Come and see me on 29th August

I am delighted to be giving a short presentation about the A to Z of Danish Bureaucracy (based on my ebook so if you can’t make the events you can buy the ebook) at a New to Denmark Presentation in Frederiksberg. The event is hosted by Welcome Group Consulting and below is more information from their website about the event. I hope to see some of you there!

Our “New To Denmark Presentation – A Newcomers Guide” will be hosted by Welcome Group Consulting in partnership with Café Cadeau.

The presentation is in English, and will be held on Wednesday 15th August and a second, repeat presentation held on Wednesday 29th August from 16.30 to 18.00 at Cafe Cadeau, Frederiksberg, H. C. Ørsteds Vej 28, 1879 Frederiksberg C, (close to Forum metro station and Vesterport S-tog station).

Moving abroad is always a serious decision to make. It is exciting, life-changing, inspiring, but also difficult and stressful.

It is always the first year after arrival that is the hardest. You have nobody to turn to with your issues and questions and face countless problems due to not speaking the language, from trivialities like paying a bill to complicated situations like misunderstanding – or simply not understanding a rule.

 

Our ‘New To Denmark Presentation – A Newcomers Guide’ will cover everything you need to know, to get you off to a great start and will cover:

  • Welcome to Denmark and Introduction to the Danes
  • Reality Vs Expectations
  • How to find permanent accommodation and how to avoid scams
  • Bureaucracy an A-Z guide of the things you really need
  • Explain the basic principles of the Danish tax system
  • Recruitment and how to find an English speaking position

We will close the event with a Q&A session, where you can ask any remaining questions on the topics above.

Time to take control of your new life abroad!

Entrance is free.

All the information about the event can be found here with a link to reserve a spot.

Copenhagen Main Station – Tickets, toilets and more {YouTube video}

In this video I show you how the ticket machines work at the main station as well as showing you around the main parts of the station – ticket machines and offices, toilets, shops, police station, left luggage and more…

Brush Lettering for beginners – book now!

I am organising two brush lettering for beginners workshops on the 19th September (one in the morning and one in the evening).

Lucy Blair is an experienced calligrapher based in the UK and she will be coming over to teach two identical workshops  where participants will learn brush lettering for beginners. You can read more about Lucy here.

This is the third time Lucy has been here to teach the class and they have been sell out events before. Here’s what one of the participants said:-

The workshop was well structured and a great way to try out a new craft, learning all the basics to get you started!

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 in Nordhavn and costs 350dkk plus a small booking fee. 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!

Morning event

Evening event

Cisternerne – Jeppe Hein “In is the only way out”

As we all know this summer has been a scorcher but if you want to cool down and relax I can recommend the current exhibition at Cisternerne in Sondermarken. It is created by Jeppe Hein and called In is the only way out.

IN IS THE ONLY WAY OUT is a total installation taking up the 4320 m2 of Cisternerne and inviting the visitor onto an underground journey from the darkness into the light, on the way experiencing both challenges, surprises and disorientation. The cold and moist climate of Cisternerne forces itself on you and insists that you are present in the now. In the same way, Hein’s artworks enable visitors to feel: I am right here right now.

In the first room of the exhibit, the underground stillness is torn by the violent sound of a flame activated when a visitor approaches. When moving deeper into the underground the visitor is met by a series of round, rotating mirrors which heightens the sense of disorientation found among the dark colonnades.

Deepest within Cisternerne, a concert takes place. Every visitor activates a sensor sending a ball on a dynamic route through the colonnades where it hits Tibetan singing bowls on its way. The more visitors are present in the room, the more tones sound at any one time. The tunes connect the visitors who, unconsciously, create music together.

With this exhibition the artist unfolds a general theme: to be able to experience the light, you sometimes must confront and overcome the darkness: IN IS THE ONLY WAY OUT.

Above taken from the Cisternerne website

I found the Tibetan singing bowls remarkable and found myself going into a very relaxed state. In fact I could have stayed there all day. The exhibition runs until the 30th November and there are a number of exciting events scheduled in the space – this is the link to the event page but be aware the events sell out fast.

 

 

My kit to reduce single use plastic

I posted the image above on my Instagram account showing some of my plastic use alternatives and it seemed people were interested in the items. I will echo Jen Gale, sustainable living champion, in that you don’t need to buy fancy stuff to aim to be single use plastic free, as she says even reusing a single use water bottle after the original contents have been drunk is a good step forward. And every little bit helps. Refusing a straw every time you are offered one makes a big difference. If you want to try and reduce your plastic use I can recommend Jen’s The Essential Guide to a Plastic-Free(ish) Home.

