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Posts Tagged ‘denmark

Warning: The following blog entry is not for the prude or those with sensitive dispositions. If you do not have funny bones in your body, look away.

I learnt a lot while I vacationed in Denmark. One of the things I learnt about the Danes is that they are quietly funny.

While walking about, I noticed these signs at eateries.

I did not find out what the balls were, but it should be quite obvious what the cocks and cows were.

While on a boat tour, the guide (and part-time comedian) described the Little Mermaid as popular among the Japanese because it was half sushi and half naked woman. Har-har!

The next one was not from a Dane, but a fellow tourist doing what Danes do.

As he cycled by, he complained loudly to his travelmate that the ride was “turning my balls into scrambled eggs!”

The cobbled streets certainly do a number of anything with wheels. Or anything round. I borrowed a poorly maintained camping bike for a ride around Billund and I can relate.

But I do not express myself as loudly or colourfully. I blog. I tweet. I laugh.


I brought two cameras with me on my Scandinavian vacation, but I only had to use one, my iPhone.

I did not plan on this. My laptop suffered some water damage and I thought it had healed itself somehow. The display stopped working altogether on the first day so I did not have a place to transfer photos via SD card and edit them.

But I dare say that the photos I took with the phone were not half bad. I will still be adding to the galleries, but here is what I have online.

That said, I missed the laptop with its larger screen and more powerful editing tools. I also missed having simple features like captions in photos in the Google+ app. I actually had to use Teamviewer to access my home computer to add captions to the photos. Why not just wait till I got back? Simply because I would never get round to doing it.

I also had to approve transactions and sign work docs online. Our leave system is not mobile friendly and I normally have to log in twice to approve my staff members’ leave applications. Once in, I had to scroll about and zoom in/out unnecessarily so my staff could get the breaks they deserved.

I also used Teamviewer to access my work computer for intranet-only applications and to control my home computer to prepare documents for signing. I had previously used the Hello Sign app, but it accepted only PDFs and not docs. If you are mobile-only, there are not many apps that handle the file importing, converting, signing, and sending. So I did what had to be done.

But on to more positive mobile experiences.

Several hours before checking out of the hotel in Sweden, I received SMS and email notification that I could do so online. I did this and my key cards remained active for one hour after the automated checkout and I could leave the keys in the room or deposit them in a box. Convenient!

Most places in Denmark offer free wifi. There was access in cafes, hotels, buses, trains, museums, libraries, etc. I listed the places in order of ease of access (easiest to most difficult).

The cafes, hotels, and transport agencies seem to realize how many people need mobile-optimized access. Most hotels seem to realize people have more than one device. I found museums and libraries to be hit or miss because of the sheer number of people trying to access the shared resource.

I noticed more QR codes. There was one near the base of the Han Christian Andersen statue (to hear an audio story) and several at the Danish National Museum.

Before flying home, I received email from KLM to check-in. The problem at this stage of travel is not having convenient access to a printer. KLM solved that problem. The email led to a slick, pre-authenticated mobile website
which sent QR code boarding passes to my phone via email.

I eventually did not use the QR codes because there were many self-check in kiosks at Copenhagen airport. Unlike the airline-specific kiosks in airports like Changi, these were generic in that you could check in to any airline. There were several forms of authentication and I printed our boarding passes there.

I used a QR code boarding pass a few years ago in the USA and noted how the readers were not quite optimized for glass screens then. This time I noticed most people passing through the gates without delay, but there were one or two who had to pause and rescan.

Wanting to go mobile is one thing. Going mobile by circumstance and having a system ready for it is another. We just have to keep pushing for it and even demanding it. When people see how much better life can be with it, things will change.

Rising above my experiences on getting data SIMs in Sweden and Denmark, I had five overall thoughts.

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First, it helps to be organized. SIM cards are small, finicky things that are easy to lose. I carry SIMs, adapters, sticky tape, and the SIM tray pokey pin thing in an SD card case. I might consider bringing SIM cutters too.

Second, in circumstances like mine, having an unlocked, dual SIM phone like the Moto G was invaluable. This phone was a cheap spare that also served as my son’s gaming device. I used one SIM slot for Lebara SMS and calls, and the other slot for Oister data. If the Lebara SIM worked properly, the spare slot could hold any other SIM, e.g., Singapore telco SIM for updates. Having your home country’s SIM is useful for receiving updates from family, credit card use, and, ugh, work.

Third, do not assume that all telcos operate the same way. Soon after I bought the Oister starter pack, a Finn entered the store and asked for a prepaid data SIM. We started chatting and he remarked that even though it was 2014, the standards of practice of prepaid SIMs were frustratingly varied. I agreed with him. But a combination of online research and friendly chats with people can minimize the frustration.

Fourth, the easy thing to do is pay ridiculous amounts of money to your home telco for calls, SMS, and data roaming. You learn a lot more and save some money by picking up a local SIM. Having a local number is also helpful to friends or contacts you might have in the country you are visiting.

Fifth, never underestimate how much data you might use, especially if you back up or sync photos online like me. Not all telcos will help you monitor your data use (Lebara provided rough voice messages if you called and sent an SMS notification when you had 50MB left; Oister offered no notifications). So go for more data than you need to avoid complications or hassles, and use a data monitoring tool/app on your device.

Hmm, maybe I should write about getting SIMs in other places I have travelled like Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Australia, and New Zealand.

I am continuing what I started sharing about getting prepaid data SIMs in Sweden. Today I share my experience in Denmark with Lebara and Oister.

Here are the bare essentials. DKK is the Danish kroner (one SGD is roughly about four DKK).

Lebara

  • SIM is 49 DKK in convenience stores
  • 1 month: 1 GB, 50 DKK
  • APN: internet
  • Calls and SMS by default, data needs to be activated

Oister

  • SIM starter kit is 99 DKK in select stores
  • 7 days: 10 GB (cost included with starter pack)
  • APN: bredband.oister.dk
  • This is a data only SIM

Travellers have reported being able to buy prepaid SIMs at Copenhagen airport (CPH) at stores at Terminal 3. If you opt to do this, head for anything that resembles a 7-11 and ask.

I opted to wait until I arrived at Copenhagen Central train station. The 7-11 stores there sell Lebara SIMs and there was a Telia store there.

Telia
The Telia store representative I spoke to told me they had no prepaid SIMs and to ask at the 7-11s that dotted the station. When I tried to get more information (like where the next nearest store was), he practically shooed me out with his favorite phrase, 7-11.

Ta-at, Telia. If you do not need me, I do not need you!

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Lebara
A traveller provided good details at this travel forum about Lebara. Prepaid SIMs and data top ups are available at 7-11s and any convenience store that displays Lebara on its windows or walls. I was fortunate that Lebara set up a booth outside a 7-11 the very day I was there.

If you go with Lebara, you must buy a SIM pack and data separately. The SIM and 1GB of data cost me 99 DKK. This is not a bad deal for up to 30 days of calls, SMS, and 3G data access.

The SIM came in normal, micro, and nano sizes. However, not all stores will have the entire range. In Billund, only micro SIMs were available at a Netto store. But you will likely be spoilt for choice at a 7-11 in Copenhagen.

The data for the nano SIM I brought had to be activated over the phone. If you do not do this, you only have a calling and SMS device. First you have to call 5010-1234, press 3 and then 2 to switch to English. Thankfully the system remembers this setting. You listen to voice prompts to key in two codes. The codes are printed on a receipt when you purchase top up amounts at convenience stores. You might also get the same instructions in Danish and English on the receipt.

The SIM worked brilliantly in my mifi device without me having to change any settings. I was able to share Internet access to all the devices we brought.

But here is the kick: You are stuck with whichever plan you choose for at least 30 days. This might not seem to be an issue because you are not likely to be in the country for that long. However, you might use your quota before 30 days.

