Category Archives: Denmark


There’s more about the word sonder  here, and whether it’s a real word, but I don’t really care. I just like the concept and the definition. I’m not even sure we should have a word for it.


Purse of many meanings

Even after living here for almost eight years, I have not learned Danish. But I’ve tried, off and on, and so I’m not completely oblivious. I can generally conduct simple transactions in Danish, but I’m always just a word or two from either not understanding, or understanding exactly the wrong thing. Nevertheless, I generally try to do things like go to the post office or to the store without resorting to English.

Last year, as part of the gradual but undeniable increase in medical visits that one experiences with age, I found myself at the hospital awaiting a CAT scan. In this case it was an abdominal scan.

I walked into the lab, and was greeted by a friendly and enthusiastic woman about my age. Her Danish was brisk, but I managed to pick out a few words: something about a purse. In Danish the word for purse is pung.

In her hand, she held a small grey rubber object. It was oval, grey, and about four inches long. It looked like a very sturdy, industrial coin purse.

I knew that metal is not something you want to take into the scanner with you, so I assumed that she wanted me to place all coins, keys, jewelry and the like into the purse. I thought this was a little strange, as I clearly had a backpack with me, so I said thanks but no thanks, I have my own bag. Read More →


DSC_2084.JPG DSC_2066.JPG The beach (Elsegårde Strand)

In Denmark there is a efterårsferie (“fall vacation”) — a week in the fall when people often travel or stay at a summer house. This year Lisbeth’s parents rented a house on the beach near Ebeltoft (about an hour from Århus and about four hours from Copenhagen.)

Ellen naps in the rental car On the ferry between Sjællands Odde and Århus On the ferry between Sjællands Odde and Århus

I’ve heard a lot about the whole summer house experience, but this was really the first time I’d tried it for myself. Unfortunately I had a deadline at work that, coupled with a vicious migraine, prevented me from enjoying myself as much as I’d like, but I can see the appeal. Good food, family, leisurely walks — not much to complain about.

Elsegårde Strand Lisbeth A summer house at Elsegårde Strand

One thing that struck me was how much my perception of size has changed. Read More →

I say this every year…

But really, spring in Denmark is a special experience. But how could it not be? If you make it through the long, dark winter, and manage to stay sane as the evidence mounts that summer is coming but yet somehow fails to arrive day after day and week after week… then suddenly you have a day where you can wear shorts and put your jacket and gloves away… it’s heavenly.

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This year we wasted no time, and went directly to a park after work for a picnic. We had a nice time, but the selection of the park is the subject of a _little_ tension between me and Lisbeth. I like the park we went to because we’ve yet to see anyone else picnic there. But to Lisbeth, that’s cause for suspicion — not a vote in its favor.

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This is because, generally speaking, Danes like to go where everyone else is going. They don’t try to find quiet spots that no one else knows about. I accept this as a preference, but it is hard for me to understand. It’s probably because I grew up in the American Southwest, but I feel much more at home if no one is around.

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I’ve become accustomed to city life, but it wasn’t a natural transition. It’s amusing to me now, but the first time I walked down the street by myself in a metropolitan area, it made me nervous that people were walking behind me. The first time I used an ATM on an urban street while someone was queued up behind me, I was sure I was going to get stabbed as soon as the cash popped out.

I’ve gotten used to sharing sidewalks with people and using cash machines in front of an impatient line of people… but for a picnic? For a picnic I’d prefer to have a whole park to myself.

The embarrassed expatriate

The Copenhagen Post is the English language source for Danish news. It’s a good resource, and I visit it regularly. Not, however, as often as I would if it weren’t for the comments that readers leave. Virtually all of them, it seems, are from disgruntled foreigners living in Denmark. They are uniformly hostile to Danish people, Danish culture, Danish politics… and so on.

The effect is that, under each article, an impromptu meeting of the maladjusted forms and trades the same simplistic negative views over and over and over again. It’s a lot like reading the comments on “Fox Nation”, except that instead of bitching about Obama, they’re bitching about everything Danish.

Denmark isn’t perfect. There is certainly room for criticism. And I for one would enjoy participating in debates about these issues, but, like so many web-sites, The Copenhagen Post is overrun by the venomous whiners. Read More →

City center, again

My new office could not be more central. Two blocks from Copenhagen Central Station, two blocks from Tivoli, and two blocks from Rådhusplasen (the town hall). It takes me fifteen minutes by bike to get to work, and that is ideal. It’s long enough so you get your blood moving, but not so long that you’re a sweaty mess when you get to work.

Mom and dad, on the street where my new office is located The new office is, in fact, an apartment that happens to have a living room big enough for six desks There are so many great old buildings in Copenhagen that after a while you stop noticing

The office itself is, in fact, a one-bedroom apartment with an oddly large living room, and a dining room that serves as a meeting room. It has a small kitchen, and a tiny bedroom, which is used for our servers and a printer. For lunch we order from any one of hundreds of places that deliver, so there’s little chance we’ll get stuck eating the same thing week after week.

If we hire one more employee, things will get a little cramped My desk Our meeting room was, no doubt, a dining room at one time.

I really like being so central. I like the fact that I can easily run errands when necessary, and meeting a friend for a beer or dinner after work is no problem.

If there is a downside, it’s the noise. The sounds of construction work, heavy trucks, and sirens is routine. This will be less on an issue now that summer is over though, both because because construction slows down in the old months, and because closing the office windows cuts down on the noise to a surprising degree.

Spring has sprung

Winter is over! (And to celebrate, I’m shooting two stops overexposed.)

Lisbeth Ellen Ellen

I like to tease the Danes for their exuberance when the sun starts to spend more time in the sky. They act like they’re kids and Christmas has arrived without warning.

Ellen The June-bug The June-bug

They all rush out at once, and stand in parks, on street corners, and on terraces, close their eyes, and bask in the sunlight. On the first warm day of the year, you can’t find a grumpy Dane in the whole of Denmark.

Happy June-bug DSC_1666.JPG Lisbeth

But I have to admit spring in Denmark is fantastic. It comes on so suddenly, and in such sharp contrast to the winter… each year I spend less time teasing and more time quietly soaking up the sunlight.

2012 360°

Last New Year’s eve, we planned to return from our trip to the US, and spend a jet-lagged but pleasant evening looking out at the fireworks from our bedroom window on the eight floor. That didn’t work because our flight was delayed, so we welcomed the new year on a place over the Atlantic.

This year, with an infant, we opted to stay home, but now we live in a quiet residential quarter, with no view whatsover, so we didn’t think we’d see many fireworks. We were wrong.

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Apparently, in a country where guns are illegal and fireworks are allowed only once a year, you really need to get it all out of your system. For three days prior to New Year’s, there were random explosions around the neighborhood. This increased dramatically on the 31st, going on pretty much all day.

It picked up even more after dark. We thought that it was all the people who have kids that they want to put to bed later, lighting their fireworks now instead of waiting for midnight. Wrong again. Read More →


Lisbeth turned thirty-five on Sunday. To celebrate, we invited her family to Copenhagen. They arrived on Saturday morning, and we had brunch at the house, and then we all went to Tivoli.

Tivoli Gardens Tivoli Gardens Tivoli Gardens

According to Wikipedia, Tivoli is “the most popular seasonal theme park in the world.” But Tivoli can be a little hard for Americans to understand. It’s sort of a theme park — it has rides, and shops, and ornately decorated promenades, but it’s no Disneyland. It’s much lower key than Disneyland. It’s a tranquil experience, regardless of the season. There may be people that go to Tivoli just for the rides, but most people go just to walk around and enjoy the surroundings.

Tivoli Gardens Tivoli Gardens Tivoli Gardens

Read More →

You haven’t lived…

Until you’ve moved by bike.

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