Archive for January, 2011

Last Monday, I went to Sam’s Karaoke Bar with some of my international friends.  Sam’s Bar is a very fun place to hang out and actually has a variety of songs, spanning multiple genres of music and even different languages, like Danish (or course), Spanish, etc.  Well, as usual people pick songs that are favorable and that most people know.  So some of my friends and I started off the night with the Black Eyed Peas, “I Got a Feeling”, which is a great song to get people involved.  There weren’t many people in Sam’s Bar as we were there around 10:30ish.  Later, I decided to sing Elton John’s Circle of Life for my first song and it was okay but I swear I don’t remember that song being that long.

Well the night was generally low-key until about midnight, when a huge group of students, walked in, very loud and speaking what was so recognizable as AMERICAN ENGLISH.  Before long, the place was filled with North Face jackets, one guy had on an American Flag shirt, excessive amounts of shoutouts, saying “That’s my boy” or “dude” and “like” after every word…  I felt like I was in an American movie or something! Next, as I was with other Danes and international students, for some reason many of the American students did not assume I was from the states.  So I was usually approached throughout the night with questions like, “Do you like American music or American culture?”  Then when I hesitated to answer, one guy proceeded to try to speak Danish.  This was one of the first times, I’ve heard a non-native Danish speaker, speak Danish and this is not to make fun of the American guy but I can empathize with how the Danes must feel when they are used to hearing their language a certain way and then an outsider says something that to us isn’t a subtle linguistic and phonetic difference, but that makes all the difference in Danish!

As I flash back to studying abroad in Denmark, 3 years ago, I tried to put this into perspective.  I tried to understand how Americans might be perceived or how we might project our identity.  This was such an interesting experience for me, because I have actually only hung out with Danes since I’ve been in Denmark.  I noticed how the group dynamics were just structured quite differently.  When favorable songs were sung or played, I immediately noticed most of the Americans grinding on each other.  Interestingly enough, I know it exists in Denmark but I have not been to many Danish parties where all they do is grind on each other.  This isn’t to say that all Americans just grind on each other, but I noticed in my experience, that most Danes have tended to focus on dancing in a more reserved fashion.  Also, if it’s not in a “reserved” style of dancing, it’s dancing with not such a focus on “dirty-dancing” that can be found in most American parties (of course, it’s always depending on context). I guess you could say, most Danes dance with and not on each other as much as I’ve witnessed at some American parties.  Also, as soon as the American students walked into the bar they bought big bottles of Vodka or the more expensive alcohol, whereas, I’ve experienced Danes mostly drinking beer (which is cheaper) and maybe a cocktail here and there.

At the Danish parties that I’ve attended, the Danes actually focus on socializing.  We sometimes sit and chat about many topics, ranging from politics to pop culture.  I’ve had some of my best heart to hearts or intercultural learning experiences at bars or parties.  I remember having a discussion about if the Nordic healthcare systems are any better than the U.S. health system.  Yes, this was at a party and it was totally acceptable!  Everyone usually has so much to say and have been quite opinionated.  But this isn’t to say that we just sit around at Danish parties and talk, it’s definitely all about having fun because Danish parties are VERY long!  I know back at my college we’d usually start the party at maybe 10pm and end the party around maybe 1-3AM at the latest.  But in Denmark the parties that I’ve attended usually have begun approx 6-8PM with a hyggeligt (cosy) dinner.  Then, the real party starts after midnight, which means the parties can tend to end as late as 6AM, sometimes!

I hope this isn’t much of a surprise, but most Danish parties are filled with copious amounts of alcohol but even then most Danes drink responsibly.  I have not witnessed ONE person drinking so much that they’ve passed out or puked all over the place as most college parties have tended to be about (in my experience).  Well, the running joke is that since most Danes tend to start drinking around 14+, most are mature by the time they reach the university level, anyway.  🙂

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Tonight I went to Madklubben with a Fulbright friend.  We’ve decided to do, what we call cultural outings, to explore Danish culture in its entirety.  Tonight’s focus was on eating at a Danish restaurant.  Madklubben is for someone who wants a really fancy dinner, but cannot afford a Michelin restaurant.  The concept behind this restaurant is bistro-de-luxe. The food has its roots in the classic English peasant cuisine but with a modern twist, and the food fits in perfectly with the local rustic style. One course costs DKK 100 (18USD), two courses cost DKK 150 (27USD), three courses DKK 200 (36USD) and four courses DKK 250 (45USD).  So based on the Danish cost of living standards, I think it’s definitely an affordable place to eat.

So I decided to get the 2 course meal with an extra side dish.

Main Course:
Stegt lammeculotte med pære, valnødder, rødbede, og blåskimmel (Roasted lamb romp with pear, walnuts, beetroot, and bleu cheese)

Side dish:
Knuste nye kartofler med rigeligt smør (Mashed potatoes with lots of butter, since it was suggested by the waitress that it went well with the lamb)

Dessert:
Honningkage med gulerod og havtorn (Honey Cake with carrot ice cream and sea buckthorn)

I think the food tasted really good for the amount that I spent.  The lamb was tender and the side dishes were great accompaniments to the lamb.  I didn’t like the skin on the lamb as much because it had the texture and consistency of pork crackling.  The mashed or crushed potatoes as the menu translated it, also tasted good but were a bit on the salty side.  The dessert was a very different twist than what I would have expected.  The carrot ice cream was able to preserve the earthy taste of carrots without the overpowering taste of a sweetener.  The honey cake had the taste of gingerbread and since it was topped with the sea buckthorn, it really brought out the flavor of the dessert.  Also, the customer service was really great and the restaurant had an overall hyggeligt or “cozy” feeling that is so characteristic of Danish restaurants.  It’s where the lighting is just right and there are candles lit everywhere, with designer furniture, usually a black and white interior, and a small, intimate dining setting.  Overall, I would give this restaurant 4/5 stars.

