More Danish Adventures…

I’ve been way too busy with life to do much in the way of updating my blog.  I’m sure that those who read my blog for the science content have long since abandoned reading what I have to say.  On the other hand, the Danish saga continues, for anyone who is interested in my insights into the Danish experience.  For those people, I’ll continue updating the blog as I have time.

So, things that might be interesting…

One of the more random has been the Danish Radio Police.  In fact, they’re not police, but they are intensely aggressive.  We were visited by a very large man who, somehow, got into our complex and banged on my apartment door to ask if we own computers or tvs – and explained that it’s absolutely important that I get a licence.  After all, even he pays, so therefore I should too.  Thanks Denmark.  By the way, it’s about $300 for a half year.  I have yet to receive the promised bill in the mail, but I’m sure it’s coming.

Another has been the weather.  It’s now close to the end of June – and the best I can say for the weather is that it reminds me of April in Vancouver:  Mostly cold and rainy with the occasional nice day where the sun is warm – if the winds stop blowing, which they do every few days for a little while.

Last night also provided me with a bit of entertainment, when I stepped out of the house to a familiar smell: camp fires.  It turns out that Danes build giant bonfires on the shortest night of the year and use that as an opportunity to burn things.  I heard a couple of fireworks, but generally, just watched the cloud of smoke drift by.  Yes, there was a bonfire about a block and a half from my house in a small field.

Other adventures included the 3 day concert that happened further along the canal, maybe a 15 minute walk from my apartment.  It cumulated in a fantastic performance by Snow Patrol, which was pretty decent, if you consider that we could hear it pretty clearly in our bedroom: one of the few times the prevailing winds worked in our favour.

On the less exciting side, we (including the baby, of course) managed to do brunch yesterday, downtown, along the canal.  There is a restaurant (Cross Cafe, I think) that does a reasonable breakfast/lunch buffet, with some pretty awesome bagels and smoked salmon.  I have to admit, I went Canadian and made myself a smoked salmon bagel sandwich with eggs and bacon.  It was delicious – and the people at the next table saw me eating it in the canadian style (ie, without knife and fork) and, rather than the usual Danish disdain for anything sans-cutlery, ended up copying me by making their own bagel sandwiches.  I’ve been wondering if they were tourists ever since.

And, just to round out the stories with another pleasant experience, we went for a walk in the local cemetery the other day – an unusual walk, but surprisingly pleasant.  Unlike most cemeteries I’ve visited, this one has a lot of open park spaces, without any graves.  It’s also better tended than most of the green spaces I’ve seen in the city so far – meaning I’ll probably go back for more walks on sunny days.  Perhaps not a surprise, though – most green spaces I’ve visited have been poorly tended, which I understand is the result of budget cuts passed about a year ago, and in typical Danish style, full of cigarette butts.  I guess the Danes don’t spend much time smoking in cemeteries. (-;

And now, I’m going to wander off to play with my daughter some more…  she’s learning how to smile today, and it makes up for the sustained rainfall we’re getting this afternoon!



The rule of two… and forks.

You can almost entirely get away with living in Denmark without speaking Danish.  Not that it’s easy or painless, but you can.  Most Danes do speak English – and some of them speak it really well, and the Danish accent is kind of endearing, at times.  But, there are occasions that just have you howling with laughter or banging your head in frustration.

My wife and I went out shopping for the first time in months, as we’re finally able to leave the house with the baby and the dog in tow – and get all the way downtown and back. That may not sound like much, but it’s a 3km round trip, and after giving birth, I’d challenge you do to the same!  My wife is a trooper!

Anyhow, at the coffee shop on the way home we had some interesting “Danish Adventures”, as we call them.

My wife walked into the coffee shop and asked if they have decaf coffee, and was greeted with a  prompt “Of course!” from the waiter, who then told her to find a table outside and that he’d come to serve us.

When the waiter did show up a few minutes later, my wife ordered a decaf coffee.  The waiter said: “A coffee.  Ok.  but what’s decaf?”

Yes, it was the same waiter.

Whereupon my wife changed her order to a chai late – it doesn’t have caffeine, and we added some food to the order – just a small plate for the two of us to share.  6 minutes later, a waitress shows up with a drink (after asking every one of the other 6 occupied tables if they’d ordered it…) and presents it to my wife, with the comment that her chai late will also be out in a minute.

