The last two weeks have been busy and cold… and interesting. I have a bunch of half finished posts that I just haven’t gotten around to completing. Mostly, that’s due to my parents arriving in town. I really enjoyed their company and appreciated all of their hard work to help us get settled in and unpacked. (our stuff arrived the day before they did, which was a tight squeeze to get everything in decent shape, but we made it!)
Unfortunately, their visit also coincided with what has, so far, been the coldest weather we’ve yet experienced in Denmark: -15C with some mild winds. Certainly cold, even for most Canadians (Canadians from the prairies and territories excluded, excluded).
Those of us who are still here, now that my parents have left, have found different ways of beating the cold. Personally, I just think of how much colder it was in Winnipeg in the winter, and that just makes me feel warmer. My wife makes tea and hides in a pile of blankets. The dog tries to sit on everyone’s lap… And the cat…. well… This:
I suspect he has the best technique – and he can watch birds out the window at the same time.
The Danes, though, are all still hibernating, with the exception of this overly optimistic guy:
Yes, he was selling ice cream during the coldest week of the year.
In any case, with all of our stuff here, life seems a bit brighter. We spent the afternoon cooking and baking, which also helped keep us warm. What ever Danes know about winter, they have much to learn about energy efficient housing. We can’t keep our bathroom over about 10C, which makes it rather miserable if you need to use the facilities. That’s partly because our bathroom here doesn’t have a fan, which means the only way to control the humidity is to open the bathroom window – which then refused to shut properly again, having frozen into a block of ice. However, the freezing window didn’t really impact the temperature much – I’d built a homemade weather stripping to keep the cold air out, which more or less made the bathroom just as cold as before the window got stuck. Yes, we do have interesting adventures here.
Heating here is also horrendously expensive. We’d closed off three unused rooms and turned off the heat to them when we first moved in, but were shocked to get a heating bill double what we’d paid in Vancouver to heat our entire house. Yes, that is with our Danish house temperature set at about 18C, and heating turn on in only two rooms. Wow – just wow.
In any case, the house is probably quite reasonable, if you assume it is a summer time home. I really can’t imagine people thinking this house design was a good one for the winter (unless they failed house design school), but I’m sure it’ll be wonderful once the cold breaks. I haven’t figured out if all Danish people build homes this way, or if we’re really in a one-off “Vancouver Special” somehow dropped in Aarhus. Either way, Welcome to Denmark.
Also on the theme of “Welcome to Denmark”, I walked over to the place where I bought my phone and contract two months ago to fill in some of the details. Unfortunately, I’d had a Danish colleague with me to help negotiate the contract when I first visited, and much of the information they’d worked out was never communicated to me. For instance, all incoming calls with Danish numbers are free calls – you only pay to call out. Same goes for SMS, which wasn’t mentioned at the time. Also, I ended up with a business contract instead of the home contract that I thought I’d signed up for. Small differences, but they add up.
And, more shockingly, there’s a 35dkk charge for having my bill mailed for me. That’s about $7 USD. Yes, just for having the bill mailed. One envelope, two pieces of paper and a stamp. $7.
Of course, no one told me that I could avoid the charge by setting up automated bill payments. Freaking Danish systems!
My wife coined a term for us being here: “Bleeding money”. Every time we turn around, we get dinged for things we should have known how to avoid if we were Danish. Sooner or later, I’m going to have to start working on a manual: “How to not be overcharged by Danes.”
One last anecdote for the day, though, just to give you an example. While my parents were here, we all went out for lunch at the Brewery downtown (St. Clements Brewery), where we had an overpriced lunch. (It cost about $100 to feed four of us, and I could have made the same food for about $15 at home.) At the end of the meal, my father went to the bar to settle the bill, where he asked if tip was included. The bartender told him that tip was not included, and should pay on top. The bartender, whether through greed, malice or otherwise, had managed to split hairs between the tip and a service charge to get the extra $20 out of my father’s wallet. If we’d been able to read danish more clearly, we’d have seen that taxes and service charge (aka tip) were already included. While tip and service charges may not be exactly the same linguistically, you shouldn’t need to pay both – and Danes know not to. Unfortunately, my father didn’t.
Anyhow, learning the intricacies of a culture isn’t something you can pick up quickly… and I have yet to figure out how to find a sherpa to guide me. In the meantime, the lessons go on, and slowly – bit by bit- we’re figuring out how things work. It’s a very satisfying feeling when you dodge a charge, but a terrible feeling when you realize you’ve been overpaying for stuff for two months – and of course, right at the start is when money is at it’s tightest.