Find my Mac on the iCloud if you are a Mac user. I don’t know if PCs have the same but I guess it must. Store everything in the Cloud so you can restore your data etc. Also in iCloud you can lock the stolen device remotely and even have the chance to leave a little message to the thief. I went to the Humac shop where they helped me with this but you can log onto the Cloud on any device. I am sure there are loads more security things you can do, so make sure you investigate them.

Number Four – Calling the police

For this kind of theft you need to call 114 (unless you are sitting on the thief in which case 112 is probably more appropriate !) and select 1 on the menu choices (which are in Danish). Within 24 hours of reporting the crime you should get a crime report letter in your Eboks, which you need for insurance purposed. I found them very helpful but I was in no doubt that it was one of hundreds of calls they get in the month, that they are well aware of the kinds of gangs operating in the city but there is little chance of getting the stolen item back.

Number Five – Insurance

Today before anything gets stolen from you please ring your insurance company or check your papers to make sure that you are covered for theft outside your home. Even if you are not a freelancer who prances about town with a laptop, many of us have an expensive phone or tablet in our bags. Tryg, who are my insurers, will cover me for theft outside the home but I have to pay a deductible (or excess), which in the wider scheme of the laptop cost is OK but check this also. My insurer asked for a copy of my receipt for the laptop and the police crime report. They did mention a serial number but didn’t ask for it in the end. So make sure you know where receipts for expensive items are and also make a note of the serial numbers (if you are the kind of person who doesn’t keep boxes, which I do).

Number Six – Stay positive but a word in the ear of thieves 

Whilst there is an increasing number of thefts in the city, they are done by a minority of, albeit very prolific and professional, criminal gangs and not everyone is out to rob you. Everyone yesterday from the girl working in Lele’s, the other customers, the police, Humac, people who I don’t even know in the expat Facebook group were super kind and helpful. Taking care of ourselves, our things and those around us is the way to beat these people.

And to any thieves out there (who are no doubt regular readers of this blog :-)) Denmark is a country built on trust – of each other and those in charge – don’t wreck that, we value it and it needs to stand strong. And if I ever see that bloke again, whose appearance is burnt onto my retinas, let me just say in the words of William Shakespeare – though she be but little, she is fierce.

 

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!

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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.

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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!

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!

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.

 

Don’t panic – the siren on 3rd May

May 3rd DEMA (Danish Emergency Management Agency) will go through the annual sounding the sirens all over Denmark. This will take place at noon and sounds like an air raid siren. There is no need to worry or do anything. On this date the first year we lived here I was walking home after a morning at Danish language school and I was a bit panicked. Looking around no one else was so in a rather sheeplike manner I didn’t panic either!

If you’d like to read more about it and also what to do if it sounds at any other time, this link will help.

 

Putting in what you would like to get out

There is something about human nature where we like to mirror other people’s behaviours. Think about if you are talking to someone about something sad, exciting or happy – we mirror the tone and facial expressions of the person speaking. This is something you notice yourself doing if you don’t speak the same language as someone, you can gauge how they feel by their smiles or frowns and match them. 

I am a big believer that in life you get what you put out and that is something that is really essential in expat life. I notice that people who have a negative view of life in their new country seem to attract negative experiences. Is this because they are looking for them and miss the positive or is it that their attitude means they attract negative experiences without actively trying?

I recall when I first moved to Berlin that I would be smiley and polite to people I met in shops and in the street and also other expats. I would be open to asking questions and listening but in time (and quite a short time) I realised that in many cases this was not being mirrored back to me. My smiles would be met with suspicion and negatively or sometimes simply ignored. My requests for information from other expats already living in the city – simple things such as good places to go swimming – would be met vague answers. It was very much for this reason that I started to write my own blog about places to go as I was sure (and I was right) that there were people like me also finding life difficult. I’d like to say that I remained smiley and positive but that wasn’t the case and I wonder that if I had whether I would’ve had a better experience. I certainly saw negatives over the positives.

