Wednesday, September 28, 2005

RUC's Ã…rsfest

Last weekend, we went to a big party at Marieke's school, RUC. I think it was as close to a Homecoming party as we're going to find here. There was no football game, and no alumni come back, but it is definitely the biggest party of the fall. Another major difference is that all the drinking and partying was permitted by the university (even encouraged).

The party began with a huge potluck dinner for each faculty (with plenty of cheap beer). After dinner, they closed and locked all of the university buildings. The party moved outside to where several large tents had been set up (with various bands and Djs playing).

The party continued until sunrise (typical for Denmark), although we were embarassingly Canadian and headed off around 2 or 3 am.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

My bike

Our landlord has given me a bike to get to school. It is an “all-steel” construction, with one gear and a big comfy seat. It takes about 20 minutes to cover the 4km to school. But it’s a good thing that it’s not too speedy because it has back-pedal brakes and it stops slowly. Like most Danish bikes, it is built for comfort and practical use everyday, not to look cool. The full splash-guards, chain guard, kick stand and “cruiser” style would probably be mocked in Canada, but here it’s what everyone uses (most people also have a basket on the front handle bars).

You can find some photos of my bike in our photos

My classes

The most surprising thing about my classes is that I’m actually going to them. In the past month, I’ve only missed one class (I haven’t had this kind of dedication since first year). Of course, it makes a difference that I get to choose all of classes, so I’m actually interested in all of them for a change.

Also, each course has only one class per week. It is four hours long, but it means there is less traveling back and forth to school, and less temptation to skip. Most often, there is 1-2 hours of lectures (with some breaks) and then 2-3 hours of group exercises. It really sucks though when the prof decides to have four hours of lecturing (like my Friday morning class).

There are no weekly assignments; my marks are either based on a final project or entirely on the final exam. So, we’ll have to see how long I keep up this whole “attendance” thing, especially once it starts to rain.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


We experience sticker shock every time we go shopping. For one thing, 1$ = 5Kr, so all prices seem ridiculous (15Kr for a loaf of bread, 50Kr for a block of cheese). Secondly, there is a 25% tax included in all prices. Thirdly, minimum wage in Denmark is 100Kr/hr (that’s right, 20$/hr), so Danes think a pizza for 50Kr is a bargain…

There are a couple exceptions to the high prices:

  • Beer. It can be bought in student bars for 20Kr/pint (for Carlsberg or Tuborg, and the tip is already included). Or, a bottle can be bought in the supermarket for about 5Kr (for real beer) or 2Kr (for the cheap stuff).
  • IKEA. It is the only big-box store in Denmark (the equivalent of WalMart). You can get an extension cord for 5Kr, or a down-filled duvet cover for 75Kr (in almost any other store, you can’t buy a plain white t-shirt for 75Kr). We live within a 30 minute walk from IKEA, and we’ve already been about five times so far.

Friday, September 16, 2005


Unlike Canada, each Danish university specializes in a different area. The Copenhagen Business School is for commies. The University of Copenhagen teaches ArtSci classes. My school, DTU, is the engineering/science university, which means it’s the nerdiest school in Denmark.

As such, the campus is even laid out in a nerdy way. The campus is divided into quadrants (like you learned about in math class). Then buildings are numbered based on their quadrant and their distance from the centre. Disciplines of study were then assigned to each quadrant ( 1-physics, 2-chemistry, 3-electrical/computers, 4-civil/mechanical). As if that’s not nerdy enough, the side streets are all named after scientific terms. Usually, it indicates the topics of study in the area (for instance, my Electric Circuits class is on Elektrovej).

I’ve uploaded a map of DTU and some pictures of the different street signs to the DTU folder in our photos.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Our town

We live in a town called Gentofte, which is the “rich” area of Copenhagen (like Mount Royal in Calgary). It is about 6 km from downtown Copenhagen (about a forty minute bike ride) and 4 km from my school. In the center of Gentofte, there are four grocery stores (within a two block radius) and a variety of expensive shops (chocolate shop, bakery, butcher, Blockbuster, etc).

There's also a little lake, within a block of our apartment. There's a trail around the lake, that makes for a nice run (ask Marieke). All the old rich people go there for evening strolls, and to feed the swans.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Another explanation of Danish culture

We were also presented with the “Bumblebee” explanation: Physics says that a bumblebee should not be able to fly, but it somehow does.

Similarly, common sense says that the following elements of Danish culture should not work:

  • they pay 60% income tax, without complaints
  • they pay 25% sales tax, without complaints
  • their welfare system pays about the same as minimum wage, so there is little economic benefit to having a job
  • there is little acknowledgement of exceptional work
  • you can be fired or laid-off, without warning or compensation

But, somehow it all works.

An explanation of Danish culture – Roundball

We were taught this game during my Introduction week at DTU, in order to explain a bit about Danish culture.

Roundball is like baseball, except:

  • the bases are closer
  • you hit a tennis ball
  • you hit with a huge paddle
  • the ‘pitcher’ lightly tosses the ball to the hitter. He cannot strike you out. After three attempts, you are allowed to walk to first base.
  • there can be more than one person per base, so you don’t have to run if someone hits poorly.
  • you are ‘out’ if someone catches the ball, or if your ball first lands in the out-of bounds area (a ‘foul’ ball), or if you are off-base when the pitcher has the ball.

The secret to the game (that everyone knows) is to aim your ball so that it lands in-bounds but rolls as far as possible out-of-bounds (where no catchers can stand before you hit). Then, you can run around a few bases, before anyone can get to the ball.

After the ball is hit, and returned to the pitcher, the discussions begin:

  • did the ball land out-of-bounds?
  • was anyone off-base when the ball was returned to the pitcher?
  • how many people crossed 4th base?
  • how many ‘outs’ does your team now have?
  • what is the new score?

This is the real demonstration of Danish culture, as the score of the game is reached by consensus between both teams.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Finding an Apartment

We found our apartment through a website during the summer, so we had no idea what to expect when we arrived. It turns out we got an amazing deal. There is a major housing shortage in Copenhagen. Half of the international students live in “containers” on campus (temporary trailers with one shower, toilet and kitchen for every ten bedrooms) and the other half sublet rooms in Danish houses. Some of those rooms have no windows, others have limited access to kitchens and most are about 10 square meters (for sleeping, studying, relaxing, etc).

By comparison, our apartment is enormous, in great condition and cheap. We share our apartment with an 18-year old high school student who inherited the apartment from her grandmother this summer. We have two large rooms to ourselves: a bedroom with a huge closet and a “living room” with a couch, desk, and dinner table. We share the kitchen and bathroom, but most of the time we have the whole 120 square meter apartment to ourselves.

Photos of our apartment, as well as the "containers" some students live in, are available in our photos