So onto my kit! First is a reusable shopping bag. I have been using these for years even before there was a charge for bags. The one here comes from Lidl, my husband also has one in his work bag. We have a few more from Onya, they sell shopping bags, rucksacks and cross over body bags and all squish into a little pouch so you can easily pop then in your handbag or laptop bag.

Next silicon coffee cup lids (these are no longer available but these are similar). I know some cups from coffee shops have a plastic layer in them but on the days when I forget my keep cup or my son has a hot chocolate I can use these and not one of the disposal lids.

My water bottle is from Lidl, again, and is brilliant at keeping my water cold. Refillable bottles are everywhere and you are spoilt for choice. If you are in Copenhagen and need to refill your bottle here is a map with public water fountains in the city.

Then there are a couple of bathroom items, the cotton buds use card stem (I bought these in Normal) and the white fabric pads are for cleansing my face. Don’t judge but these are actually breast pads I bought whilst breastfeeding nine years ago, which I didn’t use as they were uncomfortable. I used them to cleanse my face and just pop them in with my usual laundry. Searching online for Washable Cleansing Pads should help you find some or you could make your own (Pinterest has tons of idea).

Sometimes using straws is unavoidable. Drinking a milkshake is a bit weird without one but I can manage an ice coffee without one. Funny story – I ordered an ice latte in a well-known coffee shop chain here and refused a straw. The barista looked baffled and asked how would I drink it! There is a plethora of options for reusable straws available online from silicon ones (these are similar to mine) such as mine or metal ones. If you are holding a party you could also ditch plastic and get paper straws from Søstrene Grene.

I often pick a salad for my lunch and unless you are in one of the few places offering bamboo cutlery then you are faced with the option of eating with your hands or taking a single use set. I bought a set of kids metal cutlery from Ikea very cheaply and bought this pouch from Etsy to keep them in (my son also has one for school lunch).

Lastly is my keep cup. Again you are spoilt for choice with these. I had been using a Bodum one but my husband bought me this really cute bamboo cup when we were in Berlin. It has a silicon sleeve for hot drinks. I have been using it when getting take out coffees and so far no coffee shop has refused (been in Emmery’s, Lagerkagehuset, Yum Cafe, Democratic Coffee where they were all more than happy to fill it).

So as you can see I’ve not spent a fortune on this stuff but it has meant that I have massively cut my use of single use plastic over the years.

On another note, although these coffee shops above are willing to fill a keep cup many of them, particularly Lagerkagehuset and Emmery’s could do a lot more to reduced their plastic use. Photo below from Lagerkagehuset, retailers need to lead the way with this so that consumers have more of a choice then simply buying something in a plastic cup (despite my best intentions this is something I do on occasion) or not having it at all.

 

Enjoying Non Alcoholic Drinks

Earlier in the summer I had some routine surgery and before I have surgery I like to stop drinking so my body is strong for the operation and of course afterwards you can’t really drink for a while. I will be honest and say that I enjoy drinking however I despite eating healthily I was finding I couldn’t shift a bit of stubborn weight which didn’t please me. I am also generally a bit of an anxious person by nature and this often affects my sleep.

After my op I listen to the audio book version of Mindful Drinking by Rosamund Deane. Something she says in the book hit home with me – a large glass of wine (and I was probably drinking around two to three bottles of wine over the week) is equal to a cornetto ice cream and she asked would you sit and eat four of those in a row? I am not a stupid person and I know that wine is calorific but in more of an abstract way. This analogy really hit home and I realised this was why I was still not losing weight and even perhaps slowly putting more on. In her book she recommends that you go alcohol free for 28 days and then reintroduce alcohol in a mindful way.So I started, as is the way in the modern world, I downloaded an app to keep track (you can also discreetly track your alcoholic drinks) and also to gamify the process a little. I have now been six weeks alcohol free and I have lost almost a stone in weight, I feel healthy, my skin is better, my anxiety levels have dropped a lot and I am sleeping much better (even with the heatwave). Last night was my first challenge of going out in a situation where I would usually have a couple of glasses of wine or an Aperol spritz but I had the homemade lemonade and it was fine.Now, unlike a lot of people who like to drink beer for the effects of alcohol, I actually like drinking it for the taste. When we were in Berlin earlier in the holidays I was very impressed by the huge selection of alcohol free beers (they are called this but have a very tiny amount of alcohol usually under 0.1%)  but coming back here I was a bit disappointed, initially, with the range. I asked my community on Instagram for some recommendations and I was amazed by how many people I know (and some who I considered to be fairly big drinkers) had also taken the plunge. It spurred me on and also gave me some recommendations of beers and places to get them so here we go.

Top budget (I found these in Føtex, Meny, Kvickly and Nemlig.com)

Erdinger – this is a golden wheat beer and has a lovely flavour. You don’t feel that the taste is compromised by the lack of alcohol. This is a German beer and one I liked in Berlin.

