🇩🇰 7 Surprises I found in Denmark

I recently returned from a 6 week trip to the UK, Ireland and Denmark.  Denmark was the last stop on my trip and I found it to be quite surprising.  I stayed at a flat in Copenhagen and really lucked out with the location.  It was only a block from Torvehallerne (a huge market open 7 days a week), the metro and train station. This made it a terrific jumping off point for traveling around Copenhagen, the countryside and made finding provisions quite easy. 

The author and her friend Alison on the canal in Copenhagen.

Here are the 7 surprises I found in Denmark:

  • Bikes, bikes and more bikes. I have never seen so many bikes ever.  When I got of the metro from the airport, I could not believe the massive amount of bikes parked at the metro station.  There had to be upwards of 1,000 bikes within a one block radius. As I walked to the flat, I saw bikes leaned up against every building and, to at least my untrained eye, they looked to not secured in anyway. Most of the bikes were basic black with a large basket up front. Copenhagen has the most cyclists per capita, and the city with the most cyclists with 62% of the population using bikes for the daily commute.  There are 6 bikes for every car in Denmark. 
  • Hej.  I studied Scottish and Irish before arriving in each country.  The thing is, while the signs might be written in Irish in Dublin, I never heard anyone speaking Irish.  On the other hand, in Denmark, people greet you will “Hi” which is how “Hej” sounds to me (Hej means Hello in Danish).  So I mistakenly thought that it was obvious I didn’t speak Danish but frequently, it was followed by something in Danish that I didn’t understand (although I did try to learn some Danish before arriving). The signs, the products, the menus are all in Danish although there is frequently a translation.  Everyone flawlessly (I mean without skipping a beat and in perfect English) would transition from Danish to English and then back with another person.  
  • Baby strollers.  They have taken baby stroller to new heights here.  Babies are cocooned in a padded cover, head covered and swaddled lying flat on a carriage with four sturdy wheels. In the US strollers are valued for being convertible and able to move from stroller to car easily.  When you don’t have a car (see number 1) you might as well have a Rolls-Royce for a stroller. Mom’s get 12 months of maternity leave (yes, 12 months) so why not make sure you can stroll with your baby in comfort.
  • Green energy.  As we took a canal tour of Copenhagen, we saw the very modern building called, Amager Bakke which is a combined heat and power waste-to-energy plant.  It’s shaped like a hill (ironic since Denmark is so flat) and while it’s converting waste to energy, you can dry ski down the slope, go hiking or climb a climbing wall.  Denmark has committed to being net zero on carbon emissions by 2025.  I have to say that for as close as we got to the plant, I didn’t smell anything and, probably due to so many bikes, I don’t remember smelling exhaust the whole time I was there.
  • Metro and trains.  Getting a train or metro ticket in Copenhagen was easy and simple.  There were kiosks at every stop and it was easy to buy a single or multi use ticket in English as well as Danish.  The trains themselves are immaculate and most that I traveled on, showed each stop of a lit board and let you know where you were on your journey. Every train had at least a half a car devoted to bikes and and baby strollers (see 1 and 3).  There was one point where I saw a man leave a stroller on the train and go sit down with his back to the stroller (through a doorway and about 10 feet from the stroller).  I could not believe that the man sat with his back to his baby and anyone could have taken the stroller off at any given stop.  I will say  I saw a least one mother stand next to their stroller while en route. 
  • Driving.  My dear friend Alison who is an American expat and has lived in Denmark for over 20 years. She picked me up at the train station with her car.  The first thing is that every road has pedestrian side walk on each side of it, has a bike path (one in each direction with bike traffic lights) and a two lane car lane.  This is found in the city of Copenhagen and out in the hinter land. Walking, biking and driving, are all equally welcome. The crazy part was that cars would park in the car lane in the middle of the street so as not to block the bike lane.  It almost feels like the bike is number one, followed by pedestrians and then, last on the list, is the car.  There is not right turn on red because of the bikers.  
  • Food.  I had wonderful food while in Denmark.  The highlight was probably the humble Danish which, as it turns out, they call “winderbrød” or Viennese bread.  So some Austrias who settled in Denmark, made the beloved pastry.  As opposed to what is called “danish” in the US, the flakey croissant like crust is amazing and the creamy rich center is divine. I also had a smorgasbord which is just an open face sandwich and they had many hearty breads on which they make the smorrebrød on.  There is also something called Flødeboller which is a chocolate covered marshmallow puff although the marshmallow part is light and delicate. The food was amazing.

I should mention the architecture and the all the color buildings along the canals, but you most likely already think of that with Copenhagen, I think that in the combination of electric transportation, their focus on green energy and the use of bikes, it’s amazing how quiet an pollution free it feels in Denmark.  That must be why it’s the one of the happiest places on Earth. 

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿20 Peculiarities of England

I’ve been traveling around southern England for the last two weeks and I have found many things to be a bit peculiar. I’m born and bred in the United States and have lived on both coasts so I know variances in behavior. So, even though we speak the same language as the Fatherland, I find several things to be interesting and quite captivating. After my first day or two in Southsea, Hampshire, I started keeping notes of what I found to be unusual.

