Getting Deported Ain’t So Bad

IMG_0012After almost 5 glorious months of living and working in Copenhagen, sadly I’ve had to pack my bags and skedaddle out of there. Life in Denmark’s big smoke was hectic, but awesome. Just when I thought I had it all sorted – a job I loved, with awesome workmates and a great collection of friends (no small task in a very introverted culture when compared to the likes of NZ), a fabulous apartment (also a marathon effort with central city housing subject to incredible competition). Unfortunately for me, the government seems to have taken a pretty tough stance on immigration in the last few years, and decided (in the words of the immigration office) I wasn’t “special” enough. After a long discussion I managed to translate the reasoning into something a little less literal. In essence, the government has decided that unless you are super highly skilled (Masters degree minimum) and being paid over 384,000kr (around NZ$84,000) per year, work permits were only being handed out to EU citizens as unemployment is so high. Sadly in a graduate job at a startup, and with a mere bachelors degrees, I fit into neither of those categories. It would have been real nice of them to mention that on the visa application form, or any official website, or when I handed in my application and asked “is this likely to be approved?”

Now this is a view I am most definitely going to miss!

Now this is a view I am most definitely going to miss!

Never mind. Communication has never been the forte of any Danish bureaucratic organisation. Or politician for that matter. I’ve decided to pin the blame squarely on NZ’s favourite Danish politician Marie Krarup, given it was (so I’m told) the disproportionately large influence of the Folkeparti (coalition governments and all that) that contributed to the tightening up of the immigration regulations (but seemingly only behind closed doors).

And so on to Plan B. Go off on an adventure, being sure to catch some sun before heading back to NZ. Plan B involved chilling out on a beach somewhere for a few weeks (maybe Greece? Maybe Spain), using the money I (not without great difficulty) got back from the enormous deposit I paid for my apartment. I still had 3 weeks before the official “fuck off out of our country” date (OK, maybe it wasn’t worded quite that bluntly, but it was close) and in those three weeks my imagination spun wildly out of control. Before I knew it, I’d launched into Plan C and embarked on an adventure with no set plans, no exact date of return home and a whole lot of excitement. Luckily for me there are plenty more letters in the alphabet before I have to resort to the plan that involves selling my body.

Whilst on the one hand, finding myself jobless and homeless on the opposite side of the globe is pretty much the definition of stress, on the other hand it is also very exciting! Fortunately my initial life backup plan, should my job in Copenhagen not work out for any reason (be it the visa, or the fact I started as an intern, or that I was working at a startup), was already in action. I’ve been studying by distance through Massey University, slowly making my way towards a Masters in Economics. So plan C involved heading somewhere I could live off my student loan living costs of NZ$172 per week, that didn’t cost to much to get there. Say hola Spain! My first stop and current destination is Granada, to visit a lovely friend of mine studying on exchange who not only offered me somewhere to sleep but has been giving me a crash course in Spanish and been a wonderful tour guide.

Whilst making my extravagant plans, I’ve also been looking for all sorts of ways to reduce my living costs and increase my income. Step one has been eliminating accommodation costs. After a great tip-off from another friend, I signed up to Workaway, which is sort-of like  Wwoofing only instead of (or as well as) working on organic farms, you can find all kinds of short term work-for-accommodation type arrangements. Given I have worked for the past 4 months in a company specialising in online advertising, I’ve managed to lock in some work opportunities that can help me build those skills and do something somewhat career relevant (as much fun as manual labour or childcare would be). First stop is a Spanish language school in Conil De Frontera who wants some help with office admin, social media, and some ideas to relaunch their website and get a bit more traffic. I think the thing I’m most excited about is that I get Spanish lessons for free. Already in just a few short days in Granada I’ve learned so much, and it has really put in to perspective just how difficult Danish was to learn. Ironically enough, I was proud to realise on my very last day in Denmark as I called up to cancel the power and internet bills, I could finally understand and navigate my way through the customer service menus. Slim chance of me finding that language useful ever again, but at least I know what buttons to press now…

In terms of upping the income, in my short time working for Admazely, I quickly discovered my favourite part of the job was writing the company blog. No surprises, given the amount of content on this here blog that I’ve churned out as a hobby. I had been thinking for a while that it would be great to turn writing in to a full time gig, and getting the boot from Copenhagen has certainly thrown me out of the nest fairly quickly. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find there are a number of opportunities out there. From friends with connections, to Elance, an online market place for freelancers of all types to Copify, the site that has thus far been the most lucrative. Whilst many sites (like Elance) require you to bid against the masses for a shot at a somewhat vaguely described job, once you’ve been accepted on Copify it is a first-in-best-served situation, which gives a level of certainty I am much more keen on. While a lot of the jobs are small and low paid, there a quite a few of them, and its not a bad deal if you land one writing a press release or something with a larger word count.

