Clara in Copenhagen

Clara is a junior journalism major in the Meadows School of the Arts, and the recipient of the Rotunda Award and Outstanding Scholar Award. During spring 2013, she is participating in SMU-in-Copenhagen and is looking forward to exploring Europe.

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The Danes

I wanted to write a little bit about the Danes themselves, because they have been a large part of what has made my experience on this trip so interesting! It would be an understatement to say they are different from Americans – but that is what makes them so intriguing. To help describe what I have noticed about them, I have compiled a little list of some of their traits:

1. Get to the point, dammit!
The Danes are straightforward. They tell you exactly what they want and don’t bother with unnecessary formalities, making it almost jarring if you talk to one of them for the first time. I had to ask my SRA for some extra bedding, and after longwindedly explaining what was wrong with my first set she said, “Soooo….what do you want?” I quickly learned to trim the fat out of my sentences. This attitude can also be seen with waitresses, bartenders, baristas, and staff in clothing stores. They have places to be and things to do, and just because they’re job is to assist you does not mean that you should take an unruly amount of time picking what you want off the menu, or waste their time by trying to chat them up. I have not exactly gotten used to this, but I have found it kind-of refreshing-there is a lot less stress when it comes to communication. However, I sometimes miss being able to talk or joke with strangers on the bus or at the store and not have them look at me like I am a complete idiot.

A stylish couple walks along Stroget, a popular street for shopping in Copenhagen.

A stylish couple walks along Stroget, a popular street for shopping in Copenhagen.

2. Good Lookin…
The Danes are tall, blonde and beauuuutiful. The boys and the girls. Not to mention they have an excellent sense of style, even underneath their huge winter scarves and coats. I went to a very hip part of Copenhagen, a neighborhood called Norrebro, and a woman there told me that this was where the hipsters hung out. I was surprised because I could not even begin to fathom what a Danish hipster would look like-was there a cooler kind of Dane? With their skinny pants, oversized sweaters and perfectly tousled, just-messy-enough hair, they all look like they belong in an ad for Urban Outfitters. I remember a saleswoman who had studied abroad in Seattle telling me that she didn’t think Americans had any style. But then again, she did study abroad in Seattle.

3. Personal Space
The Danes have a highly developed sense of what constitutes personal space. This extends beyond the physical sphere, to the idea of mental and emotional space. They firmly believe that every person has the right not to be bothered in public, or even approached for that matter. Whenever I am on the the bus, if I start to shuffle my bags before getting up the person sitting next to me will automatically get up and move out of my way without even being asked. This happens all the time, and I do the same for others. Shuffling is just code for “excuse me,” because they believe that you shouldn’t have to waste your breath on actually speaking the words. It is a sort of unspoken understanding and quiet respect that people have for each other, that is actually very reflective of the Danish culture. They are a humble, quiet, and cooperative people, equal in everything! But don’t you dare take too much time looking at food in the grocery store or they will shuffle past you annoyed at your obvious lack of tack-shopping is a job that must be done quickly and efficiently with no dawdling, please.

A little girl and her father bike around Nørreport Station in Copenhagen

A little girl and her father bike around Nørreport Station in Copenhagen

4. Their children are adorable
They certainly know how to gear up for winter! Their children wear snowsuits-brightly colored neon or rainbow one-zies and the dogs all have tiny sweaters. I have tried several times to photograph these little ones, but it is best when you can catch the kids walking in packs on their way to school (or taking up all the seats on the bus), holding hands, creating a rainbow plethora of cuteness. It is a sight only seen in this part of the world, but lucky for you I have a few pictures so I can share the goodness!

5. Happy
Denmark has frequently shown in studies to be the happiest country on earth. Although you couldn’t tell just by looking at them (they are not big on smiling), the Danes do have a lot to be content about. Their relatively calm political climate, peaceful relations with neighboring countries, egalitarian social views and homogenous population has made Denmark one of the most peaceful countries in Europe. All danes have free healthcare, work about 37 hours per week and young adults are paid to go to University. In addition the country is very green, and almost everybody bikes to school and work. Aside from the gloomy weather, Denmark has a lot going for it! And how could you not be happy with so many cafés and pastry shops on every corner?

Do not get me wrong. Although the Danes are very reserved, when they open up they are some of the nicest people you will ever meet. You just might have to wait until they have had a drink or two. There is such a peaceful way of life here that I really enjoy it, and would not mind living here. If my list does not tell you enough about the Danish way of life, here is another article that might give you a better idea. It is all about how to avoid angering the Danes, and even though it is humorous it does help to describe why the Danes are the way they are.

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