An explorer in a new place

With a weird synchronicity we found ourselves making a big change in our living situation almost exactly nine years since we left the UK to start our Danish adventure. For the last nine years we have lived in city apartments and for a lot of that time it suited us. But as my son got older and we looked for more quiet around us (and at the same time not worrying about the noise we made) we decided to move to a house or villa as they are called here.A lot has changed in Copenhagen over those nine years but it is still a city I am in love with. It has matured into a different kind of love than the heady early days. I still get my breath taken away by the city, I still love the people here and our life. But most of the time it is the kind of love that makes you feel comfortable and safe.  That this is my city and my home – this makes me happy. I have changed areas completely with the latest move but that feeling doesn’t change.

One thing that helped moved to a whole new area is the experience that I have gained from creating the local written guides I produce for my clients. Even moving within a city can pose a lot of the same questions as moving to a whole new city – where is my local pharmacy/supermarket/post office/ bakery etc? As well as looking at ways to get around either by public transport or by bike. It helps if you already know a city, you have a basic structure of how things work and where you are most likely to find things. Yet this doesn’t remove some of the basic problems. I again found myself bobbing up and down on the bus on a new route unsure of which was my stop (just as I did nine years ago) but at least Maps on my phone makes it a little bit easier. I will admit that I walked around Amager Center for more than was normal looking for the exit to the metro station area. I kept ending up at H&M, and I almost started to believe there was two branches in there (for the record there are not).

I am enjoying the local area and it is exciting again to be an explorer in a new place, albeit with a lot more confidence and knowledge. If you are new to Copenhagen and you feel you need that little extra help finding your way in your new neighbourhood (even if you have been there a while), do drop me a line via my Dejlige Days Welcome website and we can work together. I believe that people underestimate how much this kind of guide can help them. I think we often have the thinking of ‘how hard can it be?’ when two months in you are still struggling to find places and it is starting to be an issue. Honestly there are only so many questions you can pose on Facebook forums. I catch up with a number of clients who didn’t take the local guide and I can see how much they would’ve benefited from it from the start and how much those that have taken it have valued it. I hope to hear from you!

Still loving Danish public health service

Yesterday I was reminded why I wrote this piece in The Local in 2015 about private vs public healthcare in Copenhagen.

RigetsHave

After a long wait whilst the doctors decided if I needed an MRI scan with the state of the art machine at Rigshospital, I was given an appointment for a scan a couple of weeks ago. I understand the decision process surrounding it. One scan in the machine is not cheap so there must be a medical need for it.

Last summer I had a MRI scan at a private clinic and although the appointment times were more convenient and radiographer was competent, the experience wasn’t as good as the one yesterday. At the private clinic I lay in the scanner and just listened to the loud noise until the scan was done. I had no idea when it would be over and at what points I could wriggle my fingers. The scan takes up to an hour and that is a long time to lay still. I can’t recall being given ear defenders either. The scan was inconclusive.

At Rigshospital I was called in well before my appointment time as I arrived early. I was asked to change and leave my stuff in a locked changing room. The staff were polite and efficient. I was given ear defenders and they gave me an emergency buzzer to hold in my hand. Before each cycle of scans, I was told though my headset how long the section of scanning would take (anything from 1 minute to five minutes) and when I could stretch and move. Anyone who has had an MRI scan know it isn’t the most comfortable experience especially if you feel a little claustrophobic.

I was given an injection of contrast half way through and I was warned it could make me feel a little nauseous later on. Once the scan was over and the pleasantries dispensed with, I headed back to the changing room. I was a bit slow in there as I felt a little sleepy and was checking my messages when there was a knock on the door and the radiologist wanted to check I was OK.

Add to that how clean the hospital is, how helpful the staff are (not just this time but other times too), the general positive environment around you from hearing the orderlies chatting to patients to the public art installations. I still believe you can’t match this experience in the private sector.

I now have to wait and find out if this king of MRI machines has seen anything significant but overall the experience was much better than the private one.

 

Moving out etiquette

There has been something of an unintentional break here due to sickness (mine and my son’s) and then moving into our new house on Amager. I like to get the boxes unpacked as soon as I can and this time we are lucky enough to have a carport to store the empties in rather than simply moving them from one space to another. We are seeing the end of boxes now and I had a lovely surprise of opening one to find that it was only half full of things and the rest was packing paper.

When we moved in we discovered a lot of stuff left behind by the previous owners, some of which is useful and other stuff not so much. It made me think about the etiquette of moving out of somewhere. I may be a bit too nice to people who move in after me but here goes.

