Tuesday, December 12, 2006

I married a Dane

The title is as good a place to start as any. I married a Dane so that's where I will begin.

I'll start by stating that we had an unusual engagement and honeymoon quite simply because we never saw one another. We were engaged in December 2005 and throughout the wedding planning, I didn't see Ole again until one week before the wedding! That's what happens when your fiance lives on the other side of the globe.

We were married at the end of July. We immediately headed for the Danish embassy in NYC where I completed a 4 page application to gain legal residency in Denmark. While we were completing the application and speaking with the embassy we were told.. "You know this can take up to 7 months?" I guess they have to say that but still, were we going to suddenly not bother if it was going to take too long?

4 pages for me... Ole came home to Denmark (leaving me behind in Seattle) and ... over 100 pages for him.

After completing the paperwork, we waited. Denmark is a country where a citizen can actually call a government office and speak with someone personally - ask for them by name even! Ole called the immigration folks after a couple of weeks to check the status. They told him it was a slow period (good) but that they hadn't yet opened the mail (bad). If it's slow, why aren't they opening the mail? This was simply beyond my comprehension but okay, at least we had made contact. The guy at immigration then wanted to know if everything necessary was in the package and when he was told it was, he said he'd go ahead and open it and start working on it. Gee thanks!

We received an initial approval, not yet official, near the beginning of October and that's when the real chaos began! Every try to move overseas? Definitely NOT the simplest process. Ever try it with 4 cats in tow? More on that later.

About that initial approval thing. The Danes have this wonderful socialist system. If something should happen to you, the government will take care of you, to an extent. With that in mind, you're also not allowed to be a slacker! So, before final approval could be given, Ole had to put up the "no-slacker guarantee'. Okay, the Danes don't actually call it that, but that's what they really mean. Essentially, give the government the permission to take his money if I'm just a lazy, no good, take advantage of the government kind of gal. Yep, a financial guarantee that I wasn't just coming to Denmark to live off their generosity... without paying my fair share of the highest taxes in the world.

Collateral Arrangements
The person currently residing in Denmark must provide a transferable guarantee of 55,241 Dkr. to cover the municipality's possible, future outgoings to help the spouse/ partner. Please note that for applications submitted in 2005 the figure is 54,158 Dkr.

In order for the requirement of an economic collateral arrangement to be fulfilled, a transferable guarantee must be issued by a financial institution. Only the person currently residing in Denmark can sign the transferable guarantee as guarantee claimant.

The person currently residing in Denmark must provide the transferable guarantee upon the Danish Immigration Service's request. The transferable guarantee is valid for seven years from the issuing of the residence permit and is irrevocable.

The collateral arrangement can be cut down by half upon request, after the foreigner has passed his or her final Danish language test or provided evidence of having completed a Danish course of education.

Yes, you read that correctly.. I must learn the language. Can you imagine if the US started requiring a financial guarantee and insistence upon learning English?

With the approval process near completion, my final planning of how exactly to get myself to Denmark went into full swing...

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

How I spent my Thanksgiving vacation..

3:00 AM local time:

Got up and got showered because we had to leave for the airport to catch a 6:30 AM flight. No flights from Karup at a decent price which meant we had to go to Billund, about an hour away.

We arrived at Billund with no problems and got checked in for our flight. We stopped at the duty free shop to buy gifts for Ruth and Mark, our hosts for the weekend. Nike wanted to get Mark a bottle of Danish Bitters.. but alas, it's not permitted because it's a bottle of liquid.. grrr.

We boarded our flight from Billund to Amsterdam - crappy seats near the back of the plane. It was a small plane so our carry-on bags were gate checked to be picked up at Amsterdam.

They closed the doors of the plane and welcomed us aboard and then about 5 minutes later...

"If there is a doctor or nurse onboard please ring your call button"

Uh oh - sick passenger? Nooooo... sick pilot! Next thing we know our pilot/captain is removed via ambulance and we are sent back into the airport. Carry-on bags nowhere to be found at the moment and no one who works for the airport or KLM airlines seems to know anything about what they're going to do with all these people who have to get to Amsterdam for connecting flights. There isn't another Captain anywhere except IN Amsterdam so there's no one to fly the plane.

After an hour or so of confusion and a very expensive breakfast, we finally had our carry on bags returned to us and then they started to rebook everyone for new flights. The information desk has no line - it's all about how big you are and how well you can manage to push your way to the front of the mass of people. Now they announce that they're going to give all the passengers a free breakfast... no refund of the $20 breakfast we just ate!

We finally got rebooked for a flight - this one to Frankfurt Germany and then connecting to Newark on Lufthansa. All is good.

Oops.. now the flight to Frankfurt is delayed due to fog in Frankfurt. With the current plan we have about 30 minutes to make our connection in Frankfurt - an airport the size of a small city. With the delay, there's no way that flight will be made so back to the information desk we go.

With the first set of changes, they threw away all the original boarding passes. They now must dig through the garbage cans to find them as they need those if they are to change the itinerary again! Now they decide that they'll leave us on the first flight in case it too is delayed and also book us for a later flight to Newark.

We finally get to Frankfurt, just in time to see the first Newark flight pull away from it's gate... so now we have to go see the Lufthansa people about getting boarding passes for the later flight. In the process of getting those boarding passes and getting to the scheduled gate, we somehow manage to pass through passport inspection in 3 separate places! Did I say small city? I meant HUGE city.

At this point, we were originally supposed to have landed in Newark at 11:30 AM EST, we're now looking at a 7:30 pm EST arrival. It's 8 hours after the original arrival time, but we're going to get there and all will be well.

So to the gate we go.. and as we're talking to the gate agents, we notice that the flight number on the board over our heads is not our flight, but some other flight to New York. I pointed this out and the German guy beyond the counter says, with full fledged finger wag, "no, no, no, no, no!". To which I simply replied, "yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!".

Mass confusion ensues... two sets of gate agents, two planes, all assigned to one gate. Phone calls are being made and no one seems to know the answer. The Newark flight has only 57 passengers scheduled on it... the JFK flight has only about 150 scheduled.

After about 15 minutes of confusion, we are then informed that "Due to a technical problem, the Newark flight has been cancelled and passengers will be rebooked on the flight to JFK airport in New York." The "technical problem"? They're going to lose money if they fly that plane to Newark with only 57 passengers.

We have a car reserved at Newark, so I call National and ask for the reservation to be changed to JFK. Oops.. JFK has no cars - sold out, it is Thanksgiving after all! So now we have to get from JFK to Newark upon landing or we don't have a rental car.

We finally board the flight to JFK and arrive at 8pm Eastern time (it's now 2 AM Danish time). We immediately clear customs and get put on a shuttle bus that will take us to Newark... and we sit. One full hour after getting on that bus we finally get out of JFK airport and over to Newark and we finally pick up our rental car at about 10:30 pm Eastern time.

After a rather uneventful drive north, we arrive in Schenectady at 2:00 AM Eastern time - 28 hours after leaving our home in Denmark.

I am happy to report that the flight home went as scheduled, lol.
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