The author on the Westminster Bridge in front of Westminster Hall and Elizabeth Tower in London

Here are my 20 peculiarities of England:

  1. Mind the gap.  If you ride a train in England this will be said at every station, it will be on every doorway and between trains.  It’s also on subways.  It’s polite and proactive without being overly cautious about the gap between the train cars and the doorway and the platform.
  2. Love.  People from practically every walk of life called me Love.  Whether it was a guy moving a hose out of the way on the street, the host at a restaurant or a bus driver.  I find it so refreshing for everyone to be called Love instead of Ma’am or Hey you.  What’s not to be loved about being called Love?
  3. What’s on.  Almost every town (including those outside of England like Dublin and Glasgow) had bulletins around saying “What’s on”. It is announcements about upcoming events or a pub might have a listing of upcoming acts.  I find it inviting and positive.
  4. Opening hours.  These are the hours when an establishment is open. Quirky in that it sounds active, which I guess it is although in the US it would be announcing a grand opening instead of an ongoing business.
  5. See it, say it, sorted.  This is an interesting safety announcement that is repeatedly announced in train stations and on trains.  If you see something, say something and we’ll sort it. Short, snappy and memorable.
  6. Way out.  This is the exit.  It’s disconcerting for me as I was looking for lighted red exit signs which is the norm in the U.S. Way out signs are typically green, which I find to be much more inviting.
  7. Mail slots.  Every apartment I’ve stayed in has a mail slot in the front door of the apartment. I ran into this in my first stay in Glasgow and the first afternoon I was there and heard something drop on the ground I about jumped out of my skin.  Then I saw the mail on the floor of the front entryway.
  8. Fairy dish soap.  This is the Joy or Dawn of the United Kingdom.  Every kitchen has a bottle of green Fairy soap on the counter.  I just love the name.  It sounds magical.
  9. Sorry.  People don’t say excuse me or pardon me.  They all just say sorry when squeezing by on a too narrow sidewalk or pressing the button to open the door on a train. I think of all the posts I’ve written about over-apologizing and it would be a hard sell here.  I was on a train the other day that was three minutes late to the final destination and the conductor kept apologizing for the delay.  Three minutes! 
  10. 10. Two ticks. Several service people said that they would be with me in two ticks.  I assume it means two ticks of a clock. Charming, don’t you think?
  11. 11.Alight.  I’m pretty sure I’ve never used alight or fortnight (which means two weeks) in a sentence ever.  This is constantly announced at the arrival at a train station to be careful as you alight the train. I love these words that I would never use;like… ever. 
  12. 12.Washers. I selected only apartments that had washers available.  Every washer was in the kitchen, which is unusual in the US. And it was only a washer.  So, every week I washed my clothes and hung them up to dry.  Which, to my surprise, typically only took overnight for most things to dry.
  13. 13.Dogs. I think about 30% of the dogs that I saw were off their leash.  This is very unusual at least in North Carolina where I live. A dog off a leash is a lost dog in my mind.  Not so here.  There many times I was in a cafe on the pier over the ocean and dogs came in with their owner arriving several minutes behind because that particular cafe was a regular stop for doggie treats.
  14. 14. Full English.  This is a massive breakfast with sausage, bacon, black pudding, hash browns, baked beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, eggs, toast and butter.  In Ireland it’s called a fry.  You will not go hungry and the eggs will be sunny side up.
  15. 15. Calling at.  The announcement on the trains for the next station or the order of coming stations is always “Calling at Guilford, Barnham, and London Waterloo.” I think of calling as something you do on a phone or trying to get someone’s attention across a crowded room, not a train announcement.
  16. 16. Safety vests.  Construction workers, train station attendants, pre-school children on outings to a playground are all in brightly color safety vests.  I saw one group of kids that had to be about 4 years old, all buddied up holding hands and everyone, including the teachers, had a vest on.
  17. 17.Carriage.  This is what a train car is called.  Going between carriages or how many carriages are going to be on the arriving train is a mental adjustment.  Makes me think of being in a horse drawn carriage.
  18. 18. Small forks and spoons.  I was served what to me looked like a fork to pick crab out of a crab leg to use in eating cake at afternoon tea. It was miniature and dainty.  The spoons for tea as well are super small, really more of a stir stick than something to eat with.
  19. 19. Sunday Roast. This is served from noon to four or five on a Sunday afternoon at most restaurants and pubs.  I was able to have one in Southsea where I had a perfect Yorkshire Pudding alongside a nut loaf.  There were tons of vegetables and roasted potatoes.  It’s not to be missed.
  20. 20.HP.  The sauce is on every table and packets of HP sauce are given with takeout sandwiches as well.  It’s named after London’s Houses of Parliament. I think I was surprised that this is much more ubiquitous than Worcestershire sauce or ketchup. Which are also British. 

So, there you have it.  Although I know it’s not complete, I wanted to share these unusual things I found in my travels. What peculiarities do you have from England?