I'm living in Copenhagen for the summer and loving it so far. (That's in Denmark, by the way.) I have a nice little apartment near the city center and am getting settled in for a four month stay. While I'm here I'm also going to blog and video various things about the city for other foreigners who may be thinking of coming this way. I'll be pointing out tips on how to get around, things to do, some gotchas to watch for, fun Danishisms, and generally answer a lot of the questions I had when I first visited here a year ago. I'm inspired to record all of this mostly to assist folks I know will be coming for the annual European Drupalcon which will be held here in August this year, but I also view it as a fun exercise and a form of journaling. If you have specific questions you'd like to know more about, please feel free to email me or send me a tweet @add1sun and I'll try to work it all in there over the coming months.
For this first post, I'm just going to orient folks a bit. Most people have no idea where Denmark is or anything about it. Those that do have an inkling tend to know that it was involved in some Muhammad controversy, or that the climate conference was held here last year. Denmark has a little bit more than that going on. ;-) I'm not going to regurgitate a Wikipedia article for you, but here are some quick points to set the stage and that I am often asked when I talk about it.
Where the hell is it?
- Denmark is a Scandinavian country, along with Norway, Sweden and Iceland. (Finland is up there too geographically, but linguistically is totally different.)
- Denmark sits on top of Germany and is across the water to the south of Norway and Sweden. It has a peninsula attached to the continent, but is also comprised of a crap ton of islands. (Greenland and the Faroe Islands are technically Danish, but are autonomous states.)
- It is a little bit bigger than the combination of the US states Maryland and Delaware, or about the same size as Switzerland.
- Copenhagen is the capital of Denmark. It is located on the east side of the biggest island, called Sjælland (Zealand in English), and is only about 30 km (19 miles) from Malmö, Sweden (connected by a bridge/tunnel for cars and trains).
- Denmark has nothing to do with the Netherlands (Holland) or being Dutch. Amsterdam is not in Denmark, and vice versa, Copenhagen is not in the Netherlands.
- Copenhagen is spelled København in Danish. It is a long name, so it is often shortened to CPH, which is the airport code.
Politics, language, etc.
- Denmark is a founding state of the European Union (EU). They are also part of the Schengen visa area, which is most of Europe these days.
- They have a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system, just like the United Kingdom. Queen Margrethe II is the current person with the big crown.
- Danes speak Danish (again, not Dutch). The vast majority also speak English (especially in Copenhagen). Many of them speak it very, very well (better than a lot of Americans at least). They get that not many people in the world are going to speak a language spoken by only 5.5 million people. You will also find a fair number who speak German.
- They don't use the Euro. They use Danish kroner (crowns), which as of right now exchanges at about 1 USD = 6 DKK or 1 EUR = 7.5 DKK.
- They have a really robust and quite awesome welfare system (health, education, unemployment, pension, etc.), and the taxes to match it.
- Yep, the red and white thing up there at the top of the post is the Danish flag. They like red here.
Who are they?
- Vikings. Well, they were historically. They've settled down a bit now. I haven't seen any good pillaging going on.
- There are about 5.5 million of them these days. (That's about the same as the US state of Maryland, or Scotland.)
- I've generally found Danes to be kind, honest straight-talkers, and just wanting to enjoy good times. You should read up a bit about hygge. They really like candlelight here.
OK, so that is just a few random facts. I'll be diving into various aspects of Denmark and Copenhagen over the next few months. I also plan to put together videos for things like "how the hell do I use public transportation" and various things to do, places to go, etc. Grab the RSS feed (for the whole site, or just Danish stuff) if you want to keep up on new stuff coming down the pike.