Five Months Now: Denmark

(I had to edit the title twice, as I never found the time to finish this article. :D)

I have now been living in Denmark for five months. And everyone is so relaxed, I have never had a stressful day so far. Seriously, people in Denmark are far more relaxed than Germans become on their best days. Everything is digital here and good wifi is common. And the train system actually works!

When I came here, I was surprised by the possibility to pay contactless with my card. Paying is very different compared to Germany. Cash isn’t used a lot while card payments, or payments using an app called MobilePay, are common literally everywhere. Even if you are at Copenhagen Main Station and you need to go to the toilet. Of course you just take your card and wave it in front of the reader and you go in. But not only near the trains you can pay with cards, you can also buy drinks from vending machines on the faster Eurocity (EC) trains. You just insert your card and choose from one of three buttons. It does not get any more simple. Often you will find signs at the entrance of restaurants telling you that they take “CASH ONLY”. And it is in English, because not the Danes use cash, but the tourists. Sometimes you even see signs “No US-Dollar”. Danes seem to think “Why bother getting cash to the bank account by carrying it to the bank?” and simply let you make card payments. The app MobilePay is often used for small purchases. Often you will see a basket filled with apples from someone with an apple tree standing along the road, but it could also be a box filled with books or anyting else. A slip of paper says MobilePay and a number with 8 digits. This is a Danish mobile phone number. You just take an apple and send some money to the seller using their number and then walk away with your apple.

But that is not the only thing that showed me how modern Denmark is. Being gay is perfectly normal in Denmark and people don’t really seem to hide. Even in the school where I’m currently volunteering, you can see gay couples holding hands and all that stuff. It is not like in Germany where they would bully their classmates for that. In fact, it seems to be a thing nearly everyone agrees upon: There is nothing wrong with LGBT* people, a lot more people think that than in Germany or the UK. I have talked to the teachers about that and apparently they don’t have bullying in Denmark. You are just the way you are and others just let you be like you are. That is jolly good!

It is also quite common to see a lot of people with rainbow bags and other things with rainbow on them. That I have never seen in Germany, there it is not common. Just like the good mobile networks here. I just happen to have connection all the time, everywhere and even on trains in tunnels. Most of the time I have a 4G connection, sometimes it drops to 3.5G. I pay around 13 € / month and get 10 hours to call 50 countries, 3000 texts and 60 GB of data. And I use it: Just last month I used all the data.

Some of the usage happens while being on the train to the next amateur radio clubstation. Located in Amager which is a part of Greater Copenhagen, OZ7A is a clubstation in a small shack and with an antenna tower. There I am often on Thursdays to chat and contact the world. Often I talk to friends and this is my way to stay in contact with Germany. Sometimes I reach someone in Sweden and then I practise my Swedish a little.

Speaking of train travel, that is really simple in Denmark. Comparable to the Oyster Card, the Rejsekort is a simple RFID-based system. Rejsekort literally means ‘travel card’ and I could not have chosen a better name. You can use the card for all means of public transport. Be it trains, busses, ferries or even the metro: This is the way to travel. Since I have not yet used the card for anything else than trains, I can only report about that. Usage of the card is pretty straight forward. You wave it in front of a reader labelled ‘check in’ on the platform. Then you get on a train and when you change trains, you simply check in again. At the end of you journey, you go to a reader labelled ‘check ud’ to check out. The system knows which trains you have taken and automatically takes the lowest price for that journey from the card. I wonder if we will ever get anything similar in Germany. Best of all: The trains are not dalayed all the, like in Germany.

But people of ask what I do all day. Since I’m doing a voluntary service at a school, I’m doing school related tasks. Some examples include checking rooms of the pupils, giving them everything they need to clean their rooms, being present in German lessons and supporting there (they somehow think I am competent in German, no idea where they got this idea from), helping the caretaker tidying up and throwing old stuff out and a lot more of similar tasks. I have even taken down an old antenna mast from the roof. A storm destroyed the unused antennas, so it was chopped of and the antennas landed in trash. I also replaced some lamps in rooms, some were old and fell apart.

I will continue to be here until June and I hope to find the time to write one or two more articles before I leave.

Volunteering in Denmark

[Friday, 13 July 2018]

I’m sitting in the red cross educational centre in Teterow, where I’ve been for some days now. Tomorrow will be the last day and on Saturday I will go home. The reason I came here was to learn about international voluntary services, as this is a preparation seminar for such services. In 30 days I will go to Denmark for 11 months and this seminar is mandatory for every volunteer. Well, not exactly this one. This seminar was designed for volunteers going to developmental volunteering services in countries such as Ghana or Vietnam, but this was the last seminar I could participate in since I decided I wanted to go to Denmark for a year on Thurday last week. So I came here as all other seminars already took place, but even though this one wasn’t exactly designed for Denmark, I’m still learning a lot and this can’t be a bad thing. I arrived on Sunday after travelling for around seven hours. We began on Monday with organisational matters and then we talked about our comprehension of being a volunteer and what we think we can achieve and what will be expected of us. The next day we learned a bit about self-defence, which is always a good thing to know about, just in case. After having lunch, we proceeded with talking about travel medicine and how to avoid getting malaria. On Wednesday, we talked a lot about racism and how to behave in a new culture. In the afternoon we went to a climbing park after sitting all day. Today we talked a bit about intercultural aspects and a lot organisational stuff.

[Monday, 23 July 2018]

In the last ten days, I have completed my to do list. That means I have signed the contract, applied for an extended certificate of good conduct (German: erweitertes Führungszeugnis), got a health insurance certificate as proof of insurance, registered with the German embassy and completed two e-learning courses which the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent made available. The first course was the “Red Cross and Red Crescent Induction Course”, which basically tells you the principles of the Red Cross communities and societies around the world. That was an interesting course, but not a lot of it was new to me as I already work with the German Red Cross. The other course was “Stay Safe – Volunteer Security”, which was interested, but I did not see the necessity for Denmark. That course will be useful when travelling to countries which are more dangerous, though. I also found a first aid course which I will take part in on the 30th July. I also just booked my train tickets, so I do not have to care about that a few days before. I still have 20 days, so that should be plenty of time. 🙂

[Wednesday, 15 August 2018]

I’m now here for half a week. Sunday has been the day of my arrival. After around 13 hours on the train I finally reached my destination. The last days I was doing nightwatch and talking to the students. School lessons will begin in around three weeks, right now we are just doing bicycle tours to get to know each other. In the evenings I go around and close windows and make sure that the doors are locked. By day I often take photos. I will need to learn about the structures of the school the next few days to be able to do more. Also, I need to get better at understanding spoken Danish. I can only read it without any problem.