I have mentioned before how hardy the Danes are. Many of them, anyway. My son hates gross overgeneralizations – reminding me that my initial perfunctory characterization that ALL Danes are blond, is in fact completely incorrect. Which is true. I stand corrected. Today my estimation of a certain segment of the Danish population ticked up a few notches.
Color me shocked. Drawn to the rich, but muted winter tones of this beautiful building on the water in Charlottenlund, I pulled right on over and set outside to capture it for my Scandi palette collection. What I did NOT expect to capture was the pale flesh tones of stark naked bathers dipping into the freezing cold Øresund. It was 0°C outside when I took this photo. I do not even want to know what the temperature of the water could have been.
A wee bit taken aback, I instantly took down my long-range lens feeling very much more than slightly stalkery. I did a quick look about to make sure I hadn’t been witnessed “spying” like a common paparazzi and then snapped this quick pic with my iPhone, which is where I edit all my photos anyway. Not so unhurriedly, I scuttled back to my car and continued up the road to my original destination – Bellevue Strand in Klampenborg (Bellevue Beach.)
A popular swim beach (I’m told it gets PACKED) in the summer months, Bellevue Strand is quiet and peaceful in January. Could have sat and listened to the lap, lap, swell, lap, whoosh, lap of the waves on the shore for a long time. Caught ‘gramming (again) by a woman and her 20-something daughter moving out to the pier where I had concentrated, they smiled and I got up to move on down the beach to the next pier. As soon as I stepped onto the sand, the daughter gracefully removed every stitch of her clothing and went into the water. Need I remind you? IT IS KOLDT HERE! There is no warm sauna or steam room or hot tub with which to warm up into immediately following this Baltic dip. It doesn’t last long and soon she is dressed again and on her way with her mother. No way. Doesn’t compute.
I put my hand in to reach for a shell washing in and out with the soft tide. Mere seconds are required to freeze my skin to a perfectly painful and prickly state. I can not even process a full body dunk. The shock to your system must be intense. Apparently this is normal regular everyday behavior for a certain segment of Danes. Wow, color me impressed. I will say it again. These Danes are HARDY. I am in awe. Enjoy the photo gallery from Bellevue Strand and have a happy Fredag!
WHEN a foreign language makes even simple tasks difficult
I have a friend named Fran. Fran and I have not been getting along lately. She is helpful, but only on her terms. She blurts out and interrupts me all the time and in an extremely whiny annoying voice. She will start a job and then stop right in the middle. I tolerate Fran because she is the only one who can help me with one specific task.
Fran is what I have named my clothes dryer. Meet Fran. Fran – these are my friends, friends – this is Fran.
So Fran works hard enough. I am grateful for Fran – don’t get me wrong. There are many apartments in Copenhagen that don’t have a Fran. They hang their clothes to dry both inside and outside their apartments. I can even say there is a charm in watching neighbors from the adjacent building’s courtyard shake out their sheets carefully placing them on the communal drying racks. If I had to air dry my clothes – I would love one of these beautiful functional racks. (I am adoring Scandinavian design.)
But that’s Dryp, not Fran. Upon our initial arrival, we made use of several airbnb temporary apartments. Most had no Fran. Their towels were scratchy and almost hard from air-drying. If you are used to this, it’s not a big deal. I guess we’re wimps when it comes to our towels. Or just used to a softer fluff. It is what it is. When we moved in to our own place, I was quite pleased to meet Fran. Initially. There she was. New, shiny, clean and mine. Our towels would be soft. Isk (that’s Danish for “ish”).
Three children exude much laundry. I use Fran often. She is difficult to understand. Maybe because she is German. She is Bosch. Bosch is a popular brand here. There are many great neon signs that decorate the Copenhagen skyline attesting to this.
I know this is a German company. But I know what German looks like and Fran’s words are not German. So when I set Fran to what seems a middle-isk setting and she calls to me with an insistent BEEEP, I assume that she has completed her task. And my clothes should be dry. That is her task. WRONG. What? What are you BEEEP’ing for? Lint? No. Cleared that. Oh. In these washing machines – you have to empty the water. Did you know that? Luckily one of the former airbnb hosts showed this to me. Ok Fran. Water emptied. Start. Again. 5 minutes in. BEEEEP. WHY Fran WHY? I don’t know. In attempt to move forward in my relationship with Fran, I call in help. Google Translate. Moving abroad? Engelsk is not the primary language? Google Translate. Life saver. Don’t know what the parking sign says? Google Translate. Don’t know what that meat is at the grocery store? Google Translate. Don’t know which is the mens room or the womens room? Google Translate. Get it immediately. So I bring G.T. in to assist with Fran.
