So, I think we always knew that coming back after Christmas would be a killer. The Danes really do Christmas with style and relish – they pretty much start celebrating at the end of November and keep it up with amazing stamina until New Year’s Eve (more on that later).
The weeks leading up to Christmas are all twinkly lights and candles everywhere: Christmas markets packed with rosy-cheeked tourists abound, drinking their glogg (mulled wine), eating æbleskiver (yummy spherical doughnuts with jam and icing sugar). [We did our own, budget version, whereby you purchase your glogg in Tetrapaks and your æbleskiver frozen, in packs of 24, from the local supermarket – a tenth of the price but just as delicious…] Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, the build up to Christmas: the kids are excited, everywhere looks ‘hygge’ (cosy) and we had a week back in the UK with our nearest and dearest to look forward to.
Fast-forward to the 31st December: the kids have developed present-itis (as in, they are accustomed to receiving more gifts every few days as we see more relatives, and Anna mournfully pronounces on a regular basis that she ‘Does Not Have Enough Toys Yet’ as I resist the temptation to tell her (again) that she has plenty of toys, spread across two countries, and could she please stop whining), and we are now at Heathrow, awaiting the afternoon BA flight back to Copenhagen.
Once we have collected our bags and found a taxi that will take us all, plus bags and buggy, we realise, as we get closer to our apartment, that we appear to have made a serious misjudgment. It is 6pm and every store on our usually bustling street is shut. Even the two supermarkets that we can reach in 20 seconds from our apartment are dark and shuttered. Oh shit.
What we had not understood, is that everything bar the 7-11 shuts at 6pm on New Year’s Eve to allow the revellers to go off and revel. At home we have a loaf of bread and half a litre of milk in the freezer (plus of course the obligatory fish fingers, chips and peas). The kids will not starve, but what on earth are we to do to celebrate our first (maybe only?) New Year in Copenhagen in some semblance of style?
Steve volunteers for hunter-gatherer duty. It is at this point that we realise just how much the Danes like their fireworks…It is only 6.30 or 7pm, but already there are huge fireworks going off all around us – in a fairly dense urban area. The kind of fireworks that us timid Brits usually pay good money to go see at a municipal display, someplace where someone has probably done a Health and Safety assessment. Not so here. People are standing on the pavements and thin barrier strips in the middle of the main road outside our first floor apartment and letting off massive fireworks with abandon. Everywhere we look there are fireworks going off – roughly on the hour. Steve returns, shaken, with drinks from the 7-11 and Chinese food from the only restaurant open for several blocks, and recounts a tale of dodging the fireworks being let off by youngish kids on every street corner. (Later we read online that roughly 270 people were hospitalised in the city from firework-related injuries.)
The fireworks continue until around 3am, with a crescendo (of course) just after midnight. We greatly enjoy watching the drunk people on the street outside trying to blow themselves up. Luckily the kids sleep through it all (thanks to festival-grade ear defenders).
And then it is January. Back to work and school (the 7.30 am school run in the pitch black, ah, how I missed you…). Aaaaaaaaaargh.
Still no job for me – not for want of trying. Dozens of applications and not even an interview to show for it. Feeling down, I notice that someone on the ‘Expats in Copenhagen’ Facebook group I am in has posted about feeling lonely, and missing her dogs back in the UK. 24 hours later and she has over 100 comments, and is already arranging cafe meet ups and dog walks on the beach with others who feel the same. This is encouraging, clearly I am not the only one feeling the January Blues. Emboldened, I tentatively put up a post to see if anyone in the group would be up for an evening pub meetup, to make some new friends. Clearly they do, since dozens respond positively, and so it is that a week or so later, I find myself in a city centre pub, making at least 20 new acquaintances (friends might be pushing it a bit, on the basis of a few hours) and sampling some excellent beers.
I also manage to find a job, albeit unpaid initially. I’ll be starting in a few weeks working for a new(ish) startup company that specialises in neuro-creativity training, working on their PR, communications and business development. That should keep me out of trouble for a while, and is flexible enough to fit around the kids too.
Take that January!