5 months in Denmark

So, its been about 5 months since we arrived in Denmark, so I thought I’d try to capture what’s going on at this point, and to give a bit of perspective.

About a month ago, we moved into our new apartment. It has made all of the difference.  We’ve walked downtown a few times and even found a few places we’d like to try for weekend brunch – and we were able to take the dog with us on those walks (no, the dog doesn’t come for brunch).  It wasn’t like our usual weekend jaunts in Vancouver, but it felt reasonably comfortable.   Seeing people on the streets, having somewhere to walk to and being in town has made a HUGE difference for us.

We’ve also discovered we live near to a couple we’d met at our childbirth education class, and it’s so nice to have friends in the neighborhood!  They’re fascinating people, and time just flies by when we’re hanging out with them.  I also have to admit, they have a fantastic library of English books in their house, which is quite impressive, especially since neither of them is a native English speaker.

In any case, things are finally starting to settle into a bit of a routine.  We have our favourite (English) shows to watch, we manage quite well at the grocery store, we seem to pay our bills on time and we can find stuff to do on the weekends.  I’m even able to read a bit in Danish now, at least to the point where I can skim an article and work out what its trying to say.  Spoken Danish is becoming a bit more tractable, but damn, Danes don’t make that easy!

At any rate, just as we have our routine down, we’re up to the last few days of waiting for our child to arrive, which will happen any day now.  Our last visit with the midwife is scheduled for tomorrow, so whatever routines we have will probably be tossed out the window and have to be started over fresh.  That’s just the way it goes, I suppose.

There are a few odd things that still irritate me: Lunch times, Danish surprises and the weather are at the top of the list.

Lunch times, because they feel incredibly awkward for me.  If I join the rest of the company, and they chose to speak English for me, the conversation is often slowed down and drags along because not everyone is comfortable in English.  If they chose to speak in Danish, then the conversation is lively, fast paced, good natured – and I understand one out of every 10 words.  Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.  In reality, as a foreigner that doesn’t speak the native language, it shouldn’t be a surprise that this is how interactions go, but it is an irritation that is a part of daily life.  I’ve at least gotten over my usual conversation starter of “I’m sorry, I don’t speak Danish but…”   After a while, you realize that everyone knows that, as soon as you open your mouth.

“Danish surprises” are my own way of expressing those things that just blind side me when I least expect it.  For instance, this week it was paternity leave.  The rules are really designed to support working couples, or working mothers, but they’re really quite poor for single income fathers.  An example of that is the rule that fathers get two weeks off after the birth of a child, but the pay is (if I’ve done the calculations right) stripped down to about minimum wage for the time you take off.  After that comes a 12 week period in which the father is not allowed to take any further parental leave, followed by some ridiculous amount of time that can be spread over 9 years – but again, at minimum wage.  If there are problems, and the father needs to take more than two weeks after the birth, it’s just not allowed by the state.   I imagine one could use vacation time for that purpose, but if you’ve recently moved here, you won’t have acquired any.  I’ve already posted about the no vacation for 18 months rules before.  That probably wouldn’t be a concern if I had family here to support my wife after I go back to work, but that’s just not available, as we’ve left our families in Canada.

(I should point out that my company has been quite flexible about these things, to make life much more bearable – but the default rules are strict and obnoxious.)

Finally, the weather here has just been lousy.  We’ve had two weekends in the past 5 months where the temperatures have been decent – Once it went up to 16C, the other time to 19C.  It’s not like I’m expecting summer to arrive in May… but well, ok, actually I am expecting summer to arrive in May.  Hey summer, where the heck are you? At least the days are long, stretching well into the late evening, with a light sky at 10:30pm – even if it’s only 7C outside.

At any rate, life goes on, and bit by bit, we become more comfortable. Still, we’re not getting too comfortable, with some life changing changes in the works. But, with the new house, some basic Danish comprehension skills and a few new friends, life has been looking up for us.  A very welcome change!

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