One – do a general clean and tidy For example wipe out all your cupboards. You don’t need to go mad but a quick swipe with a damp cloth is enough. Give the bathroom a clean. Mow the grass. If you have a pet make sure there are now hairy mats for people to discover.

Two – clean your white goods  A lot like above it doesn’t need to be a deep clean but people appreciate a clean washing machine drawer, if nothing else. It is amazing how many people think that something that cleans other things cleans itself – they do not and there is often a lot of scum left around dishwasher doors and in the washing machine. In our last place the washing machine had such a build up of dirty soap and goodness knows what else throughout the whole machine that it, and all clothes washed in it, stank of ponds (needless to say we needed to replace it).

Three – leaving stuff behind Now in fairness some of the things the previous owners of our place left were great and we were delighted. Some we could make use of but wouldn’t necessarily chose and other stuff should simply have been taken to the dump, which is less than ten minutes away. It is polite to give the buyers of your place the choice to take things but lazy and cheeky to simply leave it. The toilet brush full of brown water was not something I was not pleased to discover.

Four – empty your wheelie bins I think this speaks for itself as no one want to move in to find all their bins full and no clue as it when bin day is.

Five – refuse info  Now this is one where people have to be really nice but when we moved in to discover the aforementioned full bins it would have been super to know the bins days. A quick note on a piece of paper on the fridge would have enough. Interestingly you can find your bins days on the kommune website (I have a post about waste and refuse coming up soon – should be useful to many people) but I missed one before I had time to find it and then had nowhere to put our rubbish.

Six – stuff you should leave Paint pots so people can touch up any marks with the same colour. All manuals for appliances. Takeaway menus for local places.

Seven – a bottle of wine I’ve never done this one but wouldn’t it be nice to have a bottle of fizz waiting there for you to toast your new home with?

Thankfully I didn’t have the experience my parents had when we moved into a new place when I was about three. There were brown smears on the walls, which my mum was convinced were poo, fleas in the carpets (which promptly were ripped up and thrown out of the windows) and the power disconnected and all the wires for the cooker ripped out. All on one of the coldest days of the winter.

What do you think? Any horror stories or things to do to add to the list?

 

The Hive Gathering

We are still in the throes of moving house and finally getting to live in our new place on Amager. There will be more about the practicalities of buying a place and the changes of moving from an apartment to a house and of course life on Amager to come in the next few weeks.However today I thought I’d share something I am involved in in May. The Hive Gathering is a conference for digital storytellers, tastemakers and bloggers which has been going since 2012. I have attended every conference and loved each one. When I was starting out in blogging it was amazing to connect with other bloggers and to take inspiration from others. I am still in contact and, in many cases, friends with women I have met at The Hive.

The speaker line up at these conferences has always been outstanding and this year’s Hive in Berlin is shaping up to be just as great. Sara Tasker, an Instagram guru and podcaster I personally admire will be one of the speakers this year. There are a number of other exciting speakers this year. I have a role as a chair or moderator (never sure of the actual title) of a panel discussion about what it means to be an online influencer.  How are we influenced? What are brands looking for? Are you an influencer if you won’t or just can’t engage with your followers?  And how can influence be used productively and not just to sell things? It should be a lively and interesting discussion, I’m sure.

If you are a blogger, instagramer, vlogger or involved in an online space for your business or personal brand, then this is the conference for you. The location in the centre of Berlin is an even draw as you will get a chance to explore this exciting city when not in the conference. Every time I leave the Hive I am buzzing (did you see what I did there?!) with new ideas and you can be too!

Check out the website for more information about speakers, program and much more. If you are planning on coming along do drop me a message and we can connect in person there.

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

Guide to using the post in Denmark

How to use a post office varies from country to country so I thought I’d write a quick guide to using the post office here in Denmark. This is also useful to people who have been living here a while as when PostNord took over the postal service here there were some changes to how it works. There are also very few (if any) separate post offices and they tend to be in supermarkets etc, which gives longer open hours. For that reason I have referred to them as post houses rather than post offices.Sending a letter 

You can send a letter up to 50g within Denmark for 8dkk but it can take up to five working days.

There is something called Quickbreve which is 27dkk for up to 100g within Denmark and they go everyday but you need to go to the post office i.e. in the supermarket etc to do post this.  There is more about the mobile apps below but if you want to use this on the app you need to swipe up to select it. Don’t post in a normal letter box though!

