Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Danish Life, I

My living situation here in Copenhagen is completely alien to what I am used to. I live in a very new apartment building that looks like a Lego creation (coincidence?). It is part of a cluster of new apartments that seem like they were dropped out of the sky into this huge empty field south of the city. When you look for my building on Google Maps satellite imagery, you can only see the foundation and some cranes. There is literally almost nothing but apartments in my immediate area, and then miles of what I can only describe as some kind of wetlands/nature preserve. But with cows. Denmark is a strange place.

Anyway, the only remotely interesting thing about my little neighborhood is that across the street is the largest mall in Scandinavia. The fastest way to walk home from the local metro stop involves cutting straight through this mall, weaving around way-too-stylish-for-their-age Danish teenyboppers. In most ways it is like any mall I have been to in America, but it's the little differences that grab you. For instance, there is a massive store called Bilka on the ground floor of the mall. The only thing I can compare it to is a Wal-Mart, but that should be taken with a grain of salt because I have never stepped foot in a Wal-Mart. They aren't allowed in Los Angeles. At Bilka you can buy anything. Groceries, plasma TVs, bicycles, candy, video games, movies, clothing, etc etc etc. If some kind of natural disaster goes down while I'm here, you know where to find me. The presence of this superstore means one thing: shopping carts. Picture a mall filled with shopping carts. It may not seem crazy to you, but trust me, it is.

The people of Denmark are pretty interesting, albeit a bit strange. One thing that struck me pretty early on was their street etiquette. I don't think I have ever seen a Dane jaywalk. I would love to follow a group of them around Manhattan sometime and see how they behave. When I first moved into my apartment, the behavior of my three Danish roommates really got to me. In an small apartment shared by 4 university students, everyone has their own drawer for utensils. Plates, cups, and cookware are not shared. In fact, when my roommates cook they generally take the food back into their rooms, close the door, and sometimes lock it (click!). Mind you, our apartment has a nice big couch, loveseat, two tables, and 4 chairs. Rarely has anyone taken advantage of any of this furniture except for me.

I was told (warned?) by my study abroad department that Danes are known to be "reserved." I guess that was a euphemism for shy. Don't get me wrong, the few Danish people I have gotten to know have been great friends to me, but getting to know them in the first place was a total chore. I can't say that I make any kind of special effort to meet international students when I am home, but then again none of my neighbors have ever been international students. Meeting the other internationals here in Copenhagen has been a breeze, which is probably to be expected considering how new everything is for everyone. However, I have been pretty disappointed because I was looking forward to making a bunch of Danish friends. It simply wasn't meant to be. That being said, I have made great German, Irish, Dutch, English, French, Australian, and even Canadian (!) friends since I've been here. Couchsurfing, here I come!

Denmark is a great place, and I think everyone should visit it if they are going to visit Europe. For a city the size of Copenhagen, the amount of culture is really impressive. The people are very polite, it is very clean, and they speak better english than most Americans. That being said, it has begun to feel small to me. I come from a city whose regional population is several times that of the whole of Denmark. The sun has been going down really early these days (we turn the lights on around 4), and the weather is getting less agreeable by the week. Luckily for me, I have a lot of travel planned in places south of here over the next month. Tomorrow, I head to Amsterdam for a week. In mid-December, myself and two of my good friends from home are going on a grand adventure through Spain, Morocco, Portugal, and France. I'm sure there will be a lot to talk about afterward, assuming I remain a free man throughout the trip.

I'm crossing my fingers.

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