Kulturnatten – Copenhagen’s Culture Night

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Copenhagen’s Round Tower lit up for Culture Night

The city was buzzing as museums, Government buildings and shops were all open for business. It was 9pm on Friday but this was no ordinary evening. Welcome to København’s Kulturnatten 2014 – Copenhagen’s very own Culture Night.

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The view from the top of the Round Tower

As we wanted our four-year-old son to experience this event, we couldn’t visit every attraction we would have liked.  But what we did enjoy was great family entertainment. We climbed up the long and winding equestrian staircase to the top of the Round Tower (Rundetårn) and saw Copenhagen at night.

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Charlie looking at the moon

It holds Europe’s oldest observatory, where my son looked through an enormous telescope to catch his first close-up glimpse of the moon .

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Trinitatis Church in the Round Tower

The Round Tower also holds the beautiful Trinitatis chapel as well as a library for the scholars at the time.  Both were open to visitors wanting to take part in this unique evening.

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The library in the Round Tower

Over at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad (DIS), the American students had turned the courtyard into a haunted house. Outside there were fires to toast marshmallows and chairs where we could drink hot cider full of spices.

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Charlie dressed appropriately for the Haunted House

With students dressed as zombies, covered in fake blood and bits of intestine, it wasn’t quite what I had imagined for my son. But he and his friend Charlotte, enjoyed it so much they went back for a second look.

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Charlie and a friend toast marshmallows

All over Copenhagen there was live music, street food and a carnival atmosphere. It was fantastic and all for 90 kroner per adult (roughly £10) or free for children.

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There’s no need for an excuse to eat ice-cream in Copenhagen!

These events happen in other parts of the world but wouldn’t it be great if they were much more common?  Because this is the way to get young and old interested in the culture and history of where they are living in a fun and entertaining way.

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Embrace us Denmark!

Photographer Hans Søndergård

Speaking at the DI Business conference. Photographer: Hans Søndergård

At times it’s awkward being a foreigner in Denmark. And although many people aspire to live here, there is an anti-immigrant rhertoric. Yes, I’m from the UK where we too have a debate going on about immigration. But the language used in Denmark, often by politicians, can at times appear pretty xenophobic.

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Danish PM, Helle Thorning-Schmidt

On Tuesday the Confederation of Danish Industry, DI, held its annual conference. It was a big event and had some impressive speakers including Danish PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the new Finnish PM Alexander Stubb (who stole the show), former Italian PM, Mario Monti and a host of others – including me.

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Finnish PM Alexander Stubbs

Several months ago DI decided the AGM would focus on how to make Denmark more attractive and friendly towards foreigners. That was a pretty brave move when you realise that even mainstream politicians talk openly about ‘us’ and ‘them’.

The leader of the opposition, Lars Lokke Rasmussen from Venstre, was on stage talking about the issue of ‘social dumping’ and ‘welfare tourism’. He talked openly about closing the door to people the Danes don’t want. The party has already discussed an immigration policy based on religion – yes to Christians and no to Muslims.

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DI asked Danes to treat foreigners better and to think of ways to attract more high-skilled workers. There was a call to cut the administrative red tape for foreigners along with more help with understanding tax, schools and housing. There was agreement reached by both the PM and Rasmussen that more affordable international schools will be built (there is a big shortage in Denmark).

When I was on stage with two fellow foreign journalists we also discussed our experiences of Danish life. On the one hand there’s a great work-life balance. But on the other, it can feel hard to fit in (and I know language is an obvious barrier). But I was very impressed with just how welcoming people involved with DI were. I do now feel that Danes – even politicians – are listening. And that can only be a good thing.

And you can watch all the speeches and discussion from the DI conference by clicking here. It includes the Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubbs, who really is worth a watch.