The app is very user friendly – just type in the Dansk word and it translates for you to Engelsk. Only this is what G.T. tells me.
Hunh. So syntet was probably the only word that I could have figured out myself. Yep. Thanks. What the heck is “synthetic mycket torrt?” Meanwhile. BEEEEP. Dryer stopped again. Clothes not yet dry. Fait no accompli. Boo. Come on Fran. I have other things to do. Like visit a slot or a museet or a kunst galleri. (art gallery.) Many days go by. BEEEEP. Check. Restart. BEEEEP. Check. Restart. Feeling like I am being hung out to dry. Pun intended.
So G.T. has another function that had yet to make itself aware to me. Detect language. Why would I need to detect language? I’m in Denmark. Isn’t it in Danish? No, as a matter of fact. Fran is not Danish at all. Born to German and SWEDISH parents. Fran speaks SWEDISH! Is this what you have been trying to tell me Fran? Its been a misunderstanding the entire time! BEEEEEP. Clothes dry. Mama is happy. BEEEEP. Sigh. Restart. At least she isn’t as mean as my oven who calls me names.
Everyone around you is speaking a foreign language. Normal looking people – living normal looking lives – just foreign. But wait, we are the foreign ones here. Alien. Officially we are aliens in Denmark. They gave me a card showing this – it has my “biometrics” on it – no really, not only does it show my official photo, but my fingerprints are stored on a chip held within that card. We had to fly on a plane from Portland, OR to Sacramento, CA to have our “biometrics” registered with the Danish Consulate in America before we could move here.
We were also granted the special CPR number that unlocks many aspects of Danish life. They gave it to us. Without it – you can do very little here. Can’t open a bank account without it (which means you can’t get your contractually agreed upon relocation funds without it.) Difficult to sign a lease without it. Can’t get a mobile phone without it. I can rent a car, but I can’t lease a car without it. But. What we can get is free medical care with that card. We can now go to the library with that card (and they do have some books in ENGLISH). My children could go to university for FREE with that card. It’s a good card. It was quite a process to get it. No one told us the process. We may or may not have done it correctly. But we have that darn card now.
Does it make me feel less like an alien? Maybe? Minutely. I will admit that when I am out and about, I don’t speak much. Everyone speaks English perfectly enough, but only if you do first. “Hej!” Traditional Danish greeting. It is pronounced exactly the same as an American “Hi!” Be wary of using it if you want to be understood. To immediately announce oneself as a non-Danish speaker upon entering a specific establishment when greeted – you say “Hello!” not “Hej!/Hi!” This is a sure-fire clue for the purveyor to use English to ask if you need any help or assistance. I feel a sense of sheepishness for employing this entrance and absolutely do not enjoy admitting that I have no idea what they are saying. Most of the time my deer in headlights expression is clear enough for them to switch over to English. Sometimes I muster an “Engelsk?” and they flip right over. Other times I just smile and nod, smile and nod and hope I am not agreeing to something ridiculous. This tactic usually horrifies my eldest who already feels quite conspicuous as an outsider that me feigning some sort of understanding is abhorrent to him. There is a claustrophobia in my muteness and not understanding. If you know me – muteness is not my natural state and is somewhat challenging. I like to talk. Talking is therapy to me. I work through things by talking. Everyone speaks perfect English, but only if you do first.
Looking at the cup half full – muteness does afford a heightening of alternate senses. I listen. And the sounds can be deafening. I live in the city again. I have not lived in the city for twenty years when I was living in a “garden level studio apartment” on Capitol Hill in Seattle, Washington. It was nowhere near a garden. It WAS subterranean. My tiny kitchen looked out at the sidewalk and onto the bus stop. The city sounds (even the horrible brake squeals of the metro bus out my window) were my white noise. Those noises fill my window again. Fill my life again. The police cars sound different, like a European movie that I am suddenly living. The church bells tolling. Children laughing. There are not so charming sounds as well. The garbage trucks that seem to take an eternity to move down the street. The raucous young folk returning from a late evening whose peels of laughter and boisterous language seem to echo through the street bouncing between the buildings. I can’t even describe to you the level of noise on New Year’s Eve. Like Denmark had started another World War. I listen to it all. I hear.
