Denmark 101 – The Secret to Meeting Danes – Episode 6

Perhaps THE most common question among recently arrived internationals in Denmark is, “How do I meet Danes?”.

In this video I delve into the topic, offer suggestions and a few comments that should ease you in the process and help you better understand why building Danish friendships can, at times, require an entirely different approach than you may be familiar with in your home culture.

Don’t miss Episode 7 which builds on this video with specific advice on how to make Danish friends. See it here.

Sorry about the light! Sun came out and overwhelmed the camera.

Want to start at the beginning of the series? Jump to episode 1.

Denmark and it’s residents are a fascinating group. In this video series I leverage my observations and research to share with you insights into how to get the most of your interactions with the Danes and your time in Denmark regardless of the duration of your visit. One day or ten years – my goal is to share observations I’ve made from my 5 years of living, studying, and working among the Danes.

If you’re Danish, hopefully you’ll find this series interesting, a bit informative, and not too outlandishly inaccurate. So far the feedback and input has been great and I look forward to continuing to further exploring Danish culture with you.

If you’re a foreigner coming to Denmark, I hope this helps you build upon observations and insights the rest of us had to find out the hard way.

Topics that will be covered include the Danish approach to nudity, how to make Danish friends, how to meet Danes, Danish manners, studying in Denmark, working here, traditions, key behaviors, taxes, dating and even a look at Janteloven.

Stay tuned for future updates – this is just the beginning!  Can’t wait?  Jump to YouTube and view all of the latest episodes and while there make sure to Subscribe!

Backyard Lilies in Bloom

During my US road trip I had a quick stopover in Prescott to see my folks and old friends. One of the highlights of the house in Prescott is the incredible yardwork my folks have done which has transformed the back yard from a rock strewn chunk of hillside, into a wonderful oasis full of life, vegetables, and gorgeous blooms.  Of the many flowers in the garden, my favorite are always the lilies which, as luck had it, were in the midst of blooming.  The mixture of whites, pinks, and yellows combined with the sound of the water and the sight of the fish lazily making their way from lily pad to lily pad always soothes and centers me in a way few other things can.  Here are a few photos of the back yard garden and lilies with a brief non-lily cameo.  You can see the rest of the photos in the flickr album, including black and white versions not included here.

The Backyard Garden - Water Lilies

Dark Matter Theory and the Rate of Technological Evolution

Today’s post is a change of pace from my usual travel material.  While on the road and commuting I often enjoy musing and listening to various podcasts. I’m also voraciously curious which leads to soaking up a wealth of different science news. There have been two ideas that hit me while out and about a few months back and which have been nagging at me ever since. Today during dinner I found myself listening to Priyamvada Natarajan‘s talk about “The Exquisite Role of Dark Matter” which reminded me of my hair-brained Dark Matter theory (see below) and which in turn re-surfaced thoughts surrounding my musings on the role population growth has played in changing our rate of technological innovation as a species.

To be clear, these are just very general “theories” based on my musings and a random assortment of connections I’ve drawn between different material I’ve been consuming.  I’m presenting them here, as briefly and simply as I can, because I’d love your discussion, input, and help in finding existing theories that they align with, research that disproves them, or input on what aspects are genuinely of interest to help me progress the mental exercise which both represent. So, I want to reiterate – I am not a scientist. I am not an astrophysicist. I am just a curious Communication Major with a few years of post-degree dust between my ears and a wild imagination.  The “research” and “science” these theories are based on, is only minimally investigated (by me), very possibly utterly misunderstood (by me), and/or my conclusions could be entirely based on causation not correlation.  So, with that heavy disclaimer in mind, my challenge to those of you who are interested is to A) educate me OR B) put on your research caps and see what supporting data you can find for one or both of these ideas.

Galileo Jovilabe

Theory 1 – Dark Matter Black Hole Conversion Theory

Recently Stephen Hawking proposed that matter can escape the event horizon of a black hole. Simultaneously we have Dark Matter which is an invisible form of matter that has a significant gravitational impact on the universe, seems to be increasing, and potentially shapes the expansion of the universe.

The theory, in a nutshell, is that once a black hole is formed, the gravitational pull swallows up matter from the surrounding universe. However, if we stick with the assumption that matter cannot be destroyed, it can only change states, then we re-visit two of the most common explanations for what happens to matter that enters a black hole: explanation 1 has been that it is infinitely compressed as time slows infinitely. Explanation 2, which I’ve always liked, is that it tears a hole in space-time and generates a White Hole in a parallel universe. This essentially creates a Big-Bang like event which is fed by matter coming through the black-white bridge.

Both of these presume that matter cannot escape the event horizon of a black hole.  But, what if it’s not that simple. What if matter CAN escape the event horizon, just not in the state it enters in. Extreme pressure creates all sorts of changes in the state of matter. Take extreme pressure, and combine it with gravity based time-distortion. What if this is actually how Dark Matter is formed – a form of matter that changes states and becomes a new form of matter that then escapes (or is ejected) from the event-horizon of the black hole.

