Name: Simran Khadka
Home University: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Summer Session 1 Course: Health Delivery and Prioritization in Northern Europe
Summer Session 2 Course: Children in a Multicultural Context
As I am typing from Kathmandu, Nepal, I have to admit that I truly miss the Danish culture even though I am back at my birthplace. These are my personal observations of the Danish culture, and obviously, every person has different interactions that has defined his or her study abroad experience.
1. “How do I pronounce where I live?”
Gade is pronounced “gale.” There’s a good chance that the street you live in will end with gade, and you don’t want to be that kid who actually says gade. Meanwhile, if you make the attempt to pronounce Danish words, especially words that contain the complicated looking o, Ø, the Danes will correct you politely or compliment you on your attempt. It is universal that the host will accept you if you are willing to learn the language, and even though it is difficult learning Danish among your American friends, it is worth the satisfaction as you gain acceptance from Danes.
2. Black is the new black…….except summertime.
Although it may seem like a generalization at first, a lot of people immediately notice that Danes tend to wear black a lot. In all honesty, wearing black is convenient. First, black clothing is easy to find, and it does not look dirty after a long day of biking in the rain from work or school. I found myself wearing black from head to toe for those specific reasons without thinking too much. Since a few Danes spoke to me in Danish when they approached me, I just assumed that I did a good job of blending in with the Danish culture.
However, the black attire takes a break during the summer as the Danes ditch the black to enjoy the brighter colors. Still, being in Denmark made me appreciate the versatility of wearing black, but one should never feel obligated to blend in too much because you will eventually stand out with your behavior regardless of how hard you try to blend in; that is completely okay though. It is impossible to completely assimilate within the Danish culture within 6 weeks, and I am fine standing out sometimes because it reminds me that I am an American who is just enjoying another culture.
3. “So these kids are only high school graduates?”
If you manage to study during Summer Session II, you will notice a large group of teenagers who wear sailor hats and dance in an open truck while riding around the streets. They are high school graduates, and they celebrate their commencement for at least a week. As my friends and I observed these graduates, we realized that graduating high school begins their life as an adult. Meanwhile, we thought that our high school graduation was not as “big of a deal.” Still, my child development course taught me that these graduates had to take an entrance exam to get into a gymnasium, Danish high school, which is the equivalent of getting into a college in the United States. Therefore, they have the right to celebrate, and it is amazing how many of these graduates choose to travel or work instead of heading straight towards post-secondary education unlike those in the United States.
To answer the question in the title, I have to admit that I will perhaps never be Dane enough, but I still have the right to make the most out of Danish culture that promotes fashionable yet proactive attire. I miss the ability to rely on public transportation or feel the clean Copenhagen air as I bike everywhere. Having clean air is truly a privilege because it is almost impossible to escape air pollution in Kathmandu. At last, I feel accomplished of being able to pronounce Lagkagehuset, the name of my favorite bakery in Denmark.
I know I will return soon, but for now, I have to thank Denmark for inviting me to Europe in the most welcoming way.