Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Danish Lessons, Chapter 2.

One month or so into la vida Copenhagen, and I learn something new every day. Some of it is useful, but like most things I've retained in my head, most of it is just fun little nonsense that helps me survive daily Danish life.

1. Hypothetically speaking, if you have the equivalent of $10USD in your bank account and two bowls' worth of delicious chokolade Crusli left to survive the weekend, take comfort in the fact that it is most certainly possible to live through Saturday night and Sunday and keep a full stomach going. You will find affordable sustenance mainly in chocolate, beer, and shawarma form. It's very Marie Antoinette. Except, you know, instead of "let them eat cake," it would be more like "let them eat Mars bars, Carlsberg, and shawarma." Which doesn't roll off the tongue quite as nicely, but I digress.

2. Since you now know that jaywalking is simply a menace to society, you bide your time patiently at the crosswalk like every other good Dane. If you ever come upon a drunk urinating woman yelling at you in Danish while you calmly wait for the green light, just play with your fingernails. It seems to work.

3. The bread that this country produces is magical. I don't know what's in it, or how many grains are involved (my amateur guesstimate would be approximately 87), but it's delicious. Especially with smuggled peanut butter. Just throwing that out there.

4. Don't question the condiments. I had ketchup for the first time since I was two on a burger the other day, because I did not feel comfortable altering the menu. And I survived; nay, the burger was delicious. Also, if you ask what kind of dressing or sauce is involved, the common answer will be: "Normal sauce." Which gets you nowhere. So just roll with it.

5. Carlsberg is like nectar here.

6. Whilst you are embarking on the difficult quest known as The Search for A Rental Apartment in Copenhagen, you may in the meantime have to rent out a room in someone else's apartment. If you happen to land in a situation where your flatmate is a cop-in-training and his jolly Scandinavian lady friend, see number 4: Just roll with it. In fact, consider it material for any forthcoming novels you may have brewing in your brain. Or at the very least something to talk about with your family on Skype. Laugh because it would be far too easy to cry.

7. Even if you do not take advantage of the fact that you may, if you so desire, have a drink on the street in public in this city, please feel liberated just possessing the knowledge.

8. If you are out and about having a lovely time with your friends, and an angry Swedish woman with a posse of three angry-looking men scowls at and accosts one of your friends, it's probably best to (a) just keep walking; (b) know that her life, at least that night, is probably not very happy right now, and she desperately needs a good shower and possibly a hug; and (c) realize that because she is wearing what amounts to a glorified Band-Aid, she's not only irate at 1 in the morning but also very cold in uncomfortable places. All in all, you're better off. Plus you have a bitchin' story to tell your family back home.

9. They have assigned seating at the movies here. It's very strange to this American, although it does eliminate the whole awkward "are these seats taken?" spats that often occur. And prevents people with crutches--ahem, Dylan--from saving entire rows at a time. Which, credit to the injured, is genius but unfair to those of us not on crutches.

10. If someone on the street starts talking to you in rapid-fire Danish, the best thing to do is stare sort of blankly, and then say, "I'm sorry, I don't speak..." and trail off sadly. They will be okay with the fact that you are a simple American who is not bilingual, probably feel a little bad for you inside, and then smile and find someone who can actually help them.

11. At some point, you should start learning street names and stop using landmarks like "that big Chinese buffet across from that fountain in the square." It just makes life a little easier.

12. If, like me, you forget your night bike lights every single time you cycle past sundown, learn to pedal really fast. In fear. Every time it happens, I just will myself to not get a ticket. And practice a teary, heart-wrenching speech in my head if I did get bike-pulled over.

13. There may be times when certain churches ring their bells for an absurd amount of time. I assure you, it is not 80 o'clock. I don't know what's going on, but it's not that late. Anywhere.

14. Converse are expensive here--I am not kidding, I saw them for sale at the equivalent of $120USD. Bring yours from home. Even if they're all clean and dorky and new. Not that mine are, or anything, I'm just saying...

15. Speaking of shoes, if you're wearing your awesome Target leopard print flats (which are honestly sort of stretched out and supportless but you still love them) while biking, really be careful not to lose your shoe while biking across H.C. Andersens Blvd. as the light is turning red. It's so embarrassing. Oh, and sort of playing in traffic.

16. Talk to people and they will talk to you. It's a simple system that is bringing me out of my comfort zone but into meeting new people, so the payoff is totally worth it.

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