Monday, March 18, 2013

How to Build a Fransk Hot Dog.

There are things one never considers when moving to a different continent, both consequential and trivial. Life can be quite funny (and fun), but hot dogs are no laughing matter. And the following will change your life forever.

If you're like me, you'll ask "what IS that?" when looking at the IKEA Bistro menu.
IKEA Bistro Menu (compared to one in the United States)

That my friends, is a Fransk (French) hot dog with mayonnaise. I asked my friend, the authority on all things French, if the French actually eat hot dogs. Her answer was inconclusive. This could be like the Danish Pastry Debacle, where a Danish Danish is actually called "Vienna brød." I wonder what it's called in Vienna. The fact of the matter is, it matters not. Fransk hot dogs are delicious, despite their questionable appearance.

 Here's how to build one:

1. Order your hot dog. Don't try to speak Danish, or you'll end up with two number fives and wonder why a Twix bar was tossed at you and cups and cones stacked in front of you.
I match my shoes with my favorite condiment.
You have successfully ordered your first Fransk hot dog. Good. Remember, you are at a hot dog stand that isn't in the United States (or possibly France). This is important for the next step.

2. Approach the condiment counter stocked with copious amounts of ketchup, brown (this is important later) mustard, and mayonnaise. That is it. Danes don't like variety and therefore will not eat foods that encourage such.. or maybe we should blame the French.

3. Ketchup. In the bun.

Different angle for the action shot.

4. Now for some BROWN mustard.
It's either brown mustard or no mustard.
Perfect. Or so I thought.

Now here's the most important step. 

5. Hot dog. In bun. Don't worry, the ketchup and mustard aren't going anywhere. Yet.


There you have it, a perfectly-built Fransk hot dog.

The people behind me meant business and got the bistro menu. No joking around here.
7. Go find a place to sit. Don't fret if you can't because it's a Saturday at IKEA and you're just like everyone else (this is Denmark, after all). Fransk hot dogs are portable, mobile, meant to be eaten on the go, and in this day and age, they make the perfect snack. Just make sure you got napkins.

There are two flaws in the Fransk hot dog:

1. They don't allow for many toppings. No dill pickle, sport peppers, onions, tomato or relish. You're options are three in number, and one of them is (very unfortunately) mayonnaise. Accept it. 

2. Everything is just dandy, until you get to the bottom. If you were wondering why the ketcup and mustard never surfaced in step 5, you'll find out now. Your hands are covered in ketchup and mustard. The hot dog pushed it all to the bottom, and you really thought you needed all that ketchup and mustard. Shoulda gotten napkins. 

More hot dog tales...

My greatest disappointment while in Denmark came with the discovery that plain, yellow mustard is unattainable. There is yellower than brown mustard, but it has sugar in it. There is a time and place for sugar, and mustard (both a time and a place) is not it. I had nearly given up all hope with every mustard quest leaving me defeated until yesterday. My friend and I walked into 7-Eleven, and as we were paying I noticed a bottle of French's Classic Yellow Mustard on the counter. My excitement was probably (certainly) like none the employee had ever seen over yellow mustard. Amused by my excitement, he told me they were starting this new American hot dog menu. After I explained that I couldn't find it anywhere, h rang up the mustard and told me it could be mine for the worth-every-penny price of 40kr (almost $7.00). I'm going back to buy some.
7-Eleven's magical new American-style hot dog menu.
Kind of hard to read, but I didn't want to remove the fruit basket (strategically placed?) in front of the menu to get a good picture. San Diego Style?? America! New York, Chicago.....San Diego?

In the meantime, I will enjoy my less-mobile, more-messy-all-the-time, American hot dog topped with YELLOW MUSTARD.
New York Style hot dog.
Oh thank heaven.

Friday, March 15, 2013

What Danes do.

I have now lived in Denmark for three months. I've spent a lot of time observing the most important things about Danish culture.  A typical Dane will do the following (without exception):


A beloved Scandinavian treat, licorice comes in many varieties. Salty, sweet, filled with chocolate, in the shape of a Skipper’s Pipe, rolled up, hidden in packaging calling it “original” flavor, on cake, it’s everywhere. I’m quite picky when it comes to my licorice. I either love it or find it repulsive. One morning I grabbed a piece of gum on my way out the door. Wrapped in red packaging labeled “original,” I thought it must be cinnamon, as red is universal for cinnamon. NO.WRONG. It was licorice. Those tricky Danes. I’m glad the neighbors weren’t out to see the look of repulsion I couldn’t manage to wipe off my face. Hoping I was chewing the Danish equivalent of Zebra gum and the taste would fade away in a mere 10 seconds, I powered through. It didn’t go away. I didn’t know what to do! Swallow it? Have it sit in my stomach for seven years (we all know this is fact)? I didn’t want to put the poor plants through the same pain I was experiencing by spitting it on them. Finally, it was too much to handle. I had failed the ultimate test in prolonged licorice enjoyment. What did I do with my gum? Let’s just say there is a dead plant on Jelshøjvænget.
"Re-Freshed" taste. Original MY FOOT!

