Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Tillykke med Fødselsdagen: Happy Birthday!

As you know, it was my host brother Søren's 19th birthday on Monday, and I wanted to take a moment rather than working on homework to share a few interesting cultural notes about birthdays here.

Rise and Shine: No sleeping in
Whether it is so that a birthday boy/girl can enjoy as much of their birthday as possible or whether it is because families need to get to work but want to show their kids that they care about them on their birthdays, a birthday lasts MUCH longer here in Denmark. That's because early in the morning (such that the whole family can be there), everyone grabs their Danish flags, gathers together, and barges into the birthday boy/girl's room, waving their flags and singing "Happy Birthday" in Danish. For Søren's birthday, we woke him up at 7 a.m., even though he didn't need to be at school until 10, and (thankfully) sang "Happy Birthday" in English afterwards. He didn't seem too happy to be woken up.

The early wake-up, though, is so that the whole family can have breakfast together and give presents. Søren, for the most part, received beers for presents. He was happy with that.

Be Careful What You Wish(?) For
The other interesting cultural difference I noticed came as Søren was about to blow out the candles on his birthday cake that evening (no, if you are wondering, it was a homemade cake so there was no chance for a Cake Wreck). I asked if Danes make wishes when they blow out their candles, which my family said no one really did. My host brothers told me, however, that the popular thing (at least for adolescent boys, I assumed) is that you blow out your candles, trying to leave at least a few lit, and then however many lit are how many girlfriends you'll have. At once? Overall? That I didn't really understand.

After seeming to blow all of his candles out, one flickered back and stayed lit. Søren seemed happy about that and said it was good.

By the way - have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone! We're going to attempt to make one here that I think will be a bit non-traditional - maybe sort of a Danish/American Thanksgiving. Should be good.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


I know many people don't care because they get snow all the time, but I always love it when it snows. And yesterday afternoon while giving an advertising presentation, I looked out the window and noticed it was snowing!

For most of the evening snowflakes were falling but none were sticking, but by the time I got home there were a few patches here and there. When I woke up this morning, here's what I saw:

It snowed about one inch, but that's always enough to cover all the grass and a bit of pavement, so I was really excited when I looked outside. I commented to my host parents, Solveig and Ole, and said that if it snowed this much in Seattle, we'd cancel school. Of course that's mainly because we don't know how to deal with it and we have crazy hills, but they still got a kick out of it. My host brothers and their aunt and uncle who are visiting because it is Søren's 19th birthday on Monday also thought it was hilarious and said this didn't really even count as snow...

Hopefully this won't be the only time.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Forget elephants and donkeys...

After staying up to watch election results (the networks called it around 5 a.m. here) on Tuesday, I returned home, excited but exhausted, and received congratulations from my host parents. They have been following the American election almost as closely as I have: any time the Danish public TV station, DR, would have a program about the election we would watch it together. Breakfasts are also always a recap of the night's political news.

When I returned home Wednesday afternoon, I found the following on my desk:

I thought, "Oh, that's nice. Solveig (my host Mom) must have gotten some roses or something and gave me one."

But that evening, when she asked what I thought of the rose, she told me that it actually had a great deal of significance. The rose represents the Democratic (well, actually Denmark's Social Democratic) Party. Instead of animals, each political party in Denmark has a flower. For the Social Democratic Party, it is a rose, and Solveig said that whenever your party wins (my host family are Social Democrats), you get your party's flower. The woman at the flower shop didn't know what the American Democratic Party's flower was (rightly so), so she thought that the Social Democratic Party (which, like most Danish parties, aligns fairly well to the Democrats) was a good choice.

Sure, without an animal mascot, my bumper sticker from high school ("Democrats are sexy... Who ever heard of a nice piece of elephant?") wouldn't have been possible, but I'm going to say that I'd much rather have flowers represent our political parties. Dibs on the rose.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Night in Denmark

Just wanted to say a quick hello and let you all know that I'm back from my travels around Europe. I'll likely blog about a few things soon, but I'm off right now to an Election Night Party (though results likely won't come in until far after midnight here...).

Here are links to my Facebook albums from the trip: