Julia, Outbound to Denmark

Since my last post, I have experienced so much more culture, met new people, and learned more Danish. I have been writing in my journal everyday so that I can remember what I have done, because it is so easy to forget when we are constantly doing so much! My family and I have gone to cities nearby to see what they look like and explore, which is very nice of them. We have bonded so well, and I love them so much. I call my parents Mor and Far because they truly are my mom and dad. Fall seems to be a popular time to have a birthday in Denmark, so I have gotten to learn a lot about this tradition, and celebrated the fødselsdag of my host mom, two of my host siblings, and my Farfar’s (dad’s dad) and he is just so sweet.

I have also gone to a lot of Rotary events and meetings and it is interesting to see the differences between Rotary in different countries. For example, a lot of times, my Rotary club will have meetings and do a “field trip”. I was able to tour a heste hospital (horse hospital) and learned about how they care for these animals when they are sick or injured. Some of the Rotary members have also invited me to join them with their own activities. I made homemade æblemost, where we picked apples off of the tree, washed them in cold water outside (my hands were numb), hand grinded them into small pieces, then hand juiced them the old-fashioned way. In the end, we would take the apple juice and put them into jars and drink it. There is no need for sugar or added anything, so it is as fresh as you can get.

I also went on a fishing trip, which has been by far the most memorable yet most horrible experience so far. I went out on a fishing boat and sailed out to sea for about 6 hours. I’m pretty sure I was closer to Norway than I was Denmark! When I woke up, I got ready to fish, but it was very cold, windy, wavy, and dark. I was able to catch a fish and took a picture, but within about 30 seconds, I was getting sick off the side of the boat…. for a LONG TIME. The rest of the trip (9 hours) I slept to avoid getting sick again. In the end, I was very tired and miserable, but it is a trip I will never forget… plus I got to bring my fresh filleted fish home, which fed eight people!

My exchange has been full of many adventures and many embarrassing moments. Besides waking up after sleeping through the entire fishing trip and everyone jokingly asking, “did you have a good nap?” I have also learned a lot about the way Danish doctors work. I fell down just six stairs and ended up passing out at dinner and getting a concussion, so now my friends and family always joke around and ask if I need help going up and down the stairs. We also had a district conference, where we do a flag ceremony, which is when all the exchange students walk on stage with the flags of their countries in front of many Rotarians from all over the district. Well, I was given the United States flag and again, fell on the stairs in front of everyone as the recorded us with their phones. After the event, I had the president of my Rotary club come up to me and joked that he had it on camera.

Learning a new language is tough, and although at times I embarrass myself, those embarrassing moments are the best way to learn and remember! I learned very quickly the name for the woman’s bathroom versus the men’s bathroom because not every bathroom has a picture to go with the word. The word “herre” is for men and “dame” is for woman. However, I read “herre” like “her” and have quickly jolted out of the bathroom many times. Another easy mistake I made was saying “jeg er meget fuld” (fuld sounds like full in English) thinking I was saying I am very full. It turns out that “jeg er meget mæt” is the proper way to say it and that I was actually saying I am very drunk instead of full. I was also saying “I have to piss” instead of “I have to use the toilet” which was not the best thing to say to teachers. In the end, these are just a few of many mistakes I’ve made, and I know I will make plenty more, but that is the fun of being an exchange student.

My advice to anyone learning a new language is don’t be afraid to try or to fail. The best way to learn is to practice. Especially in Northern Europe, where everyone speaks perfect English, it can be hard to learn when you have the easy way out: English. Now, even if I am nervous, I will still try to order food in Danish, buy groceries, and ask for directions in Danish. Worse comes to worse, I mess up! People will still appreciate the effort and trying makes a great impression.

I have been in Denmark for almost three months now and it is crazy to think that one day, I will have to go back to the United States. When I was choosing between different countries about a year ago, I had this desire to go to South America where it is full of warm people and warm climate. Instead, I was chosen to go to Denmark, which is almost opposite of this. Yet, somehow, this country is the perfect place for me. Many of the exchange students come from South America, so I have been learning to dance like a Brazilian or give love like the Latinos. In August, when I had first arrived, I was commenting on how cold it is IN AUGUST. Well, fast forward to now in October, and it is going to be 0 degrees. YES, THAT MEANS SNOW IF IT RAINS. In fact, we actually had the first snow of the year in Jutland, which hasn’t happened in over 20 years. Although at times I question how I am going to survive the cold, windy, and dark winter here, trust me, it gets easier. I have learned how to dress warm yet keep up with the interesting Danish fashion. Let me tell you, Danes LOVE to look nice. Most wear nice shirts and dressy pants, which make me stick out wearing a baggy sweater and jeans. Being that I come from a climate with about a week of winter, I thought that people wore gloves, scarves, big boots, and fluffy coats. However, my friends in school tell me its more about fashion than staying warm. But this is just one of many weird things Danes do.

Throughout my exchange, I have keeping a list of “Weird Danish Things” that I have learned. Some include:

-Shower with everyone naked at school

-Put butter or mayo on everything

-Get drunk with teachers as bartenders- drinking culture is something that I didn’t know much about until living here. School parties are very popular, where students can drink alcohol, which is often served by their teachers. It was weird to watch students from my class playing beer pong with my math teacher.

-Sing everywhere and about everything- there are songs for every occasion… very “hygge”

-Follow ALLLLL the rules- The Danes take rules very seriously. At the beginning of my exchange, a woman was talking to me and yelling, but I didn’t understand her, so I just smiled and crossed the street when the walk sign was red (there were no cars) Now I know what she was yelling about!

-Wear long socks with short pants- a very popular style here is wearing pants that in USA would be considered too short on us. Here, showing about 4 inches of your lower leg is normal… sometimes the guys have on tighter and shorter pants than I do!

-Wear hats but don’t cover their ears- as I said, fashion is everything, so if a person does choose to wear a hat, it’s not to be warm.

-Peeing out in public (even next to bathroom)- I think this is also tied with drinking culture, but this is more normal than you would think.

-Jam and cheese on rugbrød

-Bikes have the right of way more than walkers- I have almost gotten hit by more bikes than ever in my life. If you see a bike coming, you have to stop walking and let them go through, otherwise they will probably hit you.

-So much candy, cake and chocolate milk- Danish birthdays are very big here and are full of cake, warm and cold chocolate milk, buns with cheese and jam on top, and lit candles at the table (very hygge)

-They call ketchup “cold pasta sauce”- My host family also put mayo on for “flavor” (crazy I know)

- Smoking cigarettes is very popular among people from around my age and older. People know it is bad, but they don’t really seem to care. I hate this because you can constantly smell the smoke and it sticks to your clothes, even if you weren’t the one smoking.

So, as you can see, my life is continuing to be filled with new adventures each and every day. I sleep a lot more here because its tiring going between Danish, English, and Spanish, but it is all worth it in the end. I have made some of the most beautiful exchange friends, I have wonderful classmates, and an amazing host family. Many people are probably wondering how the whole homesickness thing is going, and I just want to say that it is different for every person. For me personally, I have had no homesickness at all. The closest thing to homesickness I have, is wanting certain foods, but when I am craving food I used to cook back in the USA, I just tell my host family I want to cook dinner, which they are always happy to hear. I have emerged myself in well with the culture and kept an open mind about everything, which is why I think I am having such an amazing experience. Granted, I know that I might experience some lows in my exchange, but the highs practically wash away the hard times. We have good days and bad days no matter where we are in the world, but building a support system of friends and family is what helps. Even if it is something small, like buying an overpriced pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and eating it with friends makes all the difference!

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