Sending parcels

It is very expensive to post parcels here. One way you can save a little is to print your own label using your home printer or to use the system at one of the Pakkeboksen (Parcel Boxes). These are red box systems located in various places such as stations and smaller supermarkets. You can sent parcels up to 20kg outside Denmark and 35kg inside the country. Link here

Other option for posting parcels are pakke.dk (you again need to print out your label) or DHL.dk

PostNord App and website

Once you have downloaded the PostNord App (Mobilporto) you can do a lot of things without having to go to the post office.

  • You can buy postage for letter up to 2kg (so this covers smaller parcels), you get a code to write on your letter in the place of a postage stamp.
  • You can buy package labels

By clicking through to Postnord (at the top righthand side of the app)

  • You can follow your package
  • Arrange Modtagerflex, which allows you to register with the post an agreed place where they can leave your parcel. It is in English.
  • You can sign up to Pakkeboksen (more later)

On the Postnord website you can

  • Find postcodes, post houses, Pakkeboksen and post boxes.
  • You can register a change of address
  • You can register Nej tak to having junk mail in your letter box i.e. brochures from the supermarkets etc.
  • And buy postage.

Pakkeboksen

I have mentioned these above. They are red boxes where parcels can be securely sent and received once you have registered in the website or app. You select the location best for you (this can be changed). There is a search section to help you with this. You then use a unique number and the address of the pakkeboksen when you are shopping online. You then receive a text or email telling you when it is ready to collect.

Collecting parcels at the post house

When you have a parcel to collect you need the slip of paper from the postman or your text/email with the parcel details. Take care to check which post house it has been taken to as sometimes they can send to a different one (there have been time when I have assumed it is the usual location and it is somewhere else). You will need some ID to collect it – usually your CPR card is enough but its a good idea to take some photo ID just in case.

You can have someone else collect it on your behalf but you must complete and sign to Engangsfuldmagt on the back of the slip. Usually I write that I have given my husband (and name him) to collect my parcel.

Tips to make your post house experience better

You will need to pay by cash or Dankort. They do not accept foreign cards.

You can pay bills at the post office if you don’t want to do it online.

Taking the correct ticket to queue can be tricky and usually they are kind if you have made a mistake and are clearly not Danish. If there is an option that says afhentning this is for collecting parcels etc, the other option (which seems to vary) is for other services. Like most places here you take you number and wait for it to come up.

March – a month of hope

March in Denmark always feels like the month of hope. After the long, dark winter months suddenly the days are getting longer. No longer are we travelling to school in the mornings in the pitch dark or coming home again as it is getting dark. It creeps up on you. We were walking to school last week and my son suddenly said, “have you noticed something? Its light!” and he said the same in the afternoon as we came home. It does take you by surprise as your mind thinks it is still much earlier than it is and we’ve had a few meals later than usual due to my blasé attitude of using daylight as my guide (somewhat like a farmer).tulipsAs I was travelling across the country to Århus last week, I noticed there was a warm glow from the sunlight bouncing off houses and trees and it made me feel hopeful and looking forward to the spring and summer, despite the fact it is still cold and wet. The erantis and snowdrops are out and crocus are not far behind.erantis

It’s funny that March in my mind is always intertwined with the memory of moving to Copenhagen that first time almost 9 years ago. That year Spring came early and by the start of April it was here. That time for me was a hopeful and exciting one and it is apt that it was also the change of season. This March we are moving to our new home, just minutes from the beach and I am looking forward to Spring and Summer afternoons spent there and the chance to see the sunrise over Amager Strand or Kalvebod without having to get up an hour before to get ready and across town. The thought of sneaking out at 3am to see the sun rise over the sea towards Sweden fills me with such joy.statue and flowersFor those readers who have moved here over the winter months, now is the time to witness Copenhagen waking up and coming into bloom. And I can’t wait!

Volunteering in Copenhagen and Århus

There are many opportunities to volunteer your time in Copenhagen, Århus and other parts of the country even if your Danish isn’t great. Plus it is a good way to improve your spoken Danish. I often have clients asking about volunteering options so I thought I’d share a few I am know of, but as usual please do get in touch if you would like me to add others you are aware of.volunteerFirst up, to help you search for your own volunteering options the Danish word for volunteer is Frivillig. Did you know that 43% of the Danish population are involved in voluntary work of some description?

The Red Cross (Røde Kors) is always looking for volunteers in various shapes and forms. Plus most organisations working with refugees are looking for volunteers such as Dansk Flygtningehjælp

The charity supermarket selling out of date (but safe food) called We Food are expanding and are often looking for volunteers in both their stores on Amager and in Nørrebro. Here is also an article about the project.

Settlementet in Vestebro is an amazing community project with many different areas of work. You can register to be a volunteer here. I have written about their work here.

