From the moment I arrived in Copenhagen, I’ve felt welcome. My first stop was the International House, where I was able to clear any initial doubts, ask questions and find out what’s going on in the city.
It was at the welcoming reception in March that I encountered the program ‘Dinner with a Dane’. A marvellous idea, I immediately thought. Sitting down to dinner with a Danish family seemed like the perfect way to find out more about how they live and their customs, habits, dreams and perspectives.
Not long after I applied, the lovely organisers, Nana and Amanda, forwarded me a questionnaire in which I had to tell them a little about myself and my interests so they could match me up with a suitable family.
A match made in Nørrebro
Some days later, I had a match: Morten, 29, Laura, 31, and adorable Olga – just seven months old. Morten contacted me by email and we scheduled an early dinner at 6pm on a Wednesday. Well early for me, as where I come from, dinner is usually at 9-10pm.
As I cycled after work to their apartment in Norrebro I was intrigued and nervous to meet them. How would the evening turn out?
Luckily, the place was easy to find just next to Norrebro Station. I parked my bike and rang the bell. No answer (later I realised I had rung the wrong Morten, which seems to be a common name here). Suddenly someone approached me from behind.
“Ella?” he asked. “Yes” I answered. “I am Morten,” he said cheerfully. And then he hugged me (not like a hug hug, but like people do when they say “Hi”, which I’m still getting used to). I was caught a little by surprise but I went along with it and it felt welcoming – like I was no longer a stranger.
Wholesome not holey
Morten was going to the Fotex downstairs, so I was invited to go up where Laura and Olga were waiting. I politely took my shoes off hoping I had no holes in my socks that day. Though we all know it’s a Danish custom, Laura specifically said yes when I asked, as Olga is in her “crawling all over the apartment stage”.
As I entered the apartment, I thought it was lovely. Contemporary, spacious and cosy, my eyes were drawn to the upbeat pictures and memories of trips all pinned to a cork board, and then to the plants on the balcony, and finally to the baby’s toys all over the place.
Olga eats first!
Laura was feeding little Olga, the most smiley, happy baby ever, with sparkling blue eyes. I wanted to squeeze her! She looked at me amazed, wondering who this strange person was that had suddenly entered her territory.
She was having a blast at the table, getting her hands dirty, which seemed even more fun than eating itself.
By this point, Morten had returned from the supermarket and was cooking for us. It was his turn, as Laura had taken care of Olga’s dinner. Like many modern Danish families, chores around the house are shared.
While we talked about their lives, we drank white wine and I was allowed to hold Olga in my lap before she went to bed, where she played with my necklace (which she found amusing, almost hypnotising) and my long hair, which she pulled like she had just invented the most fun game in the world.
A home from home
Following Olga’s departure, it became an adult dinner as the conversation moved along fluently about our lives, the city and our personal interests. It was really entertaining and enriching for all of us, as we exchanged suggestions on places to go, things to do, trips we made.
Morten and Laura are both from Jutland and are getting married in about a month. Morten works for the Ministry of Children, Gender Equality, Integration and Social Affairs and Laura is currently a stay-at-home mum.
During their adventurous years, he lived in Buenos Aires for a year and a half, studying and working, and Laura joined him for a year, working as a journalist for a Danish magazine that was being produced there. That’s why she admits her Spanish is not as good as Morten’s, so we used mostly English in our conversation.
I was surprised to know they had visited some of the most remote cities in my home country of Uruguay – Durazno and Punta del Diablo – and their story was illustrated with pictures that looked familiar. I didn’t think I would find anyone in Denmark who could talk to me about home, so it was really interesting to discuss some of the things in common we had.
Return match on the cards
The menu was exquisite: home-made risotto served on wooden plates with fresh parmesan cheese, onions and mushrooms, which reminded me how much I miss my mum’s food. The dessert was banana cake covered in chocolate, cookies (all cooked by Laura) and raspberries. Perfect for my sweet-tooth, and deliciously tasty.
The evening turned out perfectly and my initial fears vanished right away as the Flarup family received and greeted me in such a warm and unpretentious way that made me feel comfortable instantly. We even made plans in the future for another dinner, which I guess means it is going to be my turn to cook. I just hope I can meet the same standards!