These are actually good.
I see potential.
ABSOLUTELY NOT. These little salty fish will set you back $4.90.
I can't think of anything worse.
To actually make you feel sicker.

I have spent many hours watching cars pass by while walking around and using my unlimited-rides bus pass. Never was I able to put my finger on how they were different. I figured they were all just European with brands like Peugeot, Opel, Citroen, and an alarming amount of Kias (no, not European, but there are too many). The revelation came to me on a bright, sunny February day in Viby. As traffic started to become congested, I looked at the line of cars waiting to turn left. Oh my gosh. Where’s a trunk?! Kept looking down the line. Trunk? No. THEY’RE ALL HATCHBACKS!!! They were all wagons or hatchbacks. I may have figured out how they look different, but why everyone drives a hatchback remains a mystery.


Anywhere and everywhere. In the bank, in the bus station, at the library, at the bakery. It could be 9:30pm and there is no one but you and the person working at the bus station, and you need to take a number. I have asked on multiple occasions, “Do I NEED to take a number?” Of course the answer is “yes.” Then I asked the lady to change the address on my bus pass because “the misspelling annoys me.” She is never amused by my questions. When there is no number for a line, Danes might create chaos (and by create chaos, I mean create a cluster. Crazy.) and walk right in front of you. This actually amazes me, the amount of people who will not follow order getting on the bus, for instance. OR when there isn’t a preliminary number for getting in the number line, sneaky old ladies could just act like they have a quick question from the number-giver and straight up move you over. Not Danish at all.
At the library.
Police Station. Residence things, no crime committed. Do criminals take numbers? Are those who do not take numbers criminals? Thoughts.
We are THRILLED to take numbers at the bus station.

I’ve discussed the eating style here, knife always in the right, fork in the left. No crossover forking like us Americans like to do, you know, cut a piece of anything with the knife in your right hand, then switch the fork from your left to your right. Notice next time you eat. It’s all I think about when I eat here. When is it okay to have my fork in my right hand? Where do I put the knife when it is resting? Can it be on the table and plate? When do I flip the fork over to scoop things onto it using my knife? How do I hold the fork in this situation? WHY DID I GET PEAS?!?! This brings about an anxiety never experienced before. I have stopped getting a knife and every food I get can be prodded by the fork in my right hand. Sometimes I slip up and get peas. Then I have to use another food item to stop a pea chase from ensuing on my plate, drawing weird stares.

Clearly what I am trying to say is: pick up your burger and slice of pizza. Eating enjoyment will increase tenfold.

Watch Ellen struggle with my daily struggles:


When I was walking around the office the first day, I remember my shock and horror to find a bowl of carrots sitting on the table, unrefrigerated. Maybe it was jetlag, because now I don’t find unrefrigerated carrots strange at all. But what I do still find strange is the amount of carrots Danes eat. For snacking purposes, party purposes, meal purposes. Carrots. all the time. Also, in the US, there are big carrots and baby carrots. Here, they either have gigantic carrots or some weird mid-size carrot. This mid-size reminds me of the carrots used by Mrs. Doubtfire when she orders dinner from Valenti’s. The shape is just so…carrot-like. Imagine that. Look here!
Best snack ever! Fly swatter handle for size reference.


Danes don’t pronounce the ‘e’ in Adobe (Illustrator, Photoshop, Acrobat, PDF Reader, etc.), and when I do, as any American would, they haven’t any idea what I am talking about. Also, if you SLIGHTLY mispronounce a word, they simply will not know what you’re trying to say. The double Rs in ‘Norreport’ (a street by where I live—unfortunately) must sound like you just woke up from wisdom tooth surgery and simply cannot say anything because your mouth can’t function properly. If you make the Rs sound like Rs, such a place does not exist in their minds, and confusion will result. When asked where I live, I let out a small chuckle and smile with a “yeah, right” look. Just as effective as trying to pronounce anything.


It is completely normal to wear the same exact thing the entire week. I love it when my coworker wears his sweater that looks like Fruity Pebbles. Brightens up my entire week. Thanks, societal norms!


Converse shoes are insanely popular amongst the young people here. The American flag ones make me chuckle (no pun intended).

Random things in my life...

What do they call the 6- and 18-yard boxes on a soccer field in Denmark? Naturally, the “little box” and “big box.”

Hot salsa in Denmark is an absolute joke. Not only is it NOT hot, it’s borderline (no pun intended here either) sugary.

Carbonated water is starting to taste normal. I remember saying “I don’t like carbonated water” to someone. They replied “You haven’t been in Europe long enough.” They were correct.