One Bowl, not for profit pay as you feel community kitchen is really interesting and looks for volunteers. It is definitely an international place with volunteers and diners from all around the world. Read more about the project here.

CPH Volunteers is a scheme supported by København Kommune and is a flexible way to volunteer as you sign up and offer your time when you can. The portal Frivillig Job brings together a number of volunteering options across Denmark and lets you match your skills to groups looking for volunteers. Copenhagen Kommune also has a page with a selection of places looking for volunteers (some I have mentioned here but many others). And International House also has a volunteer information page.

Århus Kommune has a whole page on their website with a variety of types of organisations and projects looking for volunteers.

This is just a snap shot of the kinds of places you can volunteer.

My Relocation Story – Copenhagen

Today I thought I’d share another chapter from my book (My Guide to a Successful Relocation) about how I came to be here in Copenhagen.

Enjoy and if you fancy reading more you can get buy a copy directly from me if you live in Denmark, 100dkk including postage and packing ( saving of almost 50dkk from purchasing via Amazon), by sending me an email hello(at)dejligedayscommunications(dot)com. You can also get hold of it via Amazon if you are outside Denmark.

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My relocation story – Copenhagen

Back in 2007 my husband and I got married after twelve years together (clearly we didn’t rush into it!) and it felt like a new life was starting. I had been working for a not-for-profit organisation as Head of Communications for a few years. Over that time I had started to take control of my personal life (I lost two stone in weight, learnt to swim and got married) but my professional life was stressing me out. I had lost team members who were not being replaced due to budget cuts, office politics were reaching ridiculous levels and I was often in tears in the evening and waking at 5am unable to get back to sleep as I worried about the day ahead. This was no way to live.

For a number of years my husband’s employers had been tempting him with exciting jobs abroad but I had always been reluctant – I was building my career. But suddenly that just seemed to not matter. I was working hard but getting very little back and I could see no real change on the horizon unless we made the change. So we did. It was late summer when he asked at work about possible places we could relocate to and was given the options of San Diego (too far from family), Germany (no – how ironic) and Copenhagen. So we settled on Copenhagen without me ever having visited. I bought some guide books and the process at my husband’s work started. big beers in tivoli 2008

I joined him just before Christmas whilst he was in Copenhagen for a week sorting out his new role. It was the first time I visited the city and I fell in love immediately: big beers, delicious real Danish pastries and sparkling Christmas lights. Apart from the superficial things I also liked the kind of lifestyle I saw around me and, chatting to various people we met along the way, it seemed to make people happy.

Once it was a sure thing, I spoke to my boss and arranged to leave my job at the end of the year (as it turned out they were generous enough to let me work almost until I left the country, extending my notice period on a monthly basis).

I finished work at the end of February 2008, having negotiated a year-long freelance contract to start in the summer so I would have some money coming in when we moved. nyhavn-copy

At the start of March we headed out to Copenhagen for our home search. We were met at our hotel by our relocation consultant who had a bag packed full of information about the city and life here. We viewed seven places in one day, a luxury that is no longer possible with the tough market now, and we had to give him a top three by the end of the day. It is funny that our initial number one was soon relegated to number three. I hadn’t yet adjusted my expectations and had felt the modern apartment was the right one for us despite it being totally wrong. My husband gently talked me round to a beautiful late 19th century first floor apartment in Frederiksberg, which was of course perfect for us when we moved in.

Things moved quickly from that day – they accepted our offer and the moving date of the 31st of March was set. We then had to get rid of about a third of our belongings, which we sold at a boot sale and a garage sale, and put more things in storage. In hindsight I wish I had been more brutal about getting rid of things but at this point we were not sure if our Copenhagen adventure would work out. We then put our house up for rental and arranged for packers to come in and pack up the remains of our belongings.

I am something of a control freak so you can imagine how I felt when I was bedridden (on the futon in the chaos of packing) with very bad tonsillitis. In fact the packing was all done efficiently without my interference. I was sad to be sick as I missed seeing my oldest friend and her newborn baby before we left.

All of a sudden we were at the new terminal 5 at Heathrow, with a suitcase and carry-on ready to start our new adventure.

At the time I was sharing my new life on a personal blog and this is what I wrote about that first day:

Handover today went well, the flat is much bigger than I remembered so everything went in fine. The removal men turned up with the truck at about 11.30am and were unpacked  by 2pm even with unscheduled stops whilst our elderly new neighbour travelled down the stairs. If she was a better time manager she could have done all her errands in one go but at least it keeps her fit!