CPH All Night from Skands brewery – this wasn’t one of my favourites simply because the beer style, pale ale, is not one I like. It is however a good example of this beer style in a non alcoholic form.

Specialist Beer

I was recommended trying the Mikkeller non alcoholic beers but warned they were expensive. When we were at Reffen I bought a bottle of Energinbajer, another wheat beer. It was lovely and refreshing. Then when I was at the SMK in Kafeteria I tried Drink’In the Sun, which is a light summer beer in a can.

Cheap and cheerful

You don’t have to pay a fortune for non alcohol beers – two popular ones here in Denmark, which are cheap as well, are Nordic by Carlsberg and Royal Free by Royal Unibrew. The latter is my preferred one of the two. These are available in every supermarket and is bars.

There are a few others around such as Heineken and San Miguel but as I don’t like their normal beers, I’ve not tried these.

When I was pregnant I tried non alcoholic wines and hated them so haven’t bothered this time around but if anyone can recommend a decent dry white or rose I would be willing to try.

I spotted some bottles of Copenhagen Sparkling Tea in Yum Yoga last week and I am going to give this a go. I have no preconceptions as to what this will be like so if nothing else it was be an interesting experience and as it is produced by an award-winning sommelier I am guessing it should be ok.

From my Instagram post this lovely lady (who was also my very first relocation client) recommended a non alcoholic spirit called Seedlip from the UK but she tells me you can get it in Juuls wine shop on Værnedamsvej.

As more people are looking to cut back on alcohol and with more products available and groups like Clubsoda (The mindful drinking movement) running courses and festivals amongst other things there is a lot less stigma attached to not drinking and also there is a growing demand for grown up non alcoholic drinks rather than just a fruit juice or cola.

I would love to hear any recommendations you may have and also any experiences of going alcohol free you’d like to share.

 

Skoleklar – Check list for the new school year

Three years ago my son was going into the 0 Klasse and starting school for the first time. I recall at the time being surprised that there were so many things we needed that the school had assumed we simply knew about. In many cases people did know but there were a lot of people who didn’t so today as we are just a few weeks off the new school year starting I thought I’d pull together a list here. Now some schools may ask for other things and maybe not all of these but this is a good, basic starting point. There will be a lot of promotions in shops I have mentioned over the coming weekend and week so it’s a good time to get a bargain and also to ensure the shops don’t sell out before you have kitted out your child.

1 A rucksack

This needs to be size appropriate for your child and be large enough to carry a homework folder (if you school gives homework), a pencil case, a packed lunch (if your child isn’t having school lunch or it isn’t available in your school) and a water bottle. Good places to find rucksacks include Bog og Ide, Neye and perhaps Bilka. Popular brands here are Ergobag, Jeva, Satch, Lego themed bags, Eastpak and of course Fjällräven. You don’t need to buy these brands but they are the ones you will see around, also at the start of school they don’t need a huge, expensive bag. You can expect a good quality rucksack to last them a few years.

2 Sports bag

Your child will probably need a basic sports kit including shorts/track bottoms, T-shirt, sock and non marking trainers for inside use (this last one came as a surprise to me so you many want to double-check this is what is expected at your child’s school, it is dependent on the type of gym floor they have). Also a small bag for the kit. H&M is a great place for inexpensive sports kit.

3 Water bottle (and lunch box)

You can see these in any supermarket at the moment and there are various promotions around.

4 Pencil case

This is not necessarily a necessity but you will find that most children in the class will have them at the start or begin to get them. You don’t need to spend a fortune on these but again a good quality one such as one from Ergobag will last. Many come already kitted out. However both Flying Tiger and Søstrene Grene have both pencil cases and all the pencils etc sold separately and this is a cost-effective way of getting a good set together. Bilka also has a great ‘back to school’ section. In general lead pencils, a set of basic colour pencils, an eraser, ruler and pencil sharpener is all you need at the start of their school career.

5 Waterproof clothes and boots

If your child is moving up from børnehaven you will know this already but kids here are sent out at break times whatever the weather so need to have a waterproof suit and rubber boots at school to wear when needed.

6 Indoor shoes

Likewise school like to keep the wet outside so may ask your child to have a pair of indoor shoes to wear inside, certainly our school does. You can find these in shoe shops – Superfit is a popular type (you can find them on Zalando.dk as well as shoe shops) but there are other brands.

7 Change of clothes

Your child will be expected to have a complete change of clothes at school in a small bag.

8 Name tags

There will be loads of new kids in the school as well as the existing students and clothes can get lost very easily so make sure you have put your child’s name and class in all their clothes. You can buy stick on labels or just buy a fabric pen (from Panduro or Bog og Ide) and write it yourself. Remember these fade or fall off with repeated washing so keep an eye on them to make sure they are still identifiable.