My feet can’t touch the floor of the bus. I am too short.

A large coffee from 7-Eleven is 25kr, or $4.36. I’ve tried to stop doing currency conversions because of things like this.

This is the cup for single people. They had no others. Valiant effort, 7-Eleven, but I am still single.


They still watch and refer to it.

God weekend, y'all! (a little Danish and Southern)

Friday, January 18, 2013

Everyday Danish

Just like every morning at the workplace, everyone gathered to have breakfast at 10am. I poured myself a cup of tea and got a plate. What they call a plate at work is actually a paper towel. The first time they handed me a paper towel and said “here’s your plate,” I thought they were kidding, it being “Den-sarcasm-mark” and all. They weren’t. Anyway. I was just doing my I-have-no-clue-what-anyone-is-saying thing, until I witnessed the oh-so-believable unbelievable. The guy sitting across from me grabbed a piece of bread from the bread basket, a “fluffy” piece (normal American bread). He buttered it. I didn’t really think anything of it, UNTIL HE GRABBED A PIECE OF RUGBRØD TO TOP HIS FLUFFY BREAD. This Dane had really out-Daned himself. He literally put bread on bread. The visual still makes me chuckle. 

My favorite days are BIRTHDAYS! Kagekone (cake lady) is served on a woman's birthday. It's a two-layer shortbread-like cookie with a jam in the middle. Very tasty, and a bit creepy. Topped with licorice and Danish flags!

I’ve been living here for over a month, and one would think I know how to use the washing machine. I have no clue how it works. Okay, you all are probably thinking one of two things: she hasn’t done laundry in over a month? OR she knows how to use a washing machine in the US? Obviously I have done laundry, and usually there are words on washing machines. Welp, not this one. There are FOUR BUTTONS and I can’t figure it out. One has all these numbers that mean nothing to me, another is the temperature (a number in Celsius, of course), then there’s one that looks like the sun rising over a hot water bottle with a ½ in it, and a C with a circle. There is no way I am just bad at all things house related. Those buttons are crazy. I never do the same things twice. Sometimes it runs and spins and I open it up (another ordeal) to find dry, dirty clothes. I heard water. It never touched my clothes. What’s the point? Where’d the water go? Right now I am running a load. Who knows what I’ll find when I manage to open the door.

Anyone care to enlighten me on what these mean?

Sad but true story: I was really impressed and proud of myself when I made ice cubes in Toffifee trays. I kind of want to go to the store and ask if they sell ice. I might as well wear the US flag when I do it. As if there would be any question. 

GENIUS! Toffifee ice cube trays.

It has only taken me a few weeks at work to introduce my five fingers into my wardrobe. Surprising it took me this long. Unfortunately there is a good bit of snow on the ground, and five fingers aren’t even cold-weather shoes.

The opposite of five fingers would have to be snow boots. They’re warm and comfortable and awkwardly clunky. So, like people would wear Dr. Martins to the clubs in the 1990’s, I wear my snow boots to the clubs in 2013. Do yourself a favor, and learn from my mistakes. Don’t dance in snow boots for five hours. Just trust me. And there's a lot more advice you can take home from this story.

When in Denmark, do as the Danes do—play handball!! I attended my third practice tonight, and I love it! I still have a lot of work to do, because I don’t understand the rules or the positions, but I am getting there. The practice is conducted in Danish, so I have a translator by my side all the time. They have a hard time explaining the rules to me. Actually, they tell me no English-speaking country is good at handball. One day as I was leaving work, my boss stopped me as I was walking out the door (he knew I had practice later that evening) and said “I need to tell you one thing.” OH NO, what have I done?! “You will be the best handball player when you go back to the United States.” I don’t even know where I would play handball in the US, but we all know I’ll try. 

I can’t quite figure out what sport it is most like. It reminds me a bit of lacrosse with some basketball. There is a good amount of contact, but I learned tonight that you can’t grab someone’s throwing arm shoulder from behind and throw them to the floor. Oops. You have to wear this extremely sticky substance on your hands so you can actually grip the ball. This complicates throwing, and it also rips the skin off your fingertips, but it’s all great fun. 

I am loving my job. Trying to understand techy manuals written in Danglish is a bit difficult, but in the end it’s fulfilling when I get it. Or just figure out the correct phrase they were looking for in English. As a part of our software, we have a Training Site. It takes the user to documents, powerpoints, manuals, and basically anything about our software. I was asked to create an icon that will be used for this site. I must say, the end product is pretty sweet, and I worked really hard on it. If I can I will post it later. Other reasons for loving my workplace are I can go do Gangnam Style in the canteen (eating area) with the lady who cooks up lunch and sing Lady Gaga, or anything else, in my office. I can be my quirky self, and no one cares, or at least no one cares in English!

Time and time again, I am proving myself to be a plant murderer. Helle came home to crispy poinsettias. I have a dying hyacinth in my room. Anyone can grow a hyacinth here! I can’t even keep ferns alive in Charleston. I could probably kill an air plant. Fake plants might be my only option, and those are so classy. I want to buy a desk plant. Maybe it's a sign that I can't figure out how to buy one at the store.

Hyacinth: my latest victim.

I was getting on the 200 bus in Viby Torv, and it's a blue bus so you have to enter through the front doors and pay the bus driver or show him your pass. My pass is good for Aarhus county, but I play handball in Hørning in Skanderborg county, so I have to pay an extra 10 kr each way. I go up to the bus driver, show him my pass and say "I'm going to Hørning." Taking out one of his headphones (why did he have headphones in?), he replies "That's nice," and gives me a wink and a smile. Unsure if the middle-aged bus driver was flirting with me and letting me ride to Skanderborg county for free, I give him a slightly confused smile and head toward the seats. Then he says, 
"Oh! Do you want a ticket?" "Yeah, that's kind of what I was implying." He then asks,"Do you know where you're going? Would you like me to make an announcement?" "I've been there before, but if you really want to make an announcement for the girl who has no clue what she's doing, you can." Take the amount of attitude you think I said that with and divide it by twenty. It was quite funny. 

Speaking of funny, Europeans use "funny" and "fun" incorrectly. Anytime "fun" should be used, they say "funny." Was your weekend funny? Unless you're my friend, Lauren, who laughs at everything, I bet you meant fun. But then I find it funny, not fun, and laugh inside. 

Foggy day in Hasselager. My iPhone 3GS in incapable of taking good pictures.

Since I am no longer attempting to be a vegetarian, I thought it was high time I live up to my American identity and find myself a good burger. After asking around the lunch table where a co-worker and I should get a quality burger, we decided on a place called Sharks. I read raving reviews about "The best burgers in Denmark" and it was even ranked one of the best burgers in the city by a local website that does reviews on a bunch of things. I was excited. I was craving a burger, a big, juicy burger, that would make me feel like I was in America for a little bit. I ordered the Chicago Blues burger with bleu cheese, bacon, onions,lettuce, pickles, and tomato. There were other options like the New York Hangover with fried onions, bacon, cheese, and a fried egg, or the Texas Burger with guac and salsa, the San Francisco on some strange bun with the usual suspects, cucumber and marinated mushrooms, OR my favorite, The Las Vegas All-In, a 14oz burger with double cheese, bacon and scrambled eggs. I would probably have gotten that one if the burger was half the size. Not customary in Denmark is to take your food home with you in a doggy bag. So not only do you pay too much, you don't get to take your leftovers home with you. Eat up! I also got a side of fries, and a bottle of water. Because tap wasn't an option apparently. 

Half my burger from Sharks. Glad my phone focused on the bleu cheese and lettuce graveyard.
If this is the best Denmark has to offer burger-wise, an American can only shake their head in disappointment. It was a mediocre at best. There was still pink in the middle, which I prefer, but the burger was dry. The toppings were good, but really all I could taste was bleu cheese. I would have been upset if I paid $10 for such a meal, but I paid $25. Ouch. The fries weren't even anything to crave. McDonald's are probably better. Even though there was a Chiefs helmet on the wall, I won't be returning. 

On a clear day you can see the Sea from the tall hill.

Where Americans sort of have a personal bubble, Danes have a small personal planet. Seats in the bus are in twos. If someone is sitting in one, that means both are taken, you stand. Also, I have found myself getting strange looks by people walking. I think I walk too close because people will look back at me like some creep is on their tail, following them to their home. I don't look creepy and I don't act creepy, but I'm some alien invader on their personal planet, and that's not okay. I don't even speak their language. And a nice smile is not universal in this case. 

New year, new me. I'm preparing different dishes from around the world. Hungarian goulash, Italian minestrone, Thai chicken curry. Knorr really knows how to capture cuisines from across the world and put them in package of just-add-water soup. 

Why Europeans don't eat peanut butter. Bird cashew cat noot? It's okay. Not the best tasting, but the only option.

 In case you were wondering, they do talk about Vikings. Once Denmark had conquered all of Scandinavia and Greenland. Now they have a tiny country, but a good men's handball team. When they're feeling down, they "show the 1992 soccer game when we beat Germany, and everyone is happy again." Quoted a co-worker on that one. It's the little things that make them happy. Maybe that's why I like it here. It doesn't take much to excite me or make me happy. I'm amused by simple things, and so are they. Right now this is the only place I belong, and I am pretty happy.

"I'm really craving that school chalk candy!" That's fun. or is it funny?

Many fun things coming up! I might get in touch with my cultural side soon...thinking outside the packet. Next post will have better pictures, even though the washing machine button ones are pretty good.