Here are my pictures from our mini trip to Copenhagen before Christmas. Not pictured are my kids – one who refused to sleep the whole time we were there, and the other one who threw up…and the lovely picture of me fuming when the lift was not working again to get down to the train, so my husband and I had to carry down the double pram…fun?! I had flashbacks of the time when we use to live there…for some reason, I seem to always find the lifts that don’t work…at least Copenhagen looks picture perfect! Ha! Enjoy!
Last weekend we visited the beautiful and charming city of Odense. It is the famous childhood home of Hans Christian Andersen. (For those who may not be aware, he is the author who wrote fairy tales such as “The Little Mermaid”, “The Ugly Duckling”, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, etc.) We went on a tip that Odense is a place to visit during Christmas time, when the already fairy like city turns even more magical. We were not disappointed. I am keeping this blog short, to include more pictures, and suggest that if you have the chance to visit Odense, do so!
Grocery shopping with little kids can be challenging at times. I would prefer to shop on my own, or with one kid in tow, but Denmark has made it actually fun. At least on Sundays in one particular store called Bilka. Or as we call it Vilka store, because Bilka’s mascot is a wolf and in Latvian, wolf is “vilks”. Vilka Bilka…
Anyway, at the main entrance there is a giant lego of Billie the wolf. Perhaps just to remind us that we are in the land of Lego?! Then, on Sundays, Billie the wolf greets the kids, gives hugs or high fives and hands out a “magical” little bag. This little bag is what makes grocery shopping a whole lot easier.
It is almost like a party bag. The usual items are a cheese stick, chocolate milk, a fruit snack, stickers and then a new little toy. So far we have a key chain, a mini flash light, a little puzzle, some frisbee type toy, a bouncy ball, and a noise maker. All with Billie the wolf logo on it. Very smart for marketing! Our son happily eats the snacks and plays with whatever new toy while we can grocery shop at a snail’s pace. Check out is the cherry on top, where they have little toy flags or balloons. Sometimes they have had little games too, where you spin to win some free fruit or a hot dog.
For us, we look forward to grocery shopping on Sundays now. It has become our Sunday Funday! Wouldn’t it be great if all grocery stores were so child orientated and gave out free stuff for the kids?! If only…but nevertheless, thank you Bilka! You are our grocery store of choice because of this!
As Halloween is ending in Denmark, I am realizing how depressing holidays become as an expat. I know that I am in a foreign country and can’t expect everyone to celebrate the way I grew up celebrating a holiday, but it doesn’t mean that my heart slightly aches a bit more around these holidays when my kids don’t have the same traditions as I did growing up.
Scandinavia as I know it has begun to embrace Halloween a bit more over the years. At the grocery stores, dedicated areas were filled with the familiar assortment of costumes, decorations and candy. But, the locals, at least where I currently live, didn’t go further to really celebrate.
We ventured out tonight, and lucked out at three houses out of at least 20. No one had decorations out, not even a glowing jack-o-lantern. I am resigning to the fact that in some local article it was said that Halloween is to be celebrated before or after October 31 this year since today marks the celebration 500 years of reformation. Thus this Friday there is something in town arranged, and am hoping that my son will be satisfied.
Last year in Doha, Halloween was something out of movie. Houses decorated, kids running around trick or treating. Simple, sweet, holiday done and dusted. This year, I rather not repeat since as much as I tried, my little village didn’t. My efforts gave hopes to my son, only to make me explain that the Danes here don’t celebrate it quite like we are use to. Different cultures. Different lifestyles. Welcome to expat life kid. At least you got three lollipops! Grass is greener where you water it, right?!
We are only human. And with that, shit happens. As much as I like to post happy, positive pictures and stories, reality is, I am not living in a bubble. The month of October reminds me of my first car accident I was involved in. Ironically, it happened just two weeks prior to our move to Qatar back in 2014. I quickly became very grateful at how effective the Danes are when it comes to dealing with authorities, specifically when involved in a car accident.
I had entered a round about safely, but a tricky one where the cars from the left also had a signal to adhere to within the traffic circle itself. A lady drove through her red light and drove right into me. It shook me up and I immediately began questioning myself did I actually have the right of way? We slowly pulled forward and off to the side. As we both got out of our cars, we of course questioned one another if we were fine physically. Then, she said her English wasn’t that great, and I replied my Danish wasn’t the great either, so we will wait until the police got there. From my American upbringing, I imagined that I would give my report to the police officer and then follow it all up with the insurance company. To my surprise, that is not the case in Denmark.
The police officer checked if we were alright, then told us to call our insurance companies and carry on. No further information needed! I expected him wanting to hear both sides of our stories, or collect our names at the least. But nothing! So, I called the insurance company and it all worked perfectly. The car insurance company directed me to where I can get my car fixed and nothing else was needed. There was a witness who did approach me at the accident scene and told me that he was willing to give his viewpoint to the insurance company if needed. I took his information and provided it to the insurance company, not really knowing if they ever actually contacted him or not. All what I can say is that I was pleasantly surprised at how smoothly it all went and can be thankful that I had insurance.
In Qatar, it was a whole other story. I wasn’t in an accident, but happened to scratch the car on a post while backing up. What in my mind was just a paint job, turned out to be the biggest ordeal. I had to report to the police station! Then to the insurance, then back to the police, and only with their approval, could I take it to their suggested place. Needless to say, I am very happy that I never was in an accident in Qatar. I could only imagine what a nuisance that possibly could be! Counting my blessings daily!
I can not lie. Living in the Middle East quickly can spoil one. It spoiled me for sure. Now that I am back in Denmark, I am slapped in the face daily of no one is going to help me. Don’t set any expectations! (As I had mentioned in my post way back when I made my trip to Banana Island.)
So I had low expectations as I left Qatar this late spring. The kids and I moved back in with my parents in California while my husband closed up shop in Qatar. Then in August we flew to Denmark, and from the moment we landed, I was quickly reminded that I am now in the land of the Vikings. Case in point: traveling with a large number of baggage… 7 bags, 5 carry-ons, two kids and a stroller or two…
Three countries. Three very different experiences. Qatar, by far was the best. People were willing to help out. From the curb side, to check in, through security, the flight (thank you Qatar Airways!). People were helpful. And they had always been. One of many reasons why I will always love Qatar.
Next stop, Los Angeles International Airport. After a 16 1/2 hour flight, I was delighted that we were able to skip the line in passport control/customs and have some priority or just simple kindness shown, since I had a four year old and 4 month old in tow! Then at baggage claim, we were offered help, for a price, but at least I had help to get all by bags off the conveyer belt and out pass customs.
Final stop: Denmark. Again, I didn’t expect much, but when I approached the baggage service desk for some help, I think I could have heard crickets. I asked for their suggestion of how do I manage by myself, two little ones and at least three carts of baggage. They seemed to be dumbfounded as to why I would even travel! I said I don’t mind pushing one cart out of customs at a time, knowing that my husband was on the other side and can collect them. That seemed absurd but I wasn’t offered any help or any other options. Then I spied a larger cart that was off to the side. After what seemed like the longest consideration, they said I could take the larger cart. I put on my Viking hat, loaded up the cart and tried to push it all through the doors. A lovely officer guided me, but didn’t even offer to help me.
I get it Denmark. Land of the vikings. Survival of the fittest. I have my hat this time around! Just need to find my feet…
Living now in an Islamic country means we have an entire new culture to respect. One being their laws about alcohol. When comparing to where we have lived, the ability to purchase and drink alcohol has ranged from one end of the spectrum to the other.