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Hello everyone,

So hopefully you’ve read my blog updates about the Copenhagen Youth Goodwill Ambassador Program. Well, now it’s time to get to work! I have created a twitter page, where I hope to post news events about Copenhagen!

You can follow my twitter page at: http://twitter.com/CphYA2010

or @CphYA2010!

Also, please help spread the word!

Thanks everyone!

Recently, I had a discussion with some Danes about distinct cultural differences between Denmark and the U.S. Our discussion ranged from political differences to overall socio-cultural differences in how each society divides or refers to itself. In the U.S., there is a much stronger focus on race/ethnicity and gender whereas, the Danes thought that in Denmark it’s a matter of religion and culture between Danes and Muslims. First, we discussed how it would be virtually impossible for an atheist/agnostic person to become President of the U.S despite Church and State being separate. Then we talked about if Denmark would ever have a Muslim Prime Minister and they said no because there were vast religious and cultural differences. So I wanted to dig deeper into this distinction and they said that in comparing Denmark to the U.S, the U.S. lacks a huge difference between blacks and whites (the largest racial minority and majority group). In addition, they said the U.S. doesn’t have cultural differences between all of its different groups of people because in the U.S. we are all still Christian and American, compared to Denmark where it’s a Christian vs. Muslim paradigm.

Curious to learn more, I decided to push this discussion a bit further and ask what they meant about why they thought that there isn’t a huge cultural difference among American people compared to Danes and Muslims in the states. Well the response was NOT what I expected. The Danish person said they didn’t want to talk about it any further because they feel like I am sensitive about these topics! *LONG PAUSE*  Immediately my mind went back to the first real time I confronted them about their cultural biases, which was when I was called a “nigger.”  Even then, it wasn’t like I went around calling the Danes racist people, I simply bit the bullet and learned what the term means here.

I felt my mind rushing with all the things I wanted to say. I wanted to be as diplomatic and understanding as possible, but this time they didn’t even want to discuss it any further! What felt like minutes, was probably only a couple of seconds, I eventually managed to say, that I’ve been misunderstood and it’s not that I’m sensitive.  However, I just like to question the reasoning behind one’s opinions, especially if it’s such a huge generalization as the one previously stated. But the Danish person went on to explain that they didn’t want to keep talking because they felt like they couldn’t say what they really wanted to say.

Now let’s put this into perspective. I’ve had some very enlightening discussions with Danes but what I sometimes discover is that freedom of speech is a very highly honored right, but it doesn’t leave room for much discussion or even confrontation if you’ve either been offended by a comment or maybe just want to learn more about the reasoning behind thoughts. So every time I question or even explain that I’ve been “offended” or shocked by such a comment, which I usually do in a very relaxed and non-patronizing way, it can sometimes be perceived as being sensitive. It’s like you are supposed to take what has been said and leave it at that because everyone has the right to speak their mind as freely and open, without much regard for consequences. Looking at this from the U.S. perspective, the Danes don’t have a push for being “politically correct” that often clashes with freedom of speech as we do in the states. Now, I am not saying this is a bad or good thing b/c I have many issues with being politically correct. I would rather people say what they mean but really be willing to explain the reasoning behind their statements. But I guess that’s much too rational-minded of me.

On the other hand, if I were to say something completely “rash” or generalized about Danish culture I would automatically be corrected. However, it seems that sometimes reciprocity in this respect is lacking. I don’t profess to be a master or the guru of “American” culture but from my studies I have learned to negotiate between personal and/or academic standpoints. Just as me being here for only 4 months, and not professing to know it all about Danish culture, I would like the same respect from some Danish people. Most of the times, Danes formulate their opinions about American culture though TV shows, movies, and/or the media. At the New Year’s Eve Party this guy kept asking me to do the moonwalk because he’s seen movies and that in these movies black people have incredible dance moves. If I were to challenge his very stereotypical viewpoint, does that make me a sensitive person? Am I supposed to just sit back and allow TV shows, movies and/or the media to dictate how I am perceived? I just took the comment with a grain of salt and laughed it off.

Looking at this from a Danish perspective, ~90% of the people living in Denmark are ethnic Danes, by default of being in Denmark, one is automatically assumed to be Danish. This is portrayed through many factors such as people speaking Danish to you even though you don’t “look” Danish, but still that doesn’t mean you are fully Danish, in the stereotypical and ethnic/cultural sense. This means that even though one might not look Danish; there is this automatic perception that if you are here, you most likely speak the language among other things. However, I can understand that in Denmark you would never have such distinguishing ethnic labels attached to your name, you are Danish and that’s the end of it. There are NOT any differentiations of the Danish identity as there are in the American identