Thursday, September 2, 2010

Hej venner!

Week 2 in Denmark is in full swing. I'm still loving the city and waiting for the novelty of this incredible experience to wear off. Somehow I don't think it will.

Some news as of late: My Danish Language and Culture class gathered recently for a hyggelig dinner at Den Franske Café in Østerport. I arrived a bit late but managed to find a seat next to a nice boy, Phil from Alamaba. I had an excellent chicken-tomato-mozzarella sandwich and ordered a Sprite to go with it. When my teacher noticed, she joked with me about ordering a non-alcoholic beverage. In Denmark, there are only 3 reasons why a person would not drink with their meal: (a.) liver disease, (b.) treatment for alcoholism, (c.) pregnancy. Clearly I am suffering from option C.

Drinking in Denmark is much more important to culture than in the U.S. - kids begin drinking on "Blue Monday," the day after their confirmation around age 13. There are no open container laws and alcohol can be legally purchased at age 16. Day drinking is common! Most Danes will opt for a Carlsberg or Tuborg with their lunch and dinner. Yum.

That word I used above, Hygge (pronounced HEUOOH-guh), is another important aspect of Danish culture. It's translated as intimate coziness, warm tranquility, peaceful well-being. When you're gathered around a fireplace with your friends drinking a bottle of red wine, this is hygge. My friend Eleni & my host sis Bolette introduced me to a cozy bar here called Vela, where I'm sure I'll spend a lot of time over the next few months. On weekends, girls dance at Vela until about 5 am. Vela is hygge! I have this bar to thank for my new love of Swedish pop music. :)

This one by Robin is a serious favorite.

What else? Grocery shopping is teriffically difficult. I stood in the aisle over 5 minutes trying to decipher if the bottle I was holding contained maple syrup or whiskey. Danes also don't have pre-made cake frosting – in fact, it’s considered quite lazy to buy something like ranch dressing or microwave pancakes when both can be made at home. I’ve come to love frikadeller, my mom’s Danish meatballs. (Yes! Even the fish ones!) I also tried a sandwich on Rugbrød, Danish rye bread. Next stop pickled herring.

Time for class! Venlig hilsen,

Kelly xxx

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Hej from Danmark!
I arrived on Sunday after a busy 4 days in London with Ms. Cat Manning and Ms. Stephanie Sorensen, two friends of mine from Knox. For those of you not familiar with Denmark: it was ranked from 2006-2008 as the happiest place in the world based on health, welfare and the education system. All Danes receive free health care and may go to school for as long as they wish (including graduate programs!) for free. In fact, my host sister Bolette (18) receives a stiped from the government for attending school.

My family is more awesome than I could've imagined. My host mama Susanne just finished her M.A. in library sciences and my dad Morton is a civil engineer. My brother Toby (21) works at Bakken, an amusement park and is getting ready to attend college next year. Bolette just began her last year at Gymnasium, which is comparable to high school in the U.S. They are all rad. As I write this, I'm watching Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince with Susanne. :)

I'm starting to get my bearings with life in Copenhagen. I can take the bus all by myself, despite the signs and announcements being in Danish! My stop for school is Rådhuspladsen. I also figured out the currency exchange after spending far too much on a chai tea latte. 45 kroner didn't seem like so much until I plugged it into my phone - apparently this is almost $8. Oops.

DIS (abbreviation for the Danish Institute for Study Abroad) sent us on a scavenger hunt around the city for orientation. I saw changing of the guards outside of Queen Margrethe II's palace and Rosenborg Castle, where the royal jewels are stored in the basement. Dogs are allowed in Danish shops and parks, including the royal gardens outside of Rosenborg.

What else, what else? I'm in the psychology program here but I'm taking two gender studies courses - Human Trafficking in Europe and Gender and Sexuality in Scandinavia. I'll be volunteering every week at the SKC, a drop-in mental health cafe open 24 hours for anyone who needs help. My other volunteer opportunity is a 4 day trip to Sweden, where I'll work at the Third European Transgender Council. With my class, I'll also travel to Scotland, Paris and Western Denmark.

As for social life: I have a Danish buddy named Eleni (sort of like a rent-a-friend) who is seriously badass. I'm going to a party with her friends tomorrow night before I head to the DIS opening party at the diskotek. There is an open bar, so I hope my fellow American students don't embarrass themselves. ;)
Later on Saturday, Bolette and I are heading to an anti-racist demonstration where I'll be introduced to her friends. Within a few weeks I hope to build a network of Danish and new American friends. I must also figure out what makes the Danes so happy!

Off to bed now. Friends, feel free to email me at if you have any questions about my semester in Denmark. Godnat!