Thursday, March 5, 2009

10 Observations...Installment #2*

#1: The tortoise and the hare
One critique of Americans is that we never slow down; we are always on the go and in a rush to get from one place to another. I have always been a fast walker, even by American standards, but my “rush-factor” is exacerbated by the fact that strolling seems to be the norm here, at all times of the day. Now, there is no downtown financial district in Copenhagen like you find in most American cities, so maybe this observation would be different if I were to find myself in the middle of a lot of Danish businessmen, but per my experience, I seem to be the hare in a race of my own.

#2: Business casual
Danes’ walking speed, however, is not the only representation of the more easy-going Danish attitude. One of the most shocking examples of this is the fact that what we consider “business casual attire” tends to be just “business attire.” The be-suited businessman hurrying through the crowd, blue tooth in place and heart attack pending is a rare sight in Copenhagen. In place of Armani 3 piece suits, boardrooms witness CEO’s in Diesel Jeans and sport coats. Do you think it has something to do with striving for an egalitarian society?

#3: Danish language
I opted out of taking Danish classes while I’m here - scared off by the fact that not only is Danish difficult to learn, but only 5 million people speak it – but even those who are taking it don’t seem to be having much luck. For us non-Danish speakers, the rules we stick to are: 1) a word never sounds how it looks, 2) cut out about half the letters and just let the rest fall out of your mouth, and 3) just realize that you will almost always be wrong. It is actually quite a beautiful language, but only when spoken properly (and that's the tricky part.)

#4: MIA
One of the classes I am taking is at KĂžbenhavn University (KU), meaning that, unlike my other classes, I have a class with Danish students. The interesting thing about this class is that Danish students don’t like to come…perhaps this is explained by the fact that the entire grade is based on a final exam at the end of the semester which is only based on the readings…either way, teachers are always impressed by American students’ attendance habits. (And American teachers get upset when students ditch…?)

#5: Respect the Sabbath
I came slightly prepared by the fact that Minnesota’s blue-light laws force things closed at earlier-than-usual hours, but being from a country where you can find just about anything at any time or on any day, I was surprised to discover that most places close by 5:00pm, almost nothing is open 24-hours, and that, by law, nearly everything shuts down on Sundays. How’s that for a day of rest?

#6: Blomsters
The saying goes "a rose is a rose is a rose" or "a blomster is a blomster is a blomster" (when substituting the Danish word.) I'm not sure that by saying Copenhagen's streets are lined with blomsters brings the right picture to mind....but the blomster stands on almost every street corner bring beautiful splashes of color to the dreary streets of Copenhagen in winter. Who knew that some flowers could mean so much?

#7: Hippies at heart
Here, environmental friendliness isn’t a trend, it’s not something you do as a symbol of your liberalness, and it’s not just for people who wear Birkenstocks (I’m not sure any Danes wear Birkenstocks, actually) and tie dye, it’s just something you do. When you go to the grocery store you bring your own bag or you buy one there, people ride bikes or take public transport, all the outlets have switches, plastic bottles are literally reused (just like they used to do with the glass Coke bottles), and cans and bottles can be recycled at any grocery store for cash back (1 DKK per can, 3 DKK per plastic bottle.) America…please take a leaf or two out of this book.

#8: The price is...wrong
Copenhagen is not the place for a poor college student. Even with the dollar rising and a budget in place, my wallet and bank account are in need of some serious resuscitation. With cups of coffee costing $8 a pop and $10 pints of ice cream, it’s easy to say that Copenhagen is an expensive city.

#9: Rain rain go away
It seems as if I’m moving to progressively darker and gloomier places. From Colorado, with its 300 days of sun a year, to Minnesota where the winters are long, cold, and dark, to Denmark where blue sky is a rarity. But, one of the perks of the seemingly perpetual gloom is that even a small glimpse of the sun feels like a gift. And as we start moving from winter into spring, the noticeably lengthening days seem to be a crescendo towards a promising spring.

#10: Quiet city
One of the token sounds of big cities is the siren, but in a safe city like Copenhagen, the need for an emergency vehicle seems to be few and far between. City noises are common sources of complaint to city-goers, and while Copenhagen is far from a sleepy city, it has nowhere near the amount of noise disturbance as your typical city. While New York’s soundtrack might include traffic, yowling cats, and angry pedestrians, Copenhagen’s would have street violins and accordions, chiming church bells, and the occasional techno beat.

*I want to make sure it’s clear that my observations are based on my personal experiences and surroundings in the center of Copenhagen; therefore, they may be slightly biased and may have been different if I had been living in a different area of Copenhagen (I am writing as a casual observer and not an anthropologist.) I appreciate the corrections I have received from those who are reading my blogs and I apologize if anything I write is misinformed, please continue to make me aware of any mistakes. Thank you!

1 comment:

lynn said...

Shelby, i'm so glad to hear you have at least one class with Danes!!(even if very few attend)Thats so neat to hear how good they are about recycling, etc. We Americans need to learn from them. I cant believe the prices you mentioned! Wow! Lynn