From the architecture to the language to even the way people interact with each other, it doesn’t take long to recognize that I am no longer in America. Cultural differences are inevitable, especially when travelling such a far distance, but there are many similarities as well.
First and foremost is the language. Even though everyone speaks English they will only speak it if you address them in English first. All the signs around the city, names of the streets and businesses, and the labels on the items in the grocery store are in Danish –making it a little more difficult to find my way around and pick up the items I need in the grocery store. However, I’ve found it extremely easy to ask people for help. As of yet, I haven’t encountered a single Dane that seems inconvenienced to help me –whether it be for directions or help finding something in the grocery store.
In fact, it seems as though most of them are willing to help without you even asking for it. I was on the train and I was confused about how to open a door and a woman came up and showed me how to do it. Had I been struggling with the same problem in NYC I highly doubt that anyone would come up and help me.
Second, everyone and I mean everyone rides a bike. They ride them to work, school, a restaurant, the grocery store, going out –literally everywhere. Therefore, I had to rent one. I don’t think I could fully immerse in the culture without getting one and so far it’s been fun. It gets a little tiring biking everywhere, but I’m sure I’ll get used to it. It’s about 3 miles to school so it’s not too far.
When Connor (my boyfriend) and I first got them, we got lost trying to get back to familiar territory. Although this would usually be frustrating it was actually a lot of fun. We got lost on some harbor with beautiful views and gorgeous apartment buildings. Watching the sun begin to set while we rode our bikes made for a beautiful adventure.
It’s also been fun wandering around the city with my friends. We’ve gotten lost in the city and gawked at all the beautiful buildings and winding roads. That’s another difference that I’ve noticed: Copenhagen has some long maze-like roads while many American cities have strait roads that parallel each other. This makes it more interesting but also more difficult to navigate.
One major cultural difference that I’ve noticed is that people leave their children outside of the grocery store. I’ve seen several babies in strollers sitting outside and it’s completely normal around here. I guess there was a case about this in the US years ago when a Danish woman visited NYC and left her child outside when she went into a small grocery store. While she was inside, the police took her child and I think they involved child protective services. I guess that’s just an example of why it’s important to know and accept major cultural differences when travelling.
At the same time, I see interactions between friends and family members and realize that we all have something in common. They tell jokes, laugh, share advice, and build memories, just like I do with my friends and family. When living in a country so far from home, its nice to be reminded that we’re all have something in common –whether it be something big or something very little.