36. BYO Bus

In episode one of my Copenhagen extravaganza, my Australian accomplice and I decided it was only fitting that we make our bus ride there a BYO one. We were, after all, leaving at 7pm to arrive at 10pm, just as everyone else would be heading out to town. We also managed to lure in a poor, unsuspecting Canadian which magnified the fun!

The Danes appear to be a darn sight less PC about drinking in public places, and no-one batted an eyelid when we whipped out our booze stash. Perhaps it was because we were dressed for town and drinking a delicious Moscato…

In fact, we seemed to be the only people surprised on our journey to the capital city. Five minutes after the bus took off, it stopped again and everyone was getting out. As it turns out, the bus route is faster and cheaper as the majority of it is actually a ferry ride. A delightful (and obvious, on reflection) surprise as we got to a) steal drinking vessels from the cafe, and b) enjoy a ride with far less spills than a bus. Given the ferry terminal is just around the corner from the bus station, it seems strange that we wouldn’t just meet there, but I suspect it is a convenient way for the bus company to clip the ticket. Yes, pun intended.

I also discovered Somersby Cider – a Carlsberg innovation, despite going for the English Cider vibe. I can definitely recommend the blackberry cider, and will have to try the Elderflower one at some point!

For anyone planning the journey from Aarhus to Copenhagen, I definitely recommend catching the Line 888. Breaking the journey up with a ferry ride makes it go a lot faster, and it was much nicer to sit round a table and chat. There are higher rates for Friday nights and weekends though, so if you can go during the day on a Friday it will save you some krone.

30. Foreign Language Supermarket Shopping

Before I left for Denmark I had a lovely lunch date with one of my friends who had also spent a semester in Aarhus. One of my many burning questions was about supermarket shopping and what the best tactics are. “How will I know whether its shampoo or conditioner?!”

He assured me that they will most likely say shampoo and conditioner on the bottle in English, and the only real issue is guessing what type of meat you are buying. He was right about shampoo and conditioner, but most things are in Danish and being me, I have definitely had a few ‘shopping accidents’ (as I like to call them).

My most inconvenient shopping accident wasn’t the goats cheese sandwich in Sweden (it was actually pretty tasty), but instead was getting paper towels instead of toilet paper. They were all stacked up by the entrance like toilet paper, but the packaging covered up the middle part so I couldn’t tell the difference, I simply reached for the cheapest packet. I was quite proud of myself for only coming away with one incorrect purchase on my first trip! It was hardly the biggest inconvenience either, although a friend that came to stay claimed he couldn’t handle it and  bought me some 3-ply as a thank you gift. Good luck flashpacking around Europe, Princess.

My original plan was to just wander round with google translate on my phone. Unfortunately I couldn’t get data on my phone for two weeks as I had to wait for my residence card to arrive, so for the impromptu shopping trips where I didn’t pre-translate my shopping list, a healthy dose of common sense and a diet of fruit, vegetables and items that come in transparent packets worked just fine for my first few trips.

I don’t even know what that product is – it looked like raw mince topped with whipped cream and the picture showed it being spread on a piece of bread

It seems I am not the only one that has struggled with translating the more ambiguously packaged foods. A number of students have reported trouble distinguishing certain items such as flour and sugar. Given that one packet had bread on it and the other had strawberries, I didn’t have any problems. As for milk, some have reported difficulty working out  full cream vs skim/trim etc. I had already learned in Australia that colour coding systems aren’t international. In this instance I made an assumption that skummetmælk meant skim milk. One of the few times my assumptions have proved correct!

Being on a student budget and attempting to stay healthy, asian food is practically a staple of my diet. Gosh have I realised how spoiled for choice we are in New Zealand! It took 3 different supermarkets before I found coconut milk to go with my red curry paste. I was a tad disappointed there wasn’t a ‘lite’ option, but I was hardly going to be precious about it. Then when I got home I discovered that coconut milk and coconut cream are one in the same according to the single brand of asian ingredients available! My unnecessarily fatty curry was delicious though.

Not sure if it is good or bad that the egg yolks are all different sizes and colours

Another challenge is having to let go of my habit of reading the back of the packets. I like to know what I am eating and what the ingredients are, but in Denmark all I can tell is the amount of kilojoules/calories. Slightly helpful, but it doesn’t tell me what I am actually eating! I have learned very quickly the term ‘okologisk’ which means organic. Organic food is actually subsidised by the government, counterbalancing the tax on saturated fat, so there is a much bigger range of organic products in the supermarkets at more accessible prices than I am used to.

In another assumption failure, I thought I would try some rye bread. I assumed because it is so popular here, that although experience in NZ tells me rye bread tastes like shite, it must taste a whole let better in Scandinavia. Alas, it appears rye bread tastes like dense chewy dirt all over the world. So instead I fried it in butter. So much for the healthy option!

The supermarkets themselves are quite a different concept, too. In New Zealand, if you are in a supermarket (rather than a dairy) you can generally rely on each supermarket, no matter what the brand, stocking what you are after. While some of the product brands may differ, you’ll be able to find whatever you need and the prices are all very competitive. Here in Denmark, I have learned supermarket shopping is more of an art form, that takes a great deal of practise. I am still discovering different supermarket chains and there is a huge amount of variation in prices, not to mention stock.

Aldi – who needs nice product displays when you are dirt cheap?

Aldi, for example, is the cheapest. However, it is like you are walking in to a big empty room out the back of someone’s house. It also appears the floor storage system is well in use and you can only rely on the most essential and popular of items actually being there. Brugssen is like a convenience store/supermarket hybrid but it is really expensive. On the other end of the spectrum, big department stores will have really flash supermarket areas in them with poncy bakeries and chocolatiers.