I visited our local Irma (a supermarket chain similar to Waitrose) several times in the day and made friends with the young manager, Peter, who was happy to help with my queries about the many types of cream they sold. He also welcomed me to the neighbourhood.

After we unpacked random boxes and the kitchen we went for a quest to find a DIY shop which took us miles only to buy the plugs in a supermarket having given up on the directions we had. On the walk back, about 2 yards from the supermarket, we spotted the shop. Sadly my current vocab doesn’t extend to DIY!

The area seems really nice with plenty of shops, bars and restaurants on Gammel Kongevej, the only street we have explored so far. It is very quiet in our apartment even though we back onto a school, they seem to do lessons in shifts as there always seems to be a teeming playground. Bizarrely the school bell rang at quarter to ten tonight. We can’t hear neighbours so I am hoping that they can’t hear us!

Other bizarre observation of the day – they leave babies outside shops and cafes unattended as ‘the fresh air is good for them’! cimg0197

From that first day onwards I felt a fizz of excitement in my tummy every morning. After a few mornings with our relocator, we were registered with resident numbers and he had taken us around our local big supermarkets, which at the time I thought was a strange excursion but it was a great thing to do to help me get acclimatised.

I decided to take a month before I started Danish lessons and took that time to explore the local area and dig into the city. We spent weekends exploring places such as Christiania (which I loved but my husband hated) and many of the touristy places. In those days there was no social media to guide us so we explored blind, and it was amazing. I felt like an explorer; every day I found new places, had new experiences and excitedly shared these with my husband every evening.

One afternoon in our local supermarket I heard a very clear English voice and I bravely walked up to a very statuesque woman and introduced myself. This was my first friend. She had also just moved to Copenhagen from the US (although she was from Ghana and had been at boarding school in the UK, hence the accent). We met for coffee later in the week and I noticed she carried a little leather bound notebook into which she wrote down recommendations and information she discovered. I liked this and her. We parted without making another date and I wasn’t sure we would meet again.

Fast forward a few weeks and guess who was in my first Danish class? We became good friends and even ended up having our sons within weeks of each other a few years later. I was glad I made the bold step of speaking to her in the supermarket.

I think I spent a lot of that first year in a constant state of excitement. I balanced my days with Danish lessons in the morning, some freelance work in the afternoons and a lot of exploring, often on a whim. I met people in class and soon realised which people I had more in common with, I got to know my neighbours and I found a feeling of peace that had been lacking for a long time in the UK. One May evening we sat eating our dinner with the windows open, birds singing outside and I turned to my husband and said how much I loved our new life, and he agreed.

I look back and wonder what made the experience so good. I think it was a combination of many things. The disillusionment with my life in the UK meant that I was open to a new experience. My parents had already moved from the UK to France so I didn’t feel I was leaving anyone behind (friends were more than happy to plan trips to visit). Our move was actually very stress-free, from the home search through to the actual move, and then the subsequent settling in period (a lot of which was helped by a brilliant relocator). I found that the Danish way of life suited me – being car-free was brilliant.

Moving in the summer so the days were long and we had great weather meant that we could explore a lot more. We did tons more things in the evenings than we ever did at home without the long car commute at the end of the day. We saw things were happening and we went along. We went to watch dragon boats racing at Island Brygge – it turned out to be a company team building event but we sat in the sunshine at 9pm and just enjoyed ourselves with no pressure. We went along to a free concert to hear Tina Dickow. We lived a lot more spontaneously than we ever did in the UK. We had more time together and life was more relaxed in general.

bump-in-tivoliAfter our first calendar year in Copenhagen we decided to start a family and we were lucky enough that I fell pregnant quickly (I always wonder how quickly this would have been if I had still been run ragged in the UK). A whole new journey started.

 

Århus Housing Launch event

As some readers may know I offer a joint package with Copenhagen Housing and they are expanding their home search services to Århus this year. As part of that I will be offering the same package with them but for Århus. This is very exciting especially as Århus has been named as the European Capital of Culture this year.arhus

To launch the new Århus department of Copenhagen Housing, a very special event will be held at Highlanders Bar on 2nd March. This is a fantastic opportunity to meet follow expats, have fun and put yourself in with a chance of finding your new home in Århus, free of charge!

The program of the evening will consist of a reading by me from my book “My Guide to a Successful Relocation”, an opportunity to learn more about Aarhus Housing and how they can help you with your housing search, and ……… a fun quiz!

The lucky winner will get a free housing search in Århus worth 4500 kroner.

Refreshments will be provided.

Sign up for the event by mailing your details to charlotte@copenhagenhousing.dk, please write “Aarhushousing launch” as the subject.

I really hope to see some of you there.