Saturday, January 24, 2009

Original Letter

This is the e-mail I originally sent to some regarding my first impressions of Copenhagen:

Hey all,

I’ve decided to make a somewhat mass e-mail (including the bus 28 group)
instead of sending out individual e-mails as of now, and if you want to
respond to this we can do individual e-mails or whatnot. I want to hear
from all of you. Because this is a mass e-mail, please forgive me if this
e-mail is too much information than you expected in certain areas or not
enough in certain areas. This is also quite long.

Right now I’m watching a man who is about 280 pounds of muscle trying to
convince me to join a gym in downtown Copenhagen. This is frightening
because he is very large. This is exciting though, because it means I have
internet in my room for the first time since being here. And Skype
(ailipst; add me.) First I will tell you how I am doing, my situation, and
then I will tell you things I’ve learned about the Danes so far. Although
I sometimes regret going to a culture more unlike our own that I had
originally planned for, I’m glad I’m taking myself out of my comfort level
and learning to readjust.

I live in a Kollegium, or dormitory for all types of students, not
necessarily those attending the same University as myself. My Kollegium is
20-25 minutes by bus from the heart of Copenhagen, where DIS, my
university is. It might be faster on the metro or train (which I have a
pass for) or maybe even by bike, and I’ll figure it out. Danes love to
bike. Most adults bike to work. There is a biking lane. Do not step in the
biking lane because the Danes will not stop for you. Men and women in
suits all bike to work at the same time. When it gets warmer I am
considering buying or renting a bike to live the Danish life correctly.
Anyway, my Kollegium is nice although it is in Norrebro (often called
Norrebronx by the Danish because it is known as the ghetto of Copenhagen.)
Everyone has singles with a small kitchen and bathroom but as soon as you
leave your room, you are outside. Although there is a communal kitchen, it
kind of blows having to leave your room into the cold, wet Danish weather
to see other people. I hope to spend a minimal period of time in my room.

I’ve learned in Copenhagen that as someone in my situation, you can choose
to go hungry or to go poor (or to buy very classy Danish clothes and be
both hungry and poor. But seriously, the Danes dress with tight,
fashionable clothing. It’s nice.) I hope to find a middle ground. For
example, go only slightly hungry and become quite poor, but not as poor as
I could potentially become if I ate everything here I wanted to. Like the
danishes. Not the people. The pastry. There is a bakery (all bakeries are
marked with a large pretzel at the top) called St. Peter’s that has a 12
Kroner special each day (1 dollar = 5 or 6 Kroner). Danish pastries are
mind-numbing. They make love to my stomach while sweet talking my mouth.
They are light and fluffy but have so much substance behind them I would
marry one if he or she was human. Or at least had a heart. Which I think
they sometimes do. Anyway, things here are so expensive because a) it’s
the heart of a major European city, and b) a 25% tax is included in
everything. I know that everyone abroad right now must be thinking that
where they are is the most expensive city, but I don’t see how things
could be more expensive than they are here. I am sorry. The only
affordable food items are beer and eggs, which will be the main substance
in my diet, if all goes well. And if all goes well, I will fight off
alcoholism. The culture of the program and Danish life makes alcoholism
somewhat inevitable. In America it’s somewhat less acceptable to drink on
a Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. Here not so much. I will do my best and keep in
mind I am a guest in this society, and not a full member.
Copenhagen itself is beautiful. Yada yada yada. It’s quite historical,
yada yada yada. Queen this, cobblestone that. Anyway, now, things I’ve
learned about the Danes:

I’ve learned the Danes hate immigrants. Eh, it’s kind of funny to make fun
of immigrants. Eh, they don’t really fit in with the rest of the Danish.
Eh, they are from certain areas only and you don’t see them much in the
main areas of the city. But at the heart of the matter is that it’s
accepted that Denmark does not appreciate you if you are an immigrant.
When someone says something blatantly offensive towards them, it’s okay.
They are immigrants. Apparently the bus I take to the center of the city
is chock-full of them, but to me it seems more white than the
transportation I took to Philly. It’s not really the “they took our jobs!”
or the “they stink of dog and have weird customs!” It’s just that the
Danes LOVE Danish culture, and these immigrants have upset the paradigm.
The Danes love their Queen and it’s almost illegal for the media to harass
her or to report something negative (Denmark as a Democratic Monarchy;
i.e. the Queen is just for show, although she eats tons of taxes to
support the Royal Family’s way of living. This might explain the 25% tax
on consumer goods. Today I heard it’s 50-70% on income.) My Danish
instructor said that Copenhagen used to have over 700 hot dog stands (they
are quite good and cheap, about 25 Kr.) but because of the immigrants,
there are less than 200. When the immigrants come, they bring their food.
For the Danish, this is a bad thing. If it was up to them, liverpaste and
Carlsberg is the only thing Denmark would be eating. Sidenote: Carlsberg,
the one and only true to Danish brewery, has a beer called Elephant, which
is 7.4% and about 16-18 ounces, and I can get 4 of them for 12 Kr. ($2.50)
at the local Netto, a grocery store. That’s about 8 quality drinks for
less than $2.50.

