I should probably begin this post by making a few excuses for the number of months that have passed since I last posted. While this blog is, of course, only a place for me to occasionally flex my creative writing muscles and share my thoughts about Scandinavian living, I also realize that a small number of people out there do take the time to check in and see whether I have posted anything new. To those few of you, I apologize for the long hiatus. My primary excuse is the fact that I went back to work part-time in early February, which means that I have had less time to devote to formulating thoughts about the Danish lifestyle. However, this also provides a perfect segue into my topic of choice for this blog post: parental leave and, more specifically, paternity leave.
During the holidays, my aunt sent our family a lovely book titled Christmas in Maine, which features charming 1941 text from a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet. As I read it with the kids, one particular line struck me: “The secret of the best Christmases is everybody doing the same things all at the same time.” If this is true, then it’s no wonder that Christmas in Denmark is absolutely delightful.
Some weeks ago, my son’s hockey team played in a tournament that was hosted in Landskrona, Sweden. The whole family piled in the car at 6.30am to make the short drive across the breathtaking Øresund Bridge that connects Copenhagen and Malmö, and just like that we found ourselves in neighboring Sweden (Denmark’s erstwhile foe in many epic battles throughout Scandinavian history). So, I suppose now is as good a time as any to let you in on my dirty little Sweden secret.
For those who don’t already know, the Copenhagen of 2015 is a fantastic “foodie” city, but this wasn’t always the case. I don’t recall Copenhagen ever being singled out as a great place for food lovers when I lived here as a teenager. All that changed, however, with the rise of restaurants like noma (four times ranked the best restaurant in the world) and the entire “new Nordic cuisine” movement. There is a huge amount to be said about the restaurant culture of Copenhagen, and I certainly intend to say more on the subject in a later post. For now, though, I’d like to give you the inside scoop on my very favorite Copenhagen “Quick Food” Tour, one that I always suggest to visitors and that I am always eager to join!
“Quick food” doesn’t necessarily mean this food is quick or simple to prepare, but the amazing eats and sweets on the tour can be purchased and consumed quite quickly. They don’t require sitting down at a restaurant; rather, the various stops along the tour will take the diner (or diners) from Nørreport Station all the way to Rådhus Place (City Hall) and Tivoli, which means not only will you eat extremely well, you will also see one of the most charming stretches of the city as you travel to each food destination. As an extra bonus, you’ll even get a bit of exercise between “courses”.
Last Sunday, I was chatting with a friend about his summer vacation when he said, “I’m really not ready to go back to work on Monday.” I asked how long he’d been on holiday — or “sommerferie” in Danish — and he said, “Only two weeks. Three is really much better.”
As an American, the idea of a three-week vacation seems almost absurdly luxurious, but it’s very commonplace for Danes (and many Scandinavians) to take nearly a month off during the summer, usually in July. This year, we decided to take a page from the Danish playbook and enjoy three weeks up at a summer house on the north coast of Sjælland, the island where Copenhagen is located. Tomorrow we will leave the sommerhus, return to the Copenhagen area and prepare to get back to the business of work, school, etc. As we ready ourselves for a return to normal life, it occurs to me that my friend was right; three weeks of summer holiday really is better than two. Here’s why:
On 29 June, our family welcomed our third child — and our second child born in Denmark — to the world. The experience of giving birth again in Denmark solidified my feeling that this is a fantastic place to have a baby (it does, in fact, consistently rank in the top 5 or 10 best places to give birth), so I thought I would share a few of the reasons why I particularly like Danish deliveries.
A quick disclaimer: This post is not intended to endorse any one type or style of childbirth over another. I have a simple philosophy when it comes to labor and delivery, namely that the main goal is to end up with a healthy baby and mother. However that goal is achieved, I think all mothers deserve huge credit and accolades for bringing a new life into the world.
With that said, I will admit that the Danish style of having babies suits me especially well. Here are a few reasons why:
One of the benefits of being recently returned to Copenhagen is a wealth of generous brunch, lunch and dinner invitations from friends whom we haven’t seen for a few years. This would be a treat in any part of the world and with any people we consider friends, but it’s a particular pleasure here in Denmark, where the Danes bring their classic sense of design, style and quality to the art of entertaining at home. In a little over two months, we’ve been the fortunate guests of numerous friends, and each one has presented an experience that would seamlessly fit into a Kinfolk Magazine spread or a Scandinavian-themed Pinterest board. Continue reading
When we decided to move back to Denmark, we faced a small dilemma regarding timing. We briefly considered whether we should let the BBE finish out the school year in the U.S., but by that time I would be too pregnant to travel overseas. The thought of moving with a newborn sounded more daunting than moving while pregnant, which I’ve done a few times before, so we decided not to worry about finishing the school year in Virginia. But we also knew that it would probably be tricky to get the BBE into an international school with only a few months left in the year, as there tend to be a limited number of places. Knowing that I would be working from home as a part-time consultant, I suggested that this might present a unique opportunity to try our hand at “short-term home schooling”. It seemed like it could be a fun change of pace and a new experience for all of us…without actually committing us to full-fledged home schooling. Continue reading
After two-and-a-half years where I rarely had time to take my children to a park during the day — and I also had a large garden that made it easy to play outside at home — I now find myself in an entirely new situation. For the next few months, at least, we’re living in an an apartment in downtown Copenhagen where I can’t just send the kids out back to get a dose of fresh air and open space. I also have far more flexibility in my schedule (and far less stress in my life, but more about that later). So outings to the playground, or legeplads in Danish, have become almost a daily occurrence around these parts. Our leisurely tour of Copenhagen’s parks and playgrounds have rekindled my great love affair with the Danish legeplads, and here’s why: Continue reading
I have never been particularly enthralled by royalty (though I did have the requisite Prince Will crush as a teenager), but I’ll admit that I find the Danish royal family appealing, as monarchs go. Denmark has the oldest continuous monarchy in Europe, and the fourth oldest in the world, dating back more than 1,000 years to the time of the distinctively named Harald Bluetooth. The current Queen Margrethe II is only the second female monarch of Denmark, the first being Margrete I who ruled from 1375-1412. The Kingdom of Denmark – its quaint official title – is a constitutional monarchy, which of course means that the royals are primarily ceremonial figures. But I have to say that the Queen and her family bear their ceremonial duties well. Sure, they live in palaces and are absurdly wealthy. But they’re also known for doing very “ordinary people” things and mingling with their subjects everywhere from the city’s bike paths to Lego expos.
Thus, perhaps we shouldn’t have been shocked when the kids and I happened to have an up-close-and-personal encounter with the Queen just last week, while we were visiting the National Museum. Continue reading