Moving back to Copenhagen it was nice to be back somewhere where my smiles were returned, where people were willing to help when asked and the positives outweighed the negatives. I have been around town with other expats who moan about Danes being rude and show surprise when I get smiles in places where they usually don’t. I understand that it can be soul destroying to feel that your new life is tough but starting with a positive attitude to the people around you is a big step towards a positive experience.

I notice on the expat forums that when people ask simple questions such as where to buy something for example, some people feel it is necessary to immediately criticise the food selection in Denmark.

Someone asks for a doctor recommendation and there are a number of posts about how all Danish doctors are rubbish (based on that one person’s experience). This is not a way to feel comfortable in a new place nor to make others feel welcome.

I have recently offered a few things for free on a free cycle Facebook group and a number of people have said they would like things to then simply not bother to reply to messages about collecting them. Common courtesy says you reply to these especially when you have reached out in the first place. If some expats are behaving in this way there is no wonder they find others less than friendly to them.

I was listening to a podcast recently about teaching kids good social media etiquette and it also goes what I am talking about here.

Ask yourself:

  • Does this need to be said now?
  • Does it need to be you that says it?
  • Is it honest or true?
  • Is it helpful?
  • Is it kind?
  • If it is yes to all the above then say or do it, if not don’t.

So as we say to our son good things come to people who do good things. Smiles elicit smiles, help begets help, politeness brings it back to you. And the same goes for the opposite.

My Guide to a Successful Relocation is now available directly from me!

I have been selling my book via Amazon since I published it last year but I have decided to also offer it via my website too. I have a secure shop on the site and it is possible to buy the paperback version slightly cheaper directly from me, especially if you are based in Denmark or mainland Europe. It is a really useful book if you are planning on moving to another country (not just Denmark) or you are in the early stages of relocation. Thank you!

Family Fun over Easter

For those of you still in town and looking for some family fun here are a few suggestions.

Experimentarium in Hellerup will have the roof terrace open over Easter and there are tons of easter related activities happening here over the holiday week. For more information (in Danish).

The Frilands Museum has a special opening for Easter from Thursday to Monday. If it is a sunny day this a great place to enjoy some fresh air. They have a number of activities available over the weekend too. For more information (in Danish).

Rosenborg Castle has Easter activities for children where they will learn how to be part of the Royal Court of Frederik IV. For more information (In Danish)

For arty children the Glyptotek has Easter activities inspired by the works in the galleries. For more information (in Danish)

SMK has its kids’ workshop area open over the holidays and there are also tours especially for children. 

At the National Museum children can make the traditional Danish gækkebreve. For more information here

Carlsberg Visitors Centre will be running easter egg treasure hunts. For more information here

Of course Tivoli is open now and the Spring displays are always worth seeing.

For more inspiration Børn i Byen website has compiled twenty five family activities over the holiday week. See the list here.

 

 

 

 

Learn a new skill this Spring – Brush Lettering for beginners

I had the ambitious idea of organising two brush lettering for beginners workshops on the 8th and 9th of April. This is the first weekend of the Easter holidays and the perfect opportunity for some adult time before the holiday begins.

Lucy Blair is an experienced calligrapher based in the UK and she will be coming over to teach two identical workshops over the weekend where participants will learn brush lettering for beginners. You can see her work on her instagram account @littleoldgoose

The class will cover the following: an introduction to brush lettering including beginner skills of up and down strokes. Participants will learn to create a words, layout, how to develop their own style and decorations and embellishments.
You will also receive a pack to take home including an instruction sheet, a small sketch pad and a Pentel Aquash brush pen.

The class will be taught over three hours and costs 640dkk. The cost covers teaching time, equipment you will use during the class and the take home pack, light refreshments and plenty of hygge!

This is a unique chance to learn this skill here in the city from an English speaking teacher. You will go away able to create beautiful brush calligraphy and have the skills to start to develop your own style.

The class will be taught in English, is open to adults and no experience is necessary. This is something I know a lot of people are interested in so take the chance now and book your tickets via the links below and I look forward to seeing you there!

Tickets for April 8th

Tickets for April 9th