Refleksion på Danmark

I've been in Denmark for five weeks now and I thought it was about time to delve more into the Danish culture and what has surprised me about it thus far. Adjusting to life here in Denmark has not been that much of a challenge, yes I miss my friends and life back home, but I've been able to find my place within the city of København and learn to love where I'm at right here. In my mind, I know that I will be returning to Cary, North Carolina in just a few months so there is no point in lamenting over what I have left, because I will return to see it again. That doesn't mean to say that I am relishing the moment when I will get to open up a glass bottle of Cheerwine and drink the sweet goodness that is North Cackalacky but I digress...

Se! Det er mig! 
Back to Denmark... every day I am surprised by the way Danes do things here but in good ways! I think the most surprising thus far has been the trust and helpfulness of the people.  Coming to Denmark I heard that the Danes were a rude people, and I have found that to be totally false in my experiences. People have carried my bike up slippery metro steps, figured out my train route when I had lost all hope, and just last week a lady opened up her home for me so I could use the bathroom to change because I was running late for Ultimate Frisbee practice. Having lived in America for all my life, I wouldn't dream of ever letting someone in my house for fear that I would be stuffed in a black bag, but people here are extremely trusting and Denmark is one of the safest places in Europe.

Kronborg Castle
This safety has something to do with the equality ingrained in the Danish culture. Everyone here is equal. A few weeks ago I ran into the Prince of Denmark and his wife Princess Mary at Kronborg castle. They were shooting a commercial in front of the castle but they only had two agents with them, not a whole entourage complete with police cars and limos. The Danish royals and celebrities pride themselves on being accessible to everyone because they are real people and do not want to be put on a pedestal. The inherent safety of the culture comes from the sense of belonging and equality that the Danes have in their society. Collectively, they are responsible for their Danish brothers and sisters which means that I can walk in downtown København late at night without the fear of being mugged which is a far cry to how I feel walking down the streets in Raleigh at night. 

Our hearts ever hold you N.C. State
Within my classes (which just began yesterday!), the professor's job is not to lecture at you and convince you of their belief, rather it is to facilitate the discussion of ideas where everyone has a chance to talk and give their input. Decision does not come about by one person in authority deciding for everyone, rather, decision comes about by people chatting and discussing an issue. The focus is on making your own choice instead of being told what to do. This is one reason why I am seriously considering doing my Ph.D over here in Denmark. You are given a lot more freedom in terms of what project you choose, how much time you spend on it, and how much help you want. It is not your job to be the PI's slave, rather your project is your own and the relationship between you and your PI is more of a mentorship and partnership.

Forever reflecting
One of my favorite things that I have heard about within the Danish culture is their view upon work. Work is extremely important and many Danes find their identity in their work, but they are not focused on the hours of work they do, or the pay, rather they are focused on the quality of work they do and getting the project done. Companies strive to understand how the employees are feeling because they know that if the employees aren't happy then the work will suffer. This seems like a much better way to ensure that people are happy with their work and getting work done without the issue of people not having enough work to do.

Some goaty-legs 
There are numerous amusing and funny things that the Danes do that I was not used to before I came here to Denmark. I'm currently studying Danish as a language while I'm here which is so much fun and so difficult at the same time. If Danes they are trying to define what something is, their language has the ability where you can string as many nouns together as you want to define and name something else. Hans Christian Andersen named one of his characters "Gedebukkebensoverogundergeneralkrigskommandersergenten" which is literally translated as Goaty-legged-above-and-under-general-war-commanding-sergent. This makes the language 10x more complicated as I have to break down these super long words into their constitutive pieces and then translate them all together.

The beautiful town of Elsinore from Hamlet
Danes also don't really do small talk. I personally enjoy this very much because small talk can get so old, but it's also difficult to ask someone who you've barely met, deep, personal questions without feeling like you are barging in on their personal life. Danes also tend to be more direct in their communication which I have struggled with sometimes. I tend to beat around the bush with new acquaintances and friends as I don't want to come off as brash and intruding. Once I know someone I'll be quite direct with them; you can ask some of my friends ;) I'm also not extremely decisive and I want everyone to be happy with a decision so it is still going to take time for me to be more direct in my communication.

To be honest, trying to think of reflections that I have had so far of Denmark has been difficult as I feel like I have just adjusted to the culture without any sharp cultural differences that have shocked my world. I do hope to explore these sort of comparisons more over the next four months as it has been very rewarding to seek to understand my own culture more to know how it is different from the Danish culture.

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