Wednesday, November 29, 2006


There's a homeless drunk guy sleeping on our stairway right now. It happens too often!

Alcoholism is probably the greatest killer in Ukraine, and I usually feel sorry for these poor men and women who has no other choice than a $1 bottle of vodka. But if this guy is not gone by tomorrow morning, I'll make sure he never returns again (though I'll most likely chicken out).

One time I came home late, and a guy was sleeping right in front of my door - blocking the door. I had to kick him to wake him up. He smelled as if he hadn't had a shower in months, which was probably true because there had been no rain for a long time. He just mumbled something in Russian, walked down one floor and started to sleep again.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Product development

Here's something you don't see every day - BEER MIX:

What is that? Well, it's just product development in the wild wild east! How come nobody ever thought of mixing beer with oranges or lime fruits and sell it in a can?

This picture was taken in a Ukrainian mini market. Which brings me to another observation - juice:

In the supermarkets you can buy all sorts of juice. Weird ones too. It seems that the Ukrainian retailers are thinking more about getting as many different items on the shelves hoping to increase probability of customers finding something they want, in stead of figuring out exactly what customers want and then optimize sales on those products.

Again... juice:

In Danish supermarkets you can get orange juice, apple juice, grape juice, pineapple juice and a few others. Then you can get the more exotic mixes like orange/carrot.

In Ukrainian supermarkets you can get juice with all fruits and vegetables available in the world, and of course a mix of all available combinations. For example, you can buy green grape juice and you can buy blue grape juice. I would not be surprised at all if I found a mix of green and blue grape too.

That's one more difference between the boring West and the Wild Wild East, which by the way goes for other products as well in the supermarkets.

It seems pretty harmless, but I think theres a bit more to it. Our nanny is 28 years old, and she once told me a story from when she was 12; She stood in a line somewhere ALL DAY just to buy 12kg of salt. Not that her family needed 12kg of salt, but because they could trade some of it for bread, milk, butter, meat etc. In other words; buying basic groceries was very difficult and time consuming, but so important that families had to send their kids to wait in a line.
This is not more than 10-15 years ago, so EVERYBODY can remember the terrible food shortage.

I think it's plausible to argue that this fact from recent history is why Ukrainian retailers are OVER PACKING their stores with too many weird products.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Security guards

Just bought a new camcorder. It's always fun to buy electronics in Ukraine. Lots of papers with stamps, and lots of security guards.

I went in to the store and found the camera I wanted. Then I paid for it and got all the papers and stamps. Then I walked the 4-5 meters to the exit door and was stopped by the security guard who wanted to see ALL the papers that his colleague gave me. It not just me he checks - it's everyone leaving the store.

It's a waste of customers time, but the worst thing is, that they give paying customers a bad experience as they leave. It's bad retailing, that's what it is. I should know - I used to be in retail!

Anyway, security guards are everywhere. They just stand there and look evil, trying to make everybody scared. They are ugly elements in this country, and I'm sure that every dollar they prevent being stolen are lost tenfold in lost profit from customers not feeling welcome.

So here's my tip: IGNORE THEM!

"A thief thinks that every man steals"

Saturday, November 25, 2006

I'm seeing Denmark EVERYWHERE (in Kiev)

I'm getting used to explaining people what Denmark is. That goes for both Ukrainians and Americans. Most people knows it a country, but nobody knows where it is and who we are. Those who DO know something about Denmark usually mentions the Muhammad Crisis (that's the Americans) or they mention the soccer match from 1985 where Denmark beat The Soviet Union 4-2 (that's the Ukrainians). Biggest profiles from that match were Michael Laudrup from Denmark and goalie Desejev from Soviet.

Anyway, TODAY walking home on Gorkova Street, I suddenly saw a new shop called "Dan Mark", which is almost Danish for Denmark. Royal Danish Shop the sign says above the door. That's pretty cool. 100% owned by a Ukrainian by the way.

So what are they selling? Clothes! Very symptomatic, they sell the classical Danish brands, and not the trendy brands that are VERY popular in Asia.

It's a cool shop. Lot's of Danish flags. Hope they make it.

I think this is more a coincidence. But in the top left corner of this Ukrainian business journal, it says "Denn Mark". Strange.

A typical magazine. Mixed Roman and Cyrillic letters.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Book review: "Dostojevskijs sidste rejse"

This book is GREAT! Written by Danish journalist and author Leif Davidsen who spent several years in Moscow during the 80's and 90's.

This book is a must read for everybody who comes to these regions for business. Forget about Ernest & Young's annual "Doing business in Ukraine" or "Doing business in Russia" etc.
This book beautifully maps out the cultural differences and the attitude you'll meet when you start working here.

I guess in all businesses it's people who makes the difference. So it's a good idea to look in the recent past if you want to understand why people act and react the way they do. And that's what Mr. Davidsen does.

Sorry, couldn't find it in English :-)

Dostojevskijs sidste rejse

DotComeBack for online media

I like this logo. It's one of the new newspapers in Denmark's online version. The domain name is pretty cool too. Directly translated it would be

Notice the "BETA" sign. For those of you who are not familiar with all the hype around the online industry, BETA means that this service is not completely finished yet but apparently good enough for us to use it.

I like BETA's. They give an insight in tomorrows trends. But in this case... I mean: BETA NEWS? What is that? News that hasn't happened yet? Test news maybe? News that'll change? Come on! It's a do over :-)

Or check this out:

Supply status

November is almost over and here's a status on the basic supplies:
  • Power outs: 3 times
  • Heating "outs": 1 time
  • Water "outs": 4 times
There was no water today, so we used bottled water to flush the toilet. That's a $2 flush. Then our bottled water delivery company called us - very conveniently - and asked if we needed a few extra bottles. Maybe they work together; cut the water pipes and supply the customers with expensive bottled water!
Damn, now I'm seeing conspiracies everywhere too...

By the way, WHY do they deliver water in 18,9 liter bottles? Who came up with that number?

Santa Claus has retired

It's both sad and true. Santa Claus has lost his funding for his non-profit business. Since World War II, children could send a letter to Santa, and he would always reply. Sometimes a reply with a small gift. I remember that from when I was a child.

But now, the post office in Greenland (YES, that's where he lives), has stopped helping Santa replying all of those letters from hopeful young children.

Why would anybody do something that cruel? Well, the Greenland (or Nuuk) municipal said they wanted to spend the money on something else in stead, and I'm sure they can find something.

But COME ON. This is just plain stupid. I think Greenland has just gotten used to Denmark paying all their bills. Denmark actually owns Greenland or something, but we are not really profiting from that partnership (I guess we expect to find some oil under the ice one day). In stead of looking at all those money from Denmark as support money, they should look at it as venture capital and start doing some business!

It's pretty simple. Parents (we) are stupid. They would rather pay $50 for a stupid toy knowing that the tots would rather play with the laundry or anything from the top drawers in the kitchen. I GUARANTEE that there's plenty of parents who would gladly pay $10 for a reply letter from Santa. What's the alternative. Should we tell our children that Santa died?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Danes do it again

I don't think there's ANYTHING you can't do in Denmark.

I think this displays the innovation power of the Danes, and I don't think anybody ever again will wonder why the Muhammed Cartoons was published in a DANISH newspaper.

Danish Christmas Party

The Danish Christmas is loaded with traditions. Most of them are about food - lot's of pig and lots of schnapps.
Luckily there's a Danish community of about 50 people in Kiev, and some of them hosted a traditional Danish Christmas party last weekend.

Take a look at this mighty feast

We had to leave the party early though. A surprise party for Dorit (just had her birthday) was planned at Arena. She really was surprised, and all her girlfriends with husbands were there to celebrate. Here's a picture. I'll post some more pictures from that event later.

We have one more Christmas party in December, and next Saturday we are going to our very first Thanksgiving with 8-10 American families. This should be fun. From what they tell me, Thanksgiving is all about eating - just like a Danish Christmas party.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Frejas first Halloween

An agreement was made in the toddler group: no scary outfits for Halloween. The kids are all in that age where clowns are scary. That's what Freja thinks anyway! Maybe I shouldn't have let her watch Stephen King's "It"?

Click the picture for... well more pictures.

From Halloween 2006

Friday, November 10, 2006

New Muhammad crisis

This is an ad from one of the largest shopping centers in DK. The joke would be lost in translation if I tried translate it to English, so this is only for my Danish readers (which is about 56% of you).

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Anders on the trampoline. He's actually training for Beijing 2008 - but in a different sport. Jorgen is cheering.

Book review: "I'm knitting clothes for dolls"

Found this book at my mums house. It seems pretty good. My mum is having a good time knitting, and my daughter LOVES to play with her dolls. win win.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Gartner Highlights Top 10 Strategic Technologies for 2007

The following list from Gartner is supposed to enlighten us with the top 10 most important technologies for 2007:
  1. Open Source
  2. Virtualisation
  3. Service Registries and Repositories
  4. Business Process Management Suites
  5. Enterprise Information Management
  6. Ubiquitous Computing
  7. Information Access
  8. Web 2.0 – AJAX Rich Clients
  9. Web 2.0 - Mashup Composite Model
  10. Communities and Collective Intelligence
That's just great! I think I'll focus on "Information Access". Or how about "Ubiquitous Computing"? A renaissance for public libraries and ATM's!

Anyway, I don't see any surprises on this very generalized list. Most of these tendencies are already happening or has already proven their capabilities. So I feel pretty confident in adding a few more items that will certainly have an impact next year:
  1. Seasons
  2. Sunday brunch
  3. Airport security
  4. Phone calls
  5. etc... (feel free to comment)
Back to the original list:

I think that especially point 8 (AJAX clients) will have significant impact on turning internet users into internet buyers. More responsive websites will keep consumers locked to the screen, and give them fewer exit options during "the buy".

And I think point 10 (communities) will continue to grow into even more niches reaching even more internet user groups. There's no doubt that the community sites are on to something. People spend HOURS in these communities doing nothing besides interacting with others. It's an interesting behavior.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Skype is illegal

I heard a rumor from Belarus, that a guy had been arrested for using Skype. Obviously the use of Skype is the same as stealing from the state owned tele companies - everybody knows that!

I thought that it was just a rumor, but apparently others are talking about it too: skype-is-a-threat-to-the-regime-in-belarus.html

A LOT OF RUMORS exists in these regions.