This escaping Dark Matter retains its metamorphosed state after exiting the black hole, but still has sufficient mass to interact with other/existing dark matter and visible matter simultaneously. Only the impact of the dark matter’s gravity is partially cloaked by the pull of the black hole which counteracts whatever ripple or circular dispersion effect you’d otherwise expect to see.

The Dark Matter is not being ejected into a void, but rather into an existing sea of Dark Matter. Similar to the air inside the earth’s atmosphere, or water in the oceans, natural currents and eddies form. These are influenced by the mass and composition of Dark Matter, but also – same as the impact of weather and existing landmasses on the sea’s currents, are impacted by visible matter and black holes with their own gravitational pulls.

In this way, the origin, dispersion and coalescence of Dark Matter is explained while accounting for what happens to matter that has been consumed by a black hole.

Related: Visualizations of Dark Matter “pools”.

Istiklal Avenue - Istanbul, Turkey

Theory 2 – Population Growth’s Impact on Human Innovation

I’ve always been fascinated by Moore’s Law and just how much my paternal grandfather saw over the course of his lifetime (1900-1987).  Why? Moore’s Law, which turned 50 this year, predicts that generally speaking computing power will double every two years. My Grandfather, who was born in 1900, lived during one of the fastest periods of innovation in the history of humanity and saw and adapted to a lot of amazing things. I find the thought of what he lived through to be captivating. Especially when compared to my own life and what I have already witnessed and can expect to witness over the next 60 or so years.

I’ve seen quite a bit of research that focuses on individual efficiency and effectiveness when it comes to innovation. After all, a computer most definitely increases what a lone individual can accomplish. As does a University education. But, at the end of the day, there is no greater or more efficient engine for innovation than the human mind.

The theory I’ve been toying with revolves around population growth:

Population Growth

(Source data)

Throughout the majority of human history population growth has been relatively limited and fairly stable. However, around 1800 we passed the 1 billion population mark.  Not too long after 1900 we doubled that and have seen meteoric growth ever since.  My curiosity and hypothesis is that this growth should also translate directly into human innovation. If in 1800 we had 1 billion people living, working and innovating, and in 2013 we have 7 billion people living, working and innovating even if the base technology and level education remained the same (which it hasn’t) we should in theory see a similarly expansive uptake in innovation across our society. Right?  In effect, meaning that at the very least, we should be experiencing and seeing innovations at a pace 7x faster than we saw in 1800.  Innovative growth which in turn will further be supplemented by each newly invented technology (books, internet, computers, etc.).

Now, I fully realize that you have to take into account various secondary factors – a starving child (or adult) in the Central African Republic may be somewhat less likely to be in a situation where they can take equal advantage of the education and tools that a well-fed child born into a College educated family in the US can. But, that more people currently live in more widely disparate conditions than during previous generations, also means radically more opportunities for innovation. There may be barriers to the dispersion of those ideas (eg: war / poverty) but those are still less likely to be barriers than what humanity faced historically. More voices also does make it more likely that a lone voice gets ignored, but it also provides more ears and opportunities for that voice to find sympathetic ears. Again, another trade-off with as much upside potential as downside potential.

I find it strange that this approach to looking at societal innovation has not been more widely discussed or codified in existing theory or that if it has, it hasn’t made it into our cultural discourse. Particularly around technological and scientific innovation.  This is where I’d love your input and guidance on what theories currently exist that may have expressed, explored, and more scientifically investigated the overlap between population growth and species-level innovation and knowledge creation.

Remember, this is just a bit of fun. So, let’s have it. What do you think?

I Decided Against Travel Blogging As A Career – Here’s Why

I recently accepted a full time job. With that acceptance I concretely closed a chapter of my life during which I came very close to pursuing full time travel blogging as my career. Make no mistake, VirtualWayfarer isn’t changing, it just isn’t going to be a platform for my full-time career either.  Over the last two years many friends have expressed surprise that I chose not to pursue travel blogging as a career. Here’s a somewhat simplified explanation of why I made the decision to return to the corporate world and how I shaped that return to maximize my travel opportunities and work-life balance.

Back in early 2012 I found myself on the ground floor of the travel blogging industry’s professionalization.  Between 2011 and 2013 the industry underwent significant changes as travel blogging grew up.  Now, granted, there’s still major room for maturation and the industry lags behind similar blogging sectors like Fashion and Food. Still, what has been accomplished and happened to the Travel Blogging industry is extremely impressive and has been driven, in no small part, by a handful of individuals.

I’ve had the deep pleasure of knowing many of these individuals and enjoyed the opportunity for candid conversations and late night brainstorming sessions.  I’ve also had the opportunity to observe as they struggled to re-shape the travel blogging industry, to stand out, and to craft their own business.  These conversations and observations combined with my own first hand experiences as a fairly well-recognized travel blogger guided me to where I am today and have played a pivotal role in my ultimate decision.

It wasn’t an easy decision but looking back there were two key watershed moments.

A Grand New Adventure – Working in Denmark

July 21st, 2011 found me tearfully saying goodbye to my Parents.  I’d just sent three hulking bags through security and had a knot in my stomach that left me sympathizing with Atlas – at that moment we both felt as though we held the world upon our shoulders.  I was about to launch a grand new adventure, one that had a very unknown ending.  A few long hours later I arrived in Denmark and the rest, as they say, is history.

