Despite only living in Denmark for about a week and a half so far, I can already tell that I was meant to be born a Dane. Polite smalltalk and giving strangers eye contact, both of which I have yet to master, are considered rude here, so I am in my element. I feel at home riding the metro and s-train in solitude, and when I do meet people, my dry sarcasm fits in with their dark humor. Now I only have to work on the tongue-twisting language and not getting lost, and I’ll be indistinguishable from the average Dane.
My few days here have both felt like months and minutes. They have been packed full with activities, so my feet hurt from walking, and my head is still trying to wrap itself around what happened. We have done a couple of different scavenger hunts outside in the cold, so I have already checked a few places off my tourist bucket list, like the colorful streets of Nyhavn and Amalienborg, the Danish royal palace. Whereas at Vassar I might have used excuses to stay in and not explore, here I am taking advantage of every opportunity that comes my way.
My friends and I made a spontaneous trip to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art to see the Yayoi Kusama exhibits before they were to be closed. The interactive exhibits and powerful colors were breathtaking, and they really added a fun and entertaining feel to what could have been a dry and boring museum experience. The use of polkadots in most of her work connected all of the pieces together and inspired many an Instagram photo.
The day after that was LLC Jumpstart day. I live in an LLC (Learning and Living Community) that is focused on social justice, so we will be learning about Danish activism and hopefully coming up with our own project to help promote social understanding and responsibility. During the Jumpstart day, the 16 of us students living in this LLC went on a day adventure to Christiania, which is the land self-proclaimed to be autonomous from the authority of Denmark, probably best known for its sale of cannabis. Because Christiania is a big tourist attraction and the Danes are more liberal, Denmark lets it exist with minimal intervention. Christiania has its own rules, like no photos and and no hard drugs, which make it a cool community of very interesting people. While we were there, we went to a concert at Bøssehuset, or the Queer House. Never in my life could I ever imagine having so much fun dancing to an all-female disco cover band who played songs mainly in English (including a killer ABBA medley) to an audience of mostly 30-60 year olds. But it was a lot of fun, and something I would never do in the U.S.
I have also signed up to be connected to a visiting host family, so while I live in an apartment minutes away from my classes, I will have the opportunity to learn about Danish culture by meeting with them several times over my stay here. I was a little anxious about how my first visit with them would go just because, as aforementioned, small talk isn’t my thing. But they were so nice and welcoming, and I was able to experience some very traditional Danish things, like eating smørrebrød, which is an open-faced sandwich piled with a bunch of other food that is eaten with a fork and knife. My lack of training in cutting this sandwich led to me being by far the slowest eater, and we were able to laugh together about the strangeness of our different customs. We then cheered on the Danish national handball team in their World Cup game against Sweden. Handball just might be my new favorite sport to watch; I’ve never heard of it before, but it is really exciting and fast paced. They spoke excellent English, and our only miscommunication was when I mentioned “That’s how they get you” in reference to a business adding an extra cost that you aren’t initially aware of. Along with this being an idiom that they obviously wouldn’t know, even when I was trying to explain the meaning, they did not understand, probably because businesses in Denmark don’t have hidden costs: both the tax and the tip are included in the sticker price.
Because Vassar is far away from my home in Arizona, being here doesn’t seem that much different. While the eight hour time difference is annoying, not much else has been frustrating. I’ve learned to bag my own groceries at the store, and I’m even learning to cook a little from my seemingly expert chef roommates. Every Dane I’ve tried to communicate with speaks nearly perfect English, so I don’t even have to awkwardly try to pronounce anything. My only disappointment was waking up at eight to get delicious cinnamon rolls at Sankt Peders Bageri (which only makes cinnamon rolls on Wednesdays), and finding out that they don’t start selling them until 10. Which, I think, means I’m doing pretty well.