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Fastelavn

Fastelavn is a sweet, child-centric holiday celebrated on the Sunday or Monday before Ash Wednesday. It is the Carnival of Northern European, and historically Lutheran. The term Fastelavn comes from Old Danish fastelaghen, which was borrowed from an old German phrase “vastel-avent”, meaning “fast-evening”, or the day before the Lent.

The main tradition of the holiday includes “slå katten af tønden” which means “hit the cat out of the barrel”. This tradition consisted of placing a black cat in a barrel and beating the barrel until it broke apart, releasing the traumatized cat. It is believed that this tradition was to remind the children of the pains of Christ on the cross. However, it is important to note that this is not practiced anymore!! These days the barrel is filled with candy and the children, all dressed up, shivering from cold, compete to become either “Queen of the Cats” or “King of the Cats” by breaking the barrel – who is who depends on which practices are followed. To avoid any fighting, the candy is just divided up equally among the children.

In addition to the breaking of the barrel, costumed children go rattling “raslen” as a form of trick-or-treat. They sing songs door-to-door and beg for candy, buns or money. And if they don’t get what they want, there will be trouble!

The best part of Fastelavn, at least for me, is the “Fastelavnsboller”. Have you seen these sweet choux buns with thick cream in the middle in the bakeries? They are delicious! They come in a variety of flavors and they are usually for sale throughout the month of February.

So make sure to grab a Fastelavnsbolle for yourself before the season is up!

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Copenhagen bathrooms

Most newcomers to Copenhagen will have a shock when they come across their first ‘Copenhagen Bathroom’ – a sink, shower and toilet squeezed into an impossibly tiny space. And this often in an otherwise nice, modern, stylish apartment! Ever wondered about this peculiar quirk of Copenhagen architecture? We have the answers to your questions!

Back in the day, many apartments in Copenhagen used to have a shared bathroom in the basement or courtyard that the residents of each housing block used. But the demand for higher living standards changed preferences and people started to want their own private bathrooms. Even if that means having the shower and the toilet in less than one square meter! Not many apartments in Copenhagen have the space for a medium or large bathroom, as many apartment buildings were built in the late 19th or early 20th century, before private bathrooms were a popular concept. And baths? Forget about it!

Some apartment owners have decided that this set-up is not the right one and have taken a different approach to solving the problem of where to bathe. If there is no room for a shower in the bathroom, then you just need to find somewhere else for it, right? Here at Charlie’s Roof we have seen shower cabins in bedrooms, and even in the kitchen!

So if you are moving to Copenhagen, leave your bath salts, and inhibitions, behind you – you’ll be needing neither!

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Tips and Tricks for Renting

Finding a place to live in Denmark can be quite a hassle, but it is possible. If you want to tackle the market on your own, this blogpost will help you on your way.

The Danish rental market

Sites such as boligportal.dk and lejebolig.dk show the majority of what is available on the rental market, but also a few things that are not. For instance, ads can be kept online for a long time after they have actually been rented out, in order to encourage people to buy membership to the site. When you are looking at the cheaper end of the market, you would be lucky to get a reply from a landlord once every 10th-20th time. However, this problem is not as extensive with the more expensive rentals which have lower demand. Sometimes, it can help if you are able to communicate to landlords in Danish.

While there are scammers, the level of housing fraud in Denmark is generally quite low. In this regard it is usually best just to approach situations with common sense: if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

What is permissible?

Interestingly, it is often completely legal requests and contract terms which cause new tenants the most concern. For example, having to pay 3 months prepaid rent plus 3 months deposit plus the 1st month of rent upfront is legal and expected in certain cases. Also, being asked to vacate the apartment up to 14 days before the end of the rent period to allow the landlord time to make renovations is, frustratingly, perfectly permissible.

Whether “going it alone” or getting professional help, clauses like these are just part and parcel of renting in Denmark.

Be aware that sometimes there is room for negotiation, other times it is not possible at all. Big administration companies rarely negotiate rent, while the high demand for cheap rentals makes it mostly impossibly to negotiate for smaller, cheaper apartments as well.

Furnished or unfurnished?

Even unfurnished rentals in Denmark have functional kitchens with at least basic white goods, and with a trip to IKEA you can easily have a fully furnished rental without spending hundreds of thousands on furniture. Be aware though, that unfurnished long term rentals can almost cost the same as small furnished places, as demand for these is high.

Worthy of note

The m2 area listed on ads for Danish apartments is almost always gross, and therefore does not represent the actual available living area. This can cause a lot of confusion, as in many other countries it is the net living area which is advertised.

Apartment descriptions count the number of rooms in the apartment as being any living, dining and bedrooms. Kitchen and bathroom are not included in this count. This means that it is impossible to tell just from the room count whether an apartment has a stand-alone kitchen, or an open kitchen-living room. A 4-room apartment could be e.g. 3 bedrooms, a living room, a separate kitchen and a bathroom OR a living room, a dining room, two bedrooms, a kitchen and a bathroom OR another set-up.

The vast majority of landlords, whether private or professional, use the standard A9 rental contract. There are English translations of sections 1-10 available online, but it is section 11 which is the most important. This is where all of the extra terms and conditions are listed, and this is the section you should read carefully. Google Translate will usually translate it quite well, but ask a Danish friend or colleague to help if there are still parts you don’t understand.