Needless to say, we clarified that she only wanted the chai late, and made sure that the food was ordered as well. No problems, then – another 10 minutes later the waiter drops off the chai late and one set of silverware.

At this point, the following conversation ensues:

Me: “Could we please have another fork?”

Waitress: “No, I can not get you another fork.”

Me: “But we’d both like to share the food – can we please have a second fork”?

Waitress: “I can not get you another fork.  If I get you two forks, then it will cost you 50kr [$10] more.”

Me: “But I just want a fork”

Waitress: “If I get you another fork, I need to change your food for two people.  The plate has more meat.”

Me: “I don’t want a bigger plate.. just a fork to share what we ordered”

Waitress: “It is because of my boss.  It is his rule.”

Me: “Ok, we’ll share the food with one fork, then.”

Another 10 minutes pass, and the waiter brings by the plate of food.

Me: “Could we have a second fork?”

Waiter: “Yes, I will get one for you.”

One minute later, the waiter reappears with a fork.

So, as an English speaker in Denmark, the most important rule I’ve learned so far is my rule of two:  Ask every question twice – and try to ask two different people!

Naming a child in Denmark

Here’s a weird post, but I figured I should leave a breadcrumb trail on the Internet for people who will be following in my path – if there are any, that is!  At the least, this is information that would have been useful to me before hand.

If you’re having a child in Denmark, the process by which you give your child and name, and subsequently have proof of said name is not obvious, unless you’re a Dane.

Contrary to what I expected, a child is given a CPR number as soon as they are born.  Within minutes of being born, in fact. This number roughly translates to the SIN or Social Security Numbers for North Americans, so I was expecting to have to apply for it, which is not the case.  In fact, the process is a little different in that the child is entered into the Danish system immediately, and the rest of the process is simply filling in the details in the computer.

The first thing you need to do is decide on a name, which isn’t as easy as it might sound.  First, the name you pick MUST be on the list of acceptable names for a child.  If it is unusual, foreign or otherwise novel to Denmark, you must apply to have the name recognized.  This does not apply to last names, however, just given names.  Fortunately, the name list is quite extensive, and any reasonably common name (and some that really aren’t) are already there.

[Edit: I forgot one thing – the usage of names in Denmark is different from North American in an odd way – middle names, here, are not the same – at least, they are not analogous.  In the end, despite trying to convince me to use the Danish convention where “middle names” are maternal last names or something similar, neither I or tr woman at the church office felt strongly enough about it to change what I’d already entered into the computer.]

Once you’ve selected the name, you can head over to, where you must log in using the mother’s identification.  (If you’re not in Denmark, you won’t be familiar with the system, but it involves using your CPR number, a password and a disposable key card with ~200 key/response pairs.  It’s quite a neat system, really.)  The mother can then enter the name of the child into the system. At this point, the computer then will Email the father and require that the father log in (using the his own CPR number, password and key card) and confirm the name in the system.

However, this is where it starts to become interesting.  If you will be christening the child, you’re more or less done the process at this point, and you can head over to your local church to finish the process.   If you won’t be christening the child, you’re more or less done as well – unless you’d like a birth certificate – in which case, the process is a little more involved.

What you need to do, at this point, is to figure out which parish you live in.  In my case, I went to city hall, and told them I wanted a birth certificate for my child, and they said “Go Here” and handed me a piece of paper with an address.  That address (Vestregade 21) turned out to be a church run office, where I had to figure out that I needed to enter through the front door, walk up a flight of stairs, and through a sitting room to find a woman who is in charge of church registrations.

What you then find out is that the church waits exactly 15 days after the child is born to enter the baby’s name into the system from the information in personregistrering database manually from a printed out copy.  Once it’s in the church system, they can simply print off a sheet of watermarked paper with the information on it – in both English and Danish, if you ask politely.

Surprisingly, it doesn’t contain the basic information on “where the child was born”, simply in which parish they’ve been registered, which took me by surprise.  In any case, at this point, you will have the equivalent of a birth certificate for your child – which, if you can read the Danish, you will find out is actually a certificate that you have registered the name to the child, not that the child was born.

And there you have it, now you know how to name a baby in Denmark!