So for anyone else wanting to go adventuring on the cheap, I can definitely recommend a make-your-own-exchange with Massey distance learning, working for free accommodation  and seeing if you have some skills to sell online. And for all those viewing from home, unless I end up on plan D, or E, or F, I’m aiming to be back on the mothership in September.

Well I can think of worse places to study...

Well I can think of worse places to study…

292. Release of the Danish Christmas Beer

IMG_8281 (480x640)There should be a giant sign at the Danish border that says “Be warned: you are now entering Beer Country.”

The Danes love beer like a fat kid loves cake. And at Christmas, the breweries bring out all their Christmas beers. Tuborg in particular does a massive marketing push, with the release of their Christmas Beer being a massive event all over town on the first Friday of November. It used to be a Tuesday, but apparently workplaces and Universities nationwide were unimpressed with Wednesday’s productivity.

Most bars in town will have a free keg of the Christmas beer to give away from exactly 8:59pm. From 8:56pm there was quite the mosh pit at the bar, but in an orderly Danish kind of way, as patrons competed to be the first to taste the slightly darker Tuborg. Once the keg had been given away, the natural progression from there was the limbo, and the more Danish Shnaps.IMG_8275 (640x480) IMG_8270 (640x480) IMG_8300 (640x480) IMG_8307 (640x480) IMG_8335 (640x480) IMG_8349 (640x480) IMG_8356 (480x640) IMG_8358 (640x480) IMG_8359 (640x480)

Just as I thought the free beer fun was over, suddenly a bunch of blue santas turned up and were handing out bottles, unloaded direct from the giant Christmas Tuborg truck. IMG_8362 (480x640) IMG_8363 (480x640) IMG_8366 (640x480) IMG_8368 (480x640) IMG_8369 (480x640) IMG_8371 (480x640) IMG_8373 (640x480) IMG_8375 (480x640) IMG_8379 (640x480)

The madness didn’t stop there, though, as we arrived in town later on to find even MORE blue santas, and a selection of other bars giving out Christmas beers from other breweries.IMG_8381 (480x640) The most entertaining part of the night was when people started drunkenly confessing that despite all the hysteria and excitement, most of them don’t actually like the Christmas beer!

291. Halloween Catering Extravaganza

The family I am working for/living with had a halloween party where they invited a few other families over (complete with kids) which meant a great opportunity to unleash my inner Martha Stewart (one of my favourite activities) and do some halloween themed catering. The days leading up to and including the party were so much fun.

On the menu was:

Marshmallow Chocolate spiders

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Fingers, in the form of carrots in dip and hotdogsIMG_8400 IMG_8401 Mummy dogsIMG_8402 Bat wingsIMG_8403 Pizza hands and green worm spaghettiIMG_8404 Evil hamburgersIMG_8405The house decorations were also fairly elaborate:

IMG_8397 IMG_8395 IMG_8394 IMG_8392 IMG_8391As was my favourite (and the most gruesome) of the costumes:

IMG_8398Halloween doesn’t seem to be much of a tradition here – trick or treating is not very normal and has only recently started to grow in popularity – but the excuse for a theme party is definitely a popular one!

 

 

 

290. Carve a Pumpkin

IMG_8261 (640x480)Pumpkin carving is very much a northern hemisphere kind of thing, probably because our southern pumpkins are green so it just doesn’t quite work… So carving an orange pumpkin was quite the novelty for me, and yet another first.

With the 10 year old of the house unleashing her creativity with a permanent market, my job was to do the actual carving. I was quite surprised at her pumpkin designs in the end – quite elaborate! Especially the one with the plastic gun shooting out its pumpkin brains.IMG_8263 (640x480) IMG_8384 (640x480) IMG_8259 (640x480) IMG_8256 (640x480) IMG_8258 (480x640) IMG_8257 (480x640)

289. Super Budget Halloween

What happens when you get a bunch of exchange students with super tight budgets from the business school together for a Halloween party? A whole lot of creativity!