How can we help?

For those who have found a place to rent on their own, but want some assurance from a professional, we have some very affordable services starting from just DKK800.

  • Scam Check – contains: 1) landlord check-up, 2) lease explanation and 3) investigation of whether negotiation of rent and terms is possible (we negotiate on your behalf if possible).
  • Accommodation Already Found – contains: 1) viewing of the property, 2) landlord check-up, 3) lease explanation and 4) investigation of whether negotiation of rent and terms is possible (we negotiate on your behalf if possible).
  • Single Viewing – we will visit a property on your behalf, taking photos and videos in order to document the condition, or doing a live video viewing with you if possible.
  • Lease Contract Explanation – a full translation of your contract from section 1 to 11.

Good luck with your home search!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Danish New Year Traditions

New Year’s Eve rituals exist in many parts of the world and Denmark is no different. Here’s a short guide to understanding some of the best-known traditions.

The Queen Margrethe’s New Year’s Eve speech at 6pm signals the beginning of a long and festive night. It’s a live broadcast from Fredensborg Castle, an annual essential that first started with King Christian XI in the 1880s. The Queen takes this opportunity to summarize the year’s main political events, both global and local. The speech always concludes with a salute to the nation with the words “Gud behave Denmark” (God preserve Denmark), which signals the time to begin the meal.

Unlike the calorific Christmas dishes consumed just a few days prior, the New Year’s Eve menu consists of boiled cod, served with home-made mustard sauce and all the trimmings. However, Danes are less traditionally bound to the food when it comes to New Year. So, many Danes prepare exotic and alternative specialities for their New Year’s dinner.

For dessert, the famous Kransefagen, a Danish invention from the 1700s. Like champagne, it is one of the fixed elements of New Year’s Eve. It’s a towering cake made from layer-upon-layer of marzipan rings. The cake’s turret-like shape promises happiness and wealth for the coming year.

Just before midnight, many Danes gather in front of the television to watch a short movie in black and white from 1963 called “90-års fødselsgaden” (“Dinner for one”, also known as “The 90th Birthday”).

At the midnight countdown, it is a tradition for everyone celebrating indoors to stand on a sofa or a chair and jump into the new year. It symbolizes the hope for better time/eases the transition and then everyone wishes each other a Happy New Year. At this point a choir performs the Danish anthem and the Danish Monarch song.

Shortly afterwards, people gather in the streets to set off fireworks. Danes traditionally celebrate New Year with lots of fireworks. It was only around 1900 that fireworks began to become something that ordinary people could buy. Before that, New Year was celebrated by using guns to fire shots into the air. It was done because of an old belief that loud noises and fireworks keep spirits and negative energies away.

However you decide to celebrate New Year’s Eve, we wish you a very prosperous 2019 from all at Charlie’s Roof!

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Danish Christmas Traditions

If you are new to Denmark and planning on spending Christmas with the Danes, take a moment to reflect on this quick overview of some of the best known Danish Christmas traditions.

Advent Wreath

Danish Christmas begins with the advent wreath. The wreath has four candles and one candle is lit every Sunday of December leading up to Christmas Eve.

Calendar Candle

Another tradition is the calendar candle. This candle is marked with 24 lines, normally decorated with Christmas motives. The candle is lit every day from the 1st of December until the 24th of December. The candle is blown out before it burns down into the next day.

Present Calendars

Advent calendars, or Christmas calendars, take many forms in Denmark. Mostly they are aimed at children but adults can also join in the fun!

Most children in Denmark get a gift calendar consisting of 24 small presents, one for each day until the 24th of December. Each gift is individually bought and wrapped by their parents.

There is also a Christmas calendar television series for children and adults alike. Each year, the two big television channels produce a special new Christmas series divided into 24 episodes to entertain children. This year Tuborg is also making an online version, but this one is not for kids!

Christmas ‘Lunch’

Workplaces in Denmark always host an annual Christmas Lunch (meaning party) and guess what the main ingredients are – meat and snaps. Snaps are small shots of a strong alcoholic beverage that are consumed at holidays. Red and vinegar-infused cabbage represent the vegetable part of the Christmas Lunch.

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve dinner is all about tradition. Duck or Pork are on the menu, as well as boiled potatoes, caramelized potatoes, brown gravy sauce and pickled red cabbage. It’s a heavy, old-fashioned meal that will leave you sleepy but satisfied. Vegetarians and vegans will have to bring their own dish.

For dessert, the famous Danish invention but somehow French-named: Ris à l’Amande. It’s a cold, creamy rice pudding made with vanilla and almond slivers, topped with hot cherry sauce. The game with Ris à l’Amande is that one whole almond is added to the bowl of pudding and you have to keep eating the pudding until someone finds the almond. The winner gets a prize!

Walking around the Christmas tree

After dinner and before opening the Christmas presents, you have to join hands and sing Christmas hymns while walking around the tree. To trigger an adrenaline rush, the tree is decorated with actual lighted candles. A little terrifying for newbies like me, but it’s fun!

Presents after dinner

Slowly, the presents are unwrapped. It’s a whole tradition in slow motion, a ritual. One package at a time is carefully chosen from underneath the Christmas tree and given to the right receiver to open, until all presents are unwrapped and Christmas is over for another year.

So take some inspiration from the above traditions and bring a little Denmark into your Christmas!