A (somewhat typical) Danish Easter

For Easter Sunday, we went up to the family’s summer house in Rørvig for a day full of food and Easter shenanigans! Last year, we were extremely unlucky with the weather, which was partially because Easter was about three weeks earlier, and partially because … Denmark. Anyway, this year, the weather continued to be spring-like, warm and sunny - perfect Easter weather!

So we took up to Rørvig and actually managed a quick trip to the harbor and the beach, before heading over to start the food frenzy.

Rørvig harbor

Rørvig harbor

Panorama shot of Rørvig beach

Panorama shot of Rørvig beach

 

The next couple of hours were spent around the large Easter table, trying to taste as many of the delicious dishes as possible. If you’ve ever been invited to a classic Danish holiday (Christmas, Easter,…) you’ll know that you won’t go hungry!

Easter impressions

 

First, fish dishes are served. This includes cold dishes such as “rejer” (shrimp) with mayonnaise, “sild” (marinated herring), either in a pure version or with a creamy curry sauce (“karrysild”), of course no Danish table could ever be complete without “fiskefiletter” (fish filets in a panade) with the classic remoulade sauce.

 

Fish dishes

 

After the fish dishes, you might already feel pretty full, but don’t think for a second that you’re done! Because now is when the Danes pull out all the classic meat dishes, such as “flæskesteg” (roast pork with crispy crackling), “frikadeller” (meat balls) and “leverpostej” (liver paste) with bacon. These are accompanied by the classic “rødkål” (red cabbage), among others. Of course there’s always bread so you can make your own “smørrebrød” variations of the dishes. One of my favorite Danish Easter dishes is “tarteletter”, a thick gravy with cubed chicken and asparagus served in small shells of buttery puff pastry.

 

Meat dishes

 

To wash down all of this food, the Danes like to drink specialty beers called “Påskebryg” (Easter brew) or “Forårsbryg” (Spring brew). The Danes love their specialty beers, another good example is “Julebryg” (Christmas brew), which, along with Easter brew, has been cultivated by Tuborg and their “kylle kylle” commercials with the little yellow birds/ chicks.

Tuborg Easter brew

Obviously, the “snaps” is also flowing freely, and before you know, you will have “skål”-ed more times than you can count. This is actually quite dangerous, especially if you, like me, didn’t eat any breakfast in anticipation of the feast - you’ll feel the snaps very quickly!!

After lunch, it was time for some “egg hunting” out in the garden, where someone (the Easter bunny, maybe?) had hidden some chocolate eggs for everyone to find. My boyfriend’s family also has a tradition of painting hard-boiled eggs and then having them “fight” against each other in a game called “æggetrilling”, where the goal is to roll your egg against your opponents’ in an attempt to crack them and ultimately destroy them. Last egg standing wins! It is good fun, and it’s a great excuse to go outside and “walk off” the tiredness from all the food and snaps.

Afterwards, there is of course more food, namely cheese and cakes with coffee (plus more beer and snaps). Afterwards, we went back to the beach and managed to catch an incredibly beautiful sunset. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. The calm and quiet at the beach, only a soft breeze and the soft sounds of the waves, and the sun setting in brilliant red, orange, yellow colors… I tried to take pictures, but they don’t nearly capture the actual beauty of it.

foto 5 (4)

Shadows playing in the sunset

Sunset panorama

 

How did you spend Easter? What traditions do you have? And is your stomach still aching, too?!

Happy Easter!

The crazy Danes and their flags

I always find it funny to observe the country I’m living in from an expat perspective. My experience with living in 4 different countries in the last 6 years or so is that not only do you learn a lot about the country and culture you’re living in, but you learn even more about yourself and your own culture. I’ve caught myself doing distinctly German things, like mixing fruit juice with sparkling water to make a delicious refreshing “Schorle” (pure juice is way too sweet, people!), that I never actually thought were something special. And of course, you notice odd or weird things in your host country that are quite different from what you’re used to.

One such thing I have noticed in Denmark is flags. It might just seem so strange to me because in Germany, we’ve had a difficult relationship with our flags and national pride in general after the Second World War - understandably so. The first time I remember waving a German flag was during the soccer world cup 2006 in Germany. We had those Aloha flower necklaces in black-red-and-gold, painted the flags on our cheeks, and waved flags when we won a game. But otherwise, you won’t find many people who actually display a flag, say in their garden, and if they do, you immediately think they might be weird and maybe a bit to the right end of the political spectrum. In Denmark, this is totally different. The flag is everywhere.

The Danish flag has a name: “dannebrog”, which means “Danish cloth”. Legend has it that the flag fell from the sky during a battle of the Danish army against Estonia, when they were praying to God to save them from defeat - which worked. I think it’s a quite pretty flag, and the red and white colors look great on the background of a clear blue sky.

Note that the queen’s royal yacht also carries the name “Dannebrog” (to be precise, the vessel is called “KDM Dannebrog”), but it was named after the flag. It usually anchors in Copenhagen harbour, but in the summer, the queen usually spends a couple of weeks in Greenland on the ship.

 

The Danish flag is a common sight in Copenhagen (and Denmark). It is found on public buildings, Amalienborg palace, of course (where flags on the four main buildings indicate which members of the royal family are home), and a lot of people even have a flagpole in their garden. This is a typical sight especially for summer houses.