When I arrived in Denmark I only had one contact through a friend of a friend of a friend. In previous posts I’ve talked about how he saved my butt and deserves no small amount of credit for me making it through those first few months (Thanks Søren!). Those stories and so many more are archived here on VirtualWayfarer. They mark grand adventures, realizations, and a slow series of basic decisions – yes, or no – that led me forward. The conclusion of my Master’s marked the end of one grand chapter, just as it gave birth to what came next: the decision that I wasn’t done with Denmark yet, and that I needed to stay. The last year and a half was another chapter.  One that came with incredible challenges, wonderful growth, and the attainment of a number of life goals. Now, with today’s announcement, that chapter winds to a close and another, equally exciting one begins.
The Beach Visit

The News

What’s the big announcement?  Well, have no fear. I’m not pregnant. Nor did I manage to go diving with great whites and get eaten.  In fact, for this news I’m not even leaving Denmark…or perhaps I should say, that IS the news.

The Sojourner’s Dilemma

I love Copenhagen. It is, quite possibly, my favorite capital city in the world.  Yet, recently, I found myself falling out of love with the city. A combination of factors – winter, a cold, the stress of the job search, and a daily commute that ate up three hours of my schedule started to weigh on me. I found that sense of doubt creeping into my psyche, combined with the seeds of bitterness.  It wasn’t until I had a day to walk the city – something I hadn’t done in more than three months – that I had an epiphany and sense of renewed love for Copenhagen.

Springtime in Copenhagen

What I’ve taken to calling the Sojourner’s Dilemma is something no doubt familiar to anyone who has done a long-term study abroad, lived abroad as a sojourner, or progressed to the full-expat stage. It is that inevitable stage in the experience where your love and zeal for a place starts to slip away.  In some cases losing that magic is a very real thing tied to changes in your needs as an individual.  But, more often than not, I believe it stems from a loss of connection with the aspects of the city and daily/experience which were the source of that magic to begin with.  It doesn’t matter if you’ve been in a city for 6 months or 10 years, it’s when we lose touch with the daily richness that the balance begins to shift from a place of inspiration that puts an added bit of zip into our steps towards a weighty chain that drags us down.

The Joy of Walking

I recently found myself relaxing on Dronning Louises Bridge in the heart of central Copenhagen.  The bridge, affectionately referenced as Copenhagen’s hipster bridge, is the perfect spot for enjoying the late afternoon sun.  Situated as it is, the eastern side is bathed completely in warm white afternoon light. Though ostensibly a bridge built for cars, it was taken over long ago by bicycles and pedestrians. One of the great automotive arteries that once fed central Copenhagen has been re-worked, narrowed, and refined with pedestrian benches and sidewalks wide enough for five people and two dogs to stand abreast.  The old streets have been further narrowed in favor of bike lanes in each direction which can comfortably handle two, perhaps even three bikes, shoulder-to-shoulder in the middle of rush hour. After all, the bridge, which sees more than 30,000 bikes pass across its old square stones, is no minor thoroughfare.  Not unlike the once great and mighty Colorado River, Norrebrogade has been narrowed – its grand flow of cars and buses choked to a trickle of what they once were. Yet, unlike the great Colorado whose story is a sad one, the story of Louises Bridge is a happy tale still being written.

Danish Bike Culture Is Even More Amazing Than You Thought

Over the last few years Copenhagen has become world famous for its incredible biking culture. It is no secret that there are a LOT of bikes in Copenhagen. The most commonly cited statistic is that more than 50% of Copenhageners bike daily to work or school. That, in and of itself, is pretty spectacular – but it is also just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the amazing bike-centered things going on in Copenhagen. After a somewhat rocky roll out, last year’s big announcement introduced Copenhagen’s new and heavily updated city bike program which replaced the recently retired free bike program.  While the reception has been luke-warm to the new bikes due to their cost and the fact that they are no longer free, the updated bikes possess GPS, electric engines, electronic maps and a plethora of perks for the price of about $4 an hour.

Copenhagen in June

The city of Copenhagen has also undertaken and recently completed a number of expanded bike lanes many of which are now roughly the same size as traditional car lanes.  Other projects include cycle superhighways, bike-only stop lights, lean-rails for bikers waiting at lights, and proposals for built in street-based notifications to help bicyclists time their speed to avoid red lights and delays.  The latest of these safety innovations was introduced September 4th (in Danish) and focuses on tackling an emergent problem – the collision of Copenhageners exiting public buses and bicyclists who, while technically required to stop and yield to those disembarking from buses, don’t always remember to stop.  Copenhagen’s solution?  An innovating plan to build lights into the bicycle paths which will direct bikers to stop when a bus is present and unloading passengers.  In effect, this is a modern and updated take on the old school-bus “STOP” sign.  It’s precisely because of initiatives like this that bike-usage in Copenhagen is continuing to grow. Biking is safe, incredibly good for you, convenient and a priority across all levels of society.