I’ve learned the Danes are extremely nice, but seem like complete d-bags
on the outside. It’s against Danish culture to be openly friendly. It’s
against Danish culture to make small talk. If you want to see a look of
panic with a Dane, make small talk. Say, “What’s up? How are you doing?”
Frightened with the social situation they have yet to encounter, they may
counter with the exact same small talk you brought to the table, which
might make conversations like this happen:

Me: Hey, what’s up? How are you doing?

Dane (looking confused, bewildered, emotionally upset): What’s up? How are
you doing?

Me (stifling a smirk): Oh, good.

Dane (looking somewhat relived): Oh, good. (the Dane now stares in front
of him or herself intensely)

I’ve learned the Danes are alcoholics. You might say Ireland is full of
alcoholics. Or Scotland. Or London. Or Italy. But in Denmark there is no
such thing as an alcoholic. Denmark drinks not to have fun or to live more
or to socialize, but to be drunk. To not be sober. I’ve gathered that the
Danes drink to escape the social rules they’ve bounded to themselves. To
be able to show the emotions they are taught to only keep inside. A Danish
man I talked to while watching a handball matchup (against those goddamn
Saudis, those Arabs) said it’s because they enjoy it. Either way, they
always drink. At lunch time. In the morning. Some beer. Some more beer.
It’s okay. I don’t know if Denmark doesn’t do the liquor license thing or
they are very easy to get, but every place that serves food also serves a
lot of alcohol. Like the 7-11’s. We were told if we have lunch with a
Danish family, over the course of the meal we will have 2-3 shots of
something like schnapps and then 5-7 beers. It was also presented to us
that Danes live 3 or more years less than their Swedish counterparts,
because Danes drink more. This is okay because Danes like drinking a lot.
Sidenote: Danes like the Swedes, Danes like the Norwegians. Danes hate the
Finnish. Something about wars and history or something, I don’t know.

I’ve learned the Danes love handball. Enough said. It’s like basketball
and soccer and a little bit of football. It kind of sucks as far as sports
goes, but they enjoy it. And they’re sort of good at it.

I’ve learned that one-third of all Danes between the ages of 18 and 30
have Chlamydia. Jesus H. Christ. We were told this in an orientation so I
assume it’s true, but I hope for the sake of the Queen and the great Danes
of Denmark that it’s not. Also, crabs are becoming an epidemic. We were
told if we are at a bar and someone is scratching their genitals a lot,
that we should not go home with them. As if in America this behavior would
be widely accepted and improve someone’s chances. That was a sarcastic
remark, which reminds me:

I’ve learned the Danes are quite sarcastic. Which is fun for everybody and
I appreciate it.

So I stopped typing and went and had dinner with some people in my
Kollegium. It was an experience that made me feel better and better about
being here. People got together for some sort of potluck. While people
made pre-made dishes like microwaveable pizza and pasta, I made some bacon
(not that impressive), but also some fried tomatoes with melted cheese,
pesto and remoulade. Before I knew it, people were asking me for advice on
the pasta and how often I can cook. It made me feel good and reminded me
how much I like cooking for other people. Hopefully I’ll be able to cook
for friends frequently, also a good way to save money given it’s their
ingredients. Also, these experience reminded me how much I love sitting
down with people I want to talk to over a meal and a few bottles of wine.
It was just very homey. And appreciated. I’ve met a lot of people so far
and am sure if I’m ever bored, there are always a group of people I can
get together with.

I feel this is a good ending note, even though I can think of more I can
say. Peace and love everybody, can’t wait to hear back.


1 comment:

  1. this is weird, because I thought today that this method of describing all of your observations and activities would be better. kudos!