In what was one of the more enterprising Halloween parties I had ever been to, the theme was definitely keeping costs as low as possible. So much so, that the party itself was organised by one particularly enterprising French Canadian, who had us all paying a cover charge and in return supplied well over 1000 beers, as well as food, a model that has been working fairly well throughout the semester and no doubt results in a tidy profit (and deservedly so) with the Danish recycling system!

What I really loved about this party, was that in an effort to spend as little as possible (we’ve all become masters of cost saving, what with being poor students AND backpackers at the same time), most of the costumes were clever gags, rather than the obvious but expensive witch or fairy or disney princess. There were a few from “The Office” including Jim’s ‘Facebook’ and ‘Three Hole Punch’ costumes, though my favourite was probably Hunter S Thompson’s Raoul Duke from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Possibly because working out that costume went something like

“I don’t know what your costume is, but you look like the guy Jonny Depp played in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.”

“YES! No one has guessed it” and then I learned how difficult it is to find bucket hats in Denmark, though cigarette extenders are comparatively common.IMG_8216 (480x640)

Another favourite was the old man, as well as the Christmas Tree, complete with decorations. And of course there was the usual proportion of Halloween Cross Dressers. My costume was well in line with an incredibly low budget, my token costume party item – a silly hat. Sadly, as with all novelty hats at parties, it disappeared off into the crowd, but at a grand expense of $2 I didn’t cry myself to sleep over itIMG_8214 (480x640) IMG_8210 (640x480) IMG_8213 (480x640) IMG_8205 (640x480) IMG_8222 (480x640) IMG_8224 (640x480) IMG_8233 (640x480) IMG_8225 (480x640)IMG_8211 (640x480) IMG_8226 (480x640) IMG_8236 (480x640) IMG_8243 (480x640) IMG_8223 (640x480) IMG_8217 (480x640)

Good to see the old man hadn’t given up, and was still trying it on with Little Bo Peep.IMG_8238 (480x640)

263. Anne Frank House

Having studied Anne Frank’s diary quite intently at school (read the book, done the play watched the movie) I was really looking forward to the opportunity to see the actual house.

In what was actually quite a moving story, Anne Frank’s father, Otto, was the only one to survive after the family was eventually found and taken to the concentration camp. When he finally tracked down what had happened to each of his family members, rather than sell or destroy the house, he decided to preserve it as a reminder to all of what happened and what should never happen again, as well as publishing Anne’s diaries, one of the few true, detailed and personal accounts of just how much the war affected the individual.

I actually found Anne Frank House to be a great deal more emotional and moving than any other WWII memorial, even visiting a concentration camp, and I think the difference is how incredibly detailed and personal the story is, told as you move through the various levels and rooms in the house, and including both the lead up to the families deciding to hide in the annex, and what became of them afterwards. There were also a number of displays of what life was like in Amsterdam at the time, and just why it was a better option for them to spend so long trapped in a small space, unable to move or even use the toilet during the day.

The book case hiding the entrance

There was one particular moment which really struck a chord for me. When looking at an original yellow star in a display cabinet, next to a sign saying “No Jews Allowed,” I realised that for most people, the intended response is “gosh that kind of treatment was so awful.” Unfortunately, for many, “was” is not the correct word. That very morning I had logged in to my Facebook page and seen an update from a friend of mine who the night before had been told “No Niggers Allowed” at the door of a bar in Aarhus. It made me so angry that some people still don’t seem to have learned any lessons, but the kind of people that would say something like that to him are probably the same people who would nod and agree that the holocaust was terrible and how could they treat people like that. Further to the problem, it seemed to overwhelming response from Danish friends in this scenario was “don’t worry about it, let it go.” I would like to chalk that response up to the fact that Danish culture is a lot less confrontational, rather than that our Danish friends don’t seem to think that it was really wrong for him to be treated that way. Thankfully though, the Mayor of Aarhus invited him round to apologise, and a lawyer in Copenhagen got wind of it and is pursing the matter pro bono. It still makes me sick that people continue to treat eachother that way for no good reason though.

Back to the original post, despite my mind being elsewhere on that particular day, I thought Anne Frank House was one of the greatest museums I have been to, and think that anyone who has the opportunity should definitely go there. As well as the house itself the museum afterwards was really goo. At the end there was a display of original records all of the Frank family’s attempts to immigrate to other countries, including a very harsh rejection letter from the USA, which basically said no you can’t come and don’t try and apply again.

