The Danish Way of Doing Things

My first two weeks here have been an absolute whirlwind of emotions and experiences. Before coming to Copenhagen, to be honest, I hadn’t thought of how different the culture was going to be. Because I knew nearly everyone here speaks English (completely fluently at that), I automatically presumed that the culture couldn’t be that different. Ignorant, I know, but that was my thought process. After having arrived, I can say that boy was I mistaken. While many things are similar, the Danish way of doing things is much different. Here are a few things I’ve noticed.

  1.  J-walking. Nobody does it here. Sure, in the US we have pretty much the same laws they do here, you’re not supposed to j-walk and if you do you could be fined. However, in that states that law might as well not exist. J-walking is common and completely acceptable. Here, however, even if there are no cars as far as the eye can see, it’s 12 AM, and below 15 degrees every person still waits for the red light to turn into a little green person, signaling the “Go.” It’s one of the strangest things.
  2. Excuse me. Nobody says it here. In Danish ‘excuse me’ is ‘undskyld’. It’s pretty easy to pronounce and doesn’t take much effort, yet this common courtesy is completely abandoned. I’ve gotten a few elbows thrown at me on the bus or metro during rush hour when people are crowded and pushing to get off at their stop. To me, a simple ‘undskyld’ would do the trick, but it’s simply not said.
  3. Silence. Danes are very quiet. I take public transportation nearly everywhere (it’s very nice and clean here) and am very often the only one talking on the bus or train car. This struck me as odd, but small talk is not the Danes’ forte. At first I thought it to be a little eerie, but I’ve actually come to love it. One of the things I hate about NYC, for example, is how loud it is everywhere. In Copenhagen, I could easily read a book, listen to music, or even just think because people don’t feel the need to fill every silence with meaningless conversation. It’s quite refreshing.
  4. Bikes. Approximately 30-40% of people in Copenhagen ride their bicycles to work or school. It is the biking capitol of the world. The bicycles have just about as much power on the road as the cars do. The outrageously high taxes on cars prevent many people from owning them and clogging up the streets with automobile traffic. Biking is a rather easy and efficient way to get around here and something I will definitely try before leaving.

While the Danish way of doing things is rather different in many respects from my lifestyle at home, I have come to embrace it. Even though I am rather impatient, it’s nice to cross the street knowing I won’t have to dodge a taxi cab that doesn’t plan on stopping for me. Or, knowing I’m not going deaf from the endless, loud city noise that simply doesn’t really exist here. I’m sure the things I have listed here are only the tip of the iceberg. I can’t wait to discover the rest.

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