I love supermarket shopping in other countries and seeing all the different products, experiencing different foods, but it is a far bigger gamble when you can neither recognise the product name or read the ingredients. It definitely keeps life interesting though!

I had previously thought the pickled herring jokes were just jokes…

Finally, the most entertaining part of Danish supermarkets are the shelves full of pickled everything. My father teased me before I left that all I was going to eat would be pickled herrings, but I didn’t expect to see this many pickled items:

“Pickle all the things!”

21. Celebrate La Chandaleur

One of the great things about being an exchange student is that you are surrounded by people from all different countries who are in the same boat as you – being in a brand new country and not knowing anyone. Which of course makes for instant friendships. It also means that you have to celebrate every single public holiday/festival in the world.

Our first such celebration was La Chandaleur, also known as Crepe day in English. It is usually celebrated 40 days after Christmas. About half of the exchange students are French-speaking (from France, Belgium, Canada) so it was only fitting we celebrate a French holiday first!

Initially, we were informed that it is a day early in February, this year falling on the 2nd, where everyone eats Crepes. Naturally, those of use who had never heard of it asked why it is celebrated, which drew a number of blanks. After consulting with Wikipedia we learned it was a religious holiday, celebrating the presentation of Jesus at the Temple. It is typically celebrated with a feast and in France, which means Crepes!

So the French members of our Skjoldhoj Kollegiet family made a huge and delicious collection of crepes, which were complemented very nicely with delicious European wines!

20. Eat (and drink) like a Viking

… well as close as you can in this day and age!

Throughout ‘Introductory Week’ we were grouped in to six groups of twenty, lead by two ‘tutors’ whose job is to help us get all sorted out at University and of course organise loads of social events. On the night where each group goes off and does their own thing, our tutors took us to to a restaurant called ‘Vallhalla’ – a viking themed nordic buffet. For two hours you could eat all the nordic themed food (loads of seafood and garlicky cabbage) and drink all the wine, beer or soft drink that you can. There was literally a table full of beer/wine taps for you to help yourself to! I’m sure that wouldn’t be legal in a lot of countries. It cost 200DKK each, which is about $40NZD. You’ll pay about that for a kebab in most places in town. The tutors are very handy for introducing us to the best bars and good value activities!

Beer buffet!

When we arrived we were seated on our long wooden table, and the place was pretty empty. Then all of a sudden about 100 big, burly men arrived all at once and the place was packed! We later found out they were from some kind of tradesman’s union/social group that has an annual dinner.

Getting in the Viking spirit. Vikings definitely drank wine.

The food was amazing, especially all of the beautiful, fresh seafood. Wine that comes out of a tap is not so delicious, but we made do!

Mmmmm so much salmon

Mr Crabs

7. Dumplings in Malaysia

Presentation wasn’t the highest priority, but they were ah-mazing

You can guess how excited I was when I stepped off the plane to walk straight in to a dim sum food stall selling dumplings. It was literally the first thing I saw after going through security! I instantly forgot my flight had been delayed by four hours, instead of the 40 minute stopover I was meant to have, because I was so excited I would get a chance to eat dumplings in Asia. And they were RM$5.50 which was about NZ$2.30. The rest of the shops in the Airport were pretty exciting (translation: so many bargains) apart from the bar, but every airport has one retailer with the monopoly on alcohol. This one also had the monopoly on power plugs, so after some deliciously prawny dumplings and a 60c bottle of water I settled down with a glass of what I can only assume was chardonnay. At NZ$9.50 a glass you’d think they could tell you a bit more than ‘white.’ Also featured on the shelves:

Skin whitening cream at the pharmacy. Just a bit sickening that that even exists

Landing in Malaysia provided some quite interesting views. The vast majority of trees were all in perfect rows (on the flight path at least), and there were beachside resorts right next to big industrial plants and quarrys, with views obscured by oil rigs ( that’s what they looked like anyway – I’m no expert on these matters).

In order to beat the luggage limits, I was wearing all of my heaviest clothes: boots, jeans, 2 tops, cardigan, a wool jersey in my backpack and carrying my heavy wool coat. I’ve felt worse in shorts and a tshirt in Brisbane, but I definitely felt like I was in training for the Scandinavian Sauna Championships landing in 25 degree heat.

3. Join a wine club

Actually that’s kind of fudging the truth… It was a marketing gimmick from Green Man Bar in Wellington… but it was great!

I’m almost through all of my goodbyes, and last night went for drinks with my fellow interns and later met my friends for dinner.

Turns out it is quite difficult to find a good happy hour on a Wednesday, but after asking my friends Larry and Sergey we found the Green Man Wine Club. Every Wednesday they have a new selection of guest wines for $5 per glass or $25 per bottle. If midweek drinking is your thing I thoroughly recommend it!

Delicious, delicious Oriental Kingdom roti

The bargain hunting rolled on with dinner at Oriental Kingdom. I had never been there before but heard great things about their signature dish: $7 Roti Chenai. A secret hotspot in Cuba St’s Leftbank, it seems everyone but me knew about it! Despite appearing busy, our food came out pretty quickly (hint: it isn’t so quick if you order anything other than Roti Chenai). Even though my dumpling entree came out later I was happy. There are few things more delicious than Roti bread and dumplings. In fact, I am such a dumpling fiend that if I spot them on a menu they are practically compulsory. You should have seen my face when I went to Harajuku Gyoza, a restauarant entirely devoted to Japanese dumplings in Brisbane. It has a hilarious website too!

A belly full of some of my favourite foods definitely softened the blow of saying goodbye to some of my favourite people. And all the wine probably helped too.

*I think this post should have been labelled ‘Join a Wine Club and Profess my Deep Undying Love for Dumplings.