This lead to Claire and I getting into a pretty in depth debate about immigration policies both at the time and today. Why wouldn’t the US just let people in? They could have saved so many people! I had hoped there was a good reason, for example, Hitler declaring the USA couldn’t take any immigrants or XYZ would happen, but after doing a bit of research there doesn’t seem to be any reason that I would say remotely justifies such harsh immigration policies at the time. One site even says they only let 21,000 refugees in from Europe (as in, the whole continent) in the lead up to WWII. It seems that quotas were actually reduced in the United States, and the best excuse they could come up with was that they were worried about harbouring German spies.

A.D. Morse wrote:

“In 1938 the Nazis burned every synagogue in the nation, shattered the windows of every Jewish establishment, hauled twenty-five thousand innocent people to concentration camps, and forced the Jews to pay 1,000,000,000 marks for the damage.”… “Five days later, at a White House press conference, a reporter asked the President ‘Would you recommend a relaxation of our immigration restrictions so that the Jewish refugees could be received in this country?’ ‘This is not in contemplation,’ replied the President. ‘We have the quota system’.”

Of course there were other countries who could have helped but didn’t, the US is just one example. It really makes you question why countries who had so much power to help, didn’t. And why countries today who have so much power to help others, still don’t. The UNHCR reported that the number of people forcibly displaced worldwide has reached 43.7m (June 2011). Surely there must be a way to relax immigration laws without hiding behind excuses like “we’ll lose our culture” and “they’ll take our jobs,” especially when you consider all of the industries in places throughout the world reporting shortages of workers. I would argue there must be a possibility for countries to cooperate and be able to match people who need a better life to industries that need more people, thereby boosting economies, rather than every country creating a million and one administrative hoops to jump through.

Claire and I striking a pose outside before entering into a giant political debate about immigration laws!

Once again going back to the museum itself, most definitely deserving of mention was an interactive display “Free2Choose” (presumably made for school groups, but we loved it) that played short clips/interviews and presented political-ethical dilemmas, which visitors could submit their views/vote yes or no to questions at the end, the results of which were collated to present which way the majority of visitors voted etc. Topics included banning the Burqa and raids on Hip Hop concerts to find illegal immigrants. I thought it was a really great way to bring the lessons you were learning and the sympathy generated through Anne Frank’s story, and give people real life examples of current human right’s issues – not every visitor was watching an a 2012 version of 1940’s behaviour affecting their friends.

163. “The luckiest girl in the world”

I was succesfully fooled by the labarinth that is Copenhagen airport and in a fit of blondness was waiting at the wrong gate. When I finally realised, it was just after my flight to Milan should have departed. Once I got to the right gate I was relieved to find out it had been delayed, and I just made it! Everyone was already waiting in line to get on the tiny plane, and once I got to the gate all the Danes stared at me, while all the Italians either laughed, shook their heads or smiled and said “Oh you are the luuuuckiest girl in the world!”

Don’t I know it! Should have bought a lotto ticket that day.

162. Branded Emergency Services

When I saw a building that said ‘Falck’ on it, with a giant logo of a falcon, I assumed it was just another business. As I got closer, it started to look more and more like a Fire Station. Sure enough, there were bright red tanks and even some red and white vehicles in the shape of ambulances. I’d seen ambulences before in Denmark and they were bright yellow, so I wasn’t sure what was going on. Are the emergency services branded here? Why would that be necessary? As it turns out, there are a number of private contractors to the government for emergency services, an entirely novel and bizarre concept to me. Thankfully they all have a central, government controlled dispatch system, but it seems scarily like it is heading in a direction of having to have your private health insurance provider on speed dial in case you need an ambulance.

161. Burn Witches

On the 23rd of June is a midsummer celebration called Sankt Hans/Midsummer’s Eve where the Danes have huge bonfires to both celebrate the balmy summer evenings and to remember all of the women who were burned back in the witch hunting days. Often they will even have a little scare-crow-esque “witch” figure on fire too. Early in the evening we had seen one being set up, and a BBQ just near home. The intention was to go by later in the evening when the celebration started, but time got away on us. Easily done in the north at the moment, as the sun doesn’t really go down until after midnight, so it is easy to think it isn’t late yet! Around 10pm we went for a drive and saw the embers of the fire, everyone having cleared out as it was actually a night more typical of a Danish summer: cold, drizzly and grey. We carried on driving to Horsens, where there was a fire on a raft in the middle of the lake, and even a band and bar