In December 1971 at the age of 21 I decided to move to Denmark, it was an easy move for me, I packed my bags, sold my car, and got on the train at Liverpool Street Station in London, after almost 18 hours on the ferry from Harwich to Esbjerg and almost 24 hours later I arrived in Århus, the second largest city in Denmark , Århus for those of you that don't know where Århus is, its on the peninsula of Jutland, primarily a university city. It was then, full of students, Jazz clubs, beer cellars, porno shops and trams, the Trams have gone now.
Here I was, in my dark blue pinstripe suit and white roll neck sweaters, looking the part of a former young sports car driver and Chelsea based boutique Manager…. In Århus !.
I just didn't understand why I was getting all the looks, not just from the Danish girls but from men as well, of all ages, I wasn't a Tom Cruise but reasonably looking, it was because I was wearing a pinstripe suit and white roll neck sweater, at that time readers, in 1971, in London it was what any self respecting Chelsea boutique Manager with a sports car was wearing:
ps. The suit was from Take Six, a great boutique on the Kings Road in Chelsea for up and coming yuppies, before the cliché yuppie was thought of….and forgotten.
I soon noticed that most of the Danes were walking around in clogs and green coats, the clogs are really wooden soled slip on shoes, the coats are known as Loden Frakke ( Frakke being Coat in Danish ), and Loden the fabric that these coats are made of, quite stylish for the times, and very warm.
I wanted to be able to settle more in to the crowd rather than be noticed so much, as it was a new country, new culture and new language to get my head around so I decided to get myself a pair of Clogs, black leather upper with a light wooden base, stylish they should be, however make no mistake, my feet ached for weeks, yes, they were easy to wear, just slip-ons, but wow, my feet really did hurt, I was just not used to wearing that type of shoe with no elasticity in the sole.
And no, I didn't wear them with my pinstripe suit, that was swapped out with a pair of denims.
My next purchase was of course the infamous Loden Frakke, luckily there was a sale on at the local Department store, after trying different models I decided on a fashionable 70s model, it had a deep pleat down the back with leather detail around the pockets, I walked out with it on and from there on no one ever looked at me again, I was just another student on the street.
My next hurdle was to learn the Danish language, today after spending some 28 years in Denmark, I can proudly say that I speak and write fluent Danish, communicate with both Swedes and Norwegians, however make no mistake it was difficult, as any new language is.
Moving to Spain some six years ago with my Danish wife and two sons really did put the cat amongst the pigeons, for our two sons,
Oliver and Nicholas now 18 and 16, picking up the local lingo was no problem at all, today they are fluent in both writing and speaking Spanish, or should I say Andaluz, this dialect is similar in the difference between the dialect spoken in Copenhagen and the west coast of Jutland, or the London accent to the Birmingham accent.
I should add, that after a year in Århus I moved to Copenhagen, so today I speak a more cosmopolitan Danish rather than the broad accent of Århus.
Well today, my wife, who is Danish and speaks fluent English and French, and as I speak a understandable German, we speak a, what I call Coffee-shop Spanish, we can communicate what we want, and everything is fine until the Native of our province answer, not only do they speak at the speed of a machine gun, but they also cut off all the endings of each word, just like our two sons do, especially when they are together with their friends.
Today I believe that for anyone planning to move to Spain on a permanent basis, with children, should place them in a Spanish school, you will be surprised how quickly they pick up the language, have friends and above all, help you, the parents when you have to go to get your new NIE card, or to any of the other official offices, water, gas, tax, well you know what I mean.
Three years ago my wife and I together with two other partners, Carsten, my wife's nephew and Carolina who is half Spanish and half German decided to open our Danish furniture and Carpet store, Muebles Dinamarca, here in Torre del Mar.
We wanted to find a name for our business that represented the country of origin where our products came from, and at the same time remembering where we were based, Torre del Mar, Spain.
So we thought about Furniture from Denmark, in Spanish that would be Muebles de Dinamarca, however we thought that that was somewhat to difficult to say, so we decided on just
Muebles Dinamarca, we know that it is not grammatically correct, but it is easier to say.
I was speaking to an English couple the other day, they had by chance found our store and popped in for a look, they had lived here for a few years, their house was now finished and needed furniture, after they found what they needed, and we finished the paperwork Sheila politely asked me, what does the name of your shop mean.
Now I am no expert in languages, however I would have thought that a simple store name as ours would be easy to understand, even for the uninitiated in foreign languages.
At Muebles Dinamarca, between the four business partners we speak and communicate in seven languages, including fluent English, so for the UK expats we can always help you for all your furnishing needs, in a language you understand.
See you soon - Vi ses - Hasta la vista