I thought that adding more credit would keep the data connection alive. I also wanted to go on a higher data plan (2 or 5 GB). But the system informed me by SMS that I could not do either. To change to a new plan, I had to wait till the old one was over.

I used the hotel’s weak wifi to find out that I could try calling tech support for help to change plans. I was informed over the phone that I had to buy another SIM for 49 DKK, call back, and get the credit transferred to the new SIM. Once I had the new SIM and transferred credit, I could stay on the same plan or choose a new one.

This made no sense from a customer’s point of view (I already had a valid SIM and more than enough credit) but I can see how this makes financial sense to Lebara.

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Oister
Once bitten, twice shy. I looked for alternatives and found Oister. The details of its offerings are in English here.

The short version: You pay 99 DKK for a starter SIM pack. You get 10GB of data over one week. Yes, 10GB, but for data only. No calls or SMS. But you can get around this with apps.

There is a catch if you have a device that needs a nano SIM. Oister only provides normal and micro SIMs. You have to bring your own SIM cutter or pay enterprising store owners 10 DKK to have a micro cut down to a nano.

The deal breaker might be the fact that the SIM is PIN-protected. You must type a four-digit PIN provided in the starter kit after restarting your phone. If you already protect your phone with a PIN, you must type in both PINs, one after another.

There are two cards in the starter pack. The first is a scratch card (with SIM) that provides the SIM PIN and another number whose function is not obvious. You might think it is a secondary confirmation code, but it is not. A helpful store staff told me if was for resetting the PIN should you forget what it was. I did not test this feature out.

There is another card with a much longer number. That is the activation code you use at this page. You type in your SIM card “phone” number in the first two boxes and the activation code in the third box.

These complexities prevented the SIM from being used in my mifi device. This was despite the fact that I deactivated the SIM PIN and manually included the APN.

Oister might be able to provide 4G access in places like Copenhagen, but the further out you go, the less reliable the service. I travelled to Billund by train and coach, more than 250km away from Copenhagen. The service was so unpredictable that I could much sooner win a coin toss than get Internet access.

There are other prepaid SIM providers in Denmark of course. However, they do not offer as much data as Oister nor are they as easy to find as Lebara.


Video source

Like the Danes, Singapore has a very low birth rate. It has been so low that the government stepped in to offer baby bonuses in 2001 in the form of financial incentives if a couple has children legitimately. However, our birth rate remains low.

Facing a similar decline, the Danes are also incentivizing child-bearing. But they are not throwing money at parents, not directly anyway.

Instead, the strategy is based on data that romantic holidays tend to lead to conception. They also seem to realize that providing aftercare in the form of things like diapers is more important than cold cash. Their solution is amusing and clever.

The decision to have children is a personal one that couples make. It is one that they also make in different contexts. Would you be more inclined to say yes if the situation looked more like a financial transaction? Or would you go ahead with a more human one?

The two government agencies have the same objectives and different means. Both want to win the game and both know why they need to win. But it is how you play to win that also matters.

Romatic Reels by wvs, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License by  wvs

A year ago, I blogged about a BBC article on how the Danish use the Internet in their exams. The minister of Danish education was reported to have said:

Our exams have to reflect daily life in the classroom and daily life in the classroom has to reflect life in society. The internet is indispensible, including in the exam situation.

Stephen Heppell’s take was:

As a nation we’ve been really good at embracing technology – we’ve been really at the forefront of doing this well in the classroom. Then they go into the exam room and all that’s taken away and they’re given a fountain pen and a sheet of lines paper and a three hour time limit. It’s time to get real, isn’t it?”

Oh, those “crazy” Europeans… such progressive risk-takers!

But the naysayers say students are cheating. If you read the article, you’ll realize that they can’t afford to. Even if they could communicate with others, what is wrong with that? As other bloggers have pointed out, what we label “cheating” in a classroom we call “collaboration” elsewhere.

There’s real life and then there is reel life. Schools operate in a movie-like bubble where things do not mirror real life and move in dreadfully slow motion. Burst that bubble!


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