I would recommend that you go out this weekend or during the coming week to make sure that you aren’t (like I was three years ago) running around frantically only to find a lot of things sold out.

Good Luck!

 

 

Exploring gentrification {long read}

As some readers will know I have strong views on gentrification. We travelled to Berlin earlier in  July and I was curious about how our old neighbourhood is shaping up five years after we left. I’ll set the scene a little. We lived in Pankow which is slightly further out from Prenzlauer Berg, the area where most affluent incomers want to live at the time. When we lived in Pankow it was still a little down at heel and certainly retained an air of old East Berlin, although the tentacles of gentrification were creeping out.There were plenty of renovated apartment buildings, such as ours, but they were often sandwiched between other ones which where unpainted, externally unrenovated and still bore the scars of gun shots from the war and subsequent liberation, even all those years later. The common spaces on these buildings were also a little tatty but the apartments themselves were well cared for. Many buildings in the streets around where we lived are owned by a public housing association and are currently undergoing extensive and in many cases unwelcome (by the tenants) renovation. The rents are shooting up and residents who have lived in these homes all their adult lives are being forced out as they can’t afford massive rent increases. Tenants are putting up a good fight, but I fear it is futile.

In our last six months in our apartment, the owners of the building began to convert the attic space above us into a penthouse and judging by Google Maps satellite view it is pretty fancy! The old cigarette factory and a brewery building have been converted into luxury apartments and there were plans to also convert an old asylum into more (although that project seems to have stalled). The semi derelict sommerbad (summer swimming pool) close to our old home is due for a multi million Euro facelift with new pools added (the old GDR sections seem to still be abandoned).

On our visit we took the U bahn out to Pankow and indeed our old street has been spruced up a lot. The building I mentioned above is very shiny and new now and the daycare that used to be in the basement has been replaced by a nail bar. I could certainly see the tentacles of gentrification in the main streets around the station but the Rathaus Center shopping centre was still exactly the same and they have a strapline now of “The Original Pankow” – a little passive- aggressive pop at the changes in the area, I think. Bizarrely the prime space opposite the shopping centre, where a supermarket had just been demolished when we were there in 2012 has still not been built on and behind the ‘temporary’ wire fences nature has taken over.

When I lived there I wished that the area looked a little less sad and that is was not such as huge reminder of GDR years but I didn’t wish to change the fabric of the area and the personality that it had (much as I didn’t enjoy living there, it had a personality). But capitalism is hard at work and as ‘renovation’ and gentrification take hold, then the real residents get pushed out to be replaced by more transient people, less interested in a community and the history of the area. Just think of the usual journey of gentrification – an area has a personality and some ‘grit’, hipster types love how gritty it is and how they can rent at a decent price, but they would prefer more of ‘their’ types of shops and business there despite how much they love the ‘grit’. In come fancy coffee shops, artisanal breads, vintage clothes shops, street art for Instagrammers to pose by, craft beer bars etc etc and up go rents. Out go traditional businesses as their former clientele are forced out of the area.

The area then looks like every other gentrified area in any big city. The businesses are not sustainable for the years that the old ones were and the area loses its soul and personality. When I first moved to Berlin I couldn’t understand why people didn’t want to live in renovated places, why there was such a backlash against improvement and modernisation but now I get it. There was tons of anti yuppie (as they were called then) graffiti as the old bohemian elements on Prenzlauer Berg were replaced by speculative landlords out to make a ton of money on properties they had bought for peanuts when the Wall fell. One of the landlords we encountered was a prime example of this. She could have been any age from 55 to 75 due to her obvious love of botox. She had snapped up a load of semi derelict buildings straight after the Wall fell, demolished them and waited a bit, then replaced them with sparkly new apartments with the ubiquitous underground parking (which cost an extra €150 on the rent but is not optional (in 2011 can only imagine the price now))

Returning last year I noticed the graffiti has gone in many places as these people have given up the fight against underground parking for fancy cars, sourdough bread and flat whites.

Now onto my little vanity project. I can see the rumblings of this happening in my own area on Amager so I am planning to make a list of all the current businesses along Amagerbrogade and maybe another street and revisit the list in a year’s time. In the meantime I will continue to support smaller more established business where I can. As a counterpoint to this I shall also do a similar project on Istedgade to explore the longevity of the new ‘hipster’ businesses (I have written before about this area before). This is not intended to be an academic project but something to inform me and others on the speed of gentrification and also its short term and transient nature. I will post about this as the project progresses.

Just a point of note, I am not against progress and I understand that people need places to live but progress should not be at the expense of existing communities.