But the Danes also use flags on special occasions. For example, when there’s a special holiday, all busses in Copenhagen will fly little flags. This is also the case when it’s the birthday of a member of the royal family, or another special event, like the royal wedding. If you see the flags on the busses but can’t remember what they are for, there’s a website called http://hvorforflagerbussen.dk/ (why do the busses fly flags) that will tell you exactly why - pretty neat! But I’ve also asked bus drivers before, who were happy to explain.

Another popular occasion to use flags for decoration is birthdays. Not only royal birthdays, but every single family birthday is celebrated by pulling out the flag decorations! Our neighbors even put two flags outside their door when there’s a birthday in their family! You can buy napkins, paper plates and cups, even small paper “strøflag” (sprinkle flags) to just throw on the table… the possibilities are endless! And of course, the miniature flagpole can’t be missing from any birthday table! Even high-end interior brands like Georg Jensen have those little flagpoles so you can celebrate in style.

And last but not least, flags of course also decorate the famous Danish “kransekage” (layered marzipan cake) traditionally served on New Year’s Eve and at weddings, but sometimes also as a birthday cake.

 

 

What do you think? What are your experiences with flags - the Danish and your own? And to the Danes: did I forget an important detail about the Dannebrog? An occasion where it is also used? Are there other traditions or trivia around the flag?

A foreigner’s perspective: Danish health care

I’ve lived in Denmark for about one and a half years now, and during this time, I’ve made some observations about things I dislike (not to be repetitive, but COLD!) and of course also about things I like – the beaches, bakery goods, Christmas traditions, language, cuisine, and so much more. Today I’d like to share some thoughts and observations about the Danish health care system that, unfortunately, I’ve had more contact with than I would have hoped – although most of it was actually quite positive.

First of all, when you get officially registered as an “immigrant”, and get your CPR number (the central persons registry), you also choose your “egen læge” (own doctor, basically your primary physician or “Hausarzt”, in German). That struck me as quite odd, because I was shown a list of doctors who had practices closest to my address, and no further information (other than their age and gender, interestingly) and was then told to choose one. I had no idea if the doctors were competent or nice, so I had to base my choice purely on location. I did select a practice with multiple doctors, both male and female, so I’d at least have a chance to switch between them if I didn’t like the first one. This “egen læge” is then also named on your health insurance card.

Sundhedskort - health insurance card

To make an appointment, you call the practice, so that’s quite normal. Lots of doctors and practices have “akut tid”, which means that you can call early in the morning and they have a couple of hours set aside each day for emergency patients, e.g. when you just contracted the flu and need some medication asap. Many doctors (including mine) also have a website with a central booking system that lets you choose the doctor, shows availabilities for the desired date, and also lets you book your appointment right away. This is the public system, mind you, not some snobby private clinic! If you then go to the doctor and get medication prescribed, you don’t get a printed out prescription that you have to carry to the pharmacy (I have lost many of those in bottomless purses over the years!). In most cases, my doctors just ordered the medication via a central server, and then I just went to any pharmacy, identified myself with the health insurance card, and they could see what pills were prescribed to me and with which dosage etc. Easy, you say? It gets even easier! All this information is stored on my doctor’s online “self service” site, so whenever I need a refill of painkillers, I can simply log on to the system, see all medication that’s been prescribed so far, and click “renew” – then the practice will send me an email or text message confirmation of the renewal, and I can pick up the medication without any hassle. That’s what I call forward-thinking and efficient, especially if you’re on a longer-term medication therapy!

 

 

One time, I also needed to get a blood sample taken and analysed. In Germany, the people working with the doctors in their practices are a mix of nurses and secretaries – they do the scheduling and answer the phone, but they also do smaller nurse duties like taking blood or measuring blood pressure. Not in Denmark. Instead, my doctor ordered a blood test for me, again via the almighty server, and specified exactly what values the lab should test for. Then I had to go to one of the labs (there’s a whole business behind this called Københavns Laboratorier, with several locations to choose from). You pick the one closest to you and just show up there during opening hours. Then you draw a number (the Danes LOVE that number-drawing system, you find it virtually everywhere, it’s so orderly and fair!) and wait for one of the nurses to call you. The entire procedure takes about 2 minutes, and it would be quicker if only your stupid blood could flow out of your arm a little faster! I felt a little uneasy in that lab – it basically consisted of one large room full of randomly (un)arranged chairs, five or six cabins for the actual blood-taking (separated with curtains) and a counter for registration. Even though I arrived a couple of minutes before the afternoon opening time, there were already about 20 people in line ahead of me. “Great”, I thought, “I’ll be here the entire afternoon!” But in reality, I was out of there in about half an hour. Very efficient, but not very “customer friendly”… What was really nice, though, was that I got my results via email, with a note from the doctor saying that everything was fine, so I didn’t even have to come in again to get the results (of course, I could have made an appointment, if desired).

 

 

All in all, I think the level of efficiency and digitalization is quite impressive, forward-thinking and tailored to people’s needs. I can hardly remember any German doctor I’ve been to actually using a computer – making appointments online, getting information via email, unthinkable! I am fully aware that this perception is very subjective, and that I’m not discussing the Danish health care system as a whole in terms of effectiveness, costs, etc. This is merely my perception of the elements I’ve come in contact with, and I’ve been pretty impressed by them so far!