I look. There is so much to see. My camera roll is filling up again with all the looking and seeing. This is bucket filling for me as I am very visual and love to take photographs. This is good. The light here is amazing. I will dedicate another post solely to the Nordic light alone. When there is light that is. It is winter in Denmark. I observe. I watch people. What they wear. What they buy at the grocery store. How they ride their bikes. In furs and heels and cute scarves. How they chat with their children in their cargo bikes – pedaling along. In the dark. In the rain. In the wind. In the SNOW. So much to see. I look at it all.
What I know is that I want to be a part of it all. I will use my special Alien card and sign up for those free Danish lessons. Will it help? I don’t know yet. Will time help? Probably. In the meantime – I will take my brother’s advice upon leaving Oregon – learn something every day. Get out there and experience it. I’m trying bro. I’m trying.
No, it’s not a fancy kind of jewelry. Its not something you do in deference to your goofy friend named Parker. (ie; “Chris – stop “Parkering” – you look ridiculous.”) It’s not a circular playground. It’s Parking. In Denmark. Seems straight-forward – right? Now that you know what it means – of course it’s PARKING. Makes sense. Right?
HA! Got you! (Or me rather, it got me. It did. It has. It will again I am sure.) Not straight forward. Lots of translation required. And I have failed multiple attempts at that translation.
Where do you have to pay for parking? Just about EVERYWHERE. When do you have to pay? ALWAYS! Ok, you get Saturday night after 5pm through Sunday as a break. Find one of these machines – press the British flag button so as to understand slightly what you are paying for.
Do I have to pay for parking at the grocery store in the suburbs near the childrens’ school? No. BUT. You have to make sure you change the little dial-y clock ticker thing in your front window. (A parking disc I’m told.)
Yep. Maybe you know these. Maybe you’ve been here. Maybe you live here. Maybe some other country that you have visited uses these. WE DON’T HAVE THESE in Oregon. Do other US states or American cities use these? I had never seen them before coming to Denmark. So ok. Change the dial to the time you park. You get one hour gratis at the grocery store. “Great!” I think. I saw that 1 time gratis sign. (In my head I may have said – so next time, its not free?) You might get more free time elsewhere – just make sure you figure it out and set your dial before you leave your car and return before allotted time. Else…. TICKET!
Back to the grocery store. Groceries are very expensive here and there are apparently government limitations on the grandness (or not so grandness) of grocery purveyors physical establishments – they can only be so big. So as to make the best use of space, they sell things in smaller containers. MILK. For instance. You can only buy 1 quart of milk at a time. This is challenging for a family with growing children who probably go through a quart a meal. Or more. I am constantly buying, carrying up 5 flights of stairs, lots of MILK. Thankfully it is delicious milk. As is the smør (butter), yoghurt, cheese and all other dairy. Happy cows make happy cheese. Did I hear that somewhere? ANYWAY – I digress. I had some time to wander the aisles of SuperBest – which is lovely grocer I will add. I used my currency converter and google translate apps to really strategically shop and do my best to make at least two days worth of meals out for 450 DKK (about $75.00 USD). Feeling quite pleased with myself for procuring the organic produce, good Danish pork loin, MILK (maybe some Haribo gummy treats for the kids and some adult beverages) and more, etc., etc., et al. All of this, in definitely under one hour. GRATIS, remember? I return to my vehicle to find a farging parking ticket. It is very nicely placed in a little plastic sleeve right under the windshield wiper by the dial-y thing. I quickly scan the lot for a sign I may have missed. Did I park in the handicapped spot or other specialty labeled zone?
Was this the target Danish aliens zone? No. I don’t think so? I quickly head into the nearest shop and say “Unskyld. (excuse me?) Can you help me? Do you know why I received this ticket?”
“Oh.”Pause, looks at co-worker. “Did you move the parking dial on your window?”
Heavy sigh. “No.”
“So sorry, you have to do that EVERY TIME. They are very strict.”
No kidding. Boo. How much was the ticket you wonder? 650 DKK!!! ($110 USD) Just think what groceries I could have bought with THAT! Or what other piece of IKEA furniture I could have procured. I was really coveting the Vittjsö, even though I can’t pronounce it. Boo. Balloon deflated. But, bootstraps pulled up. Marching on. Remember to move your dial-y thing. Whatever that is in your life. We all have one right?
Helpful links that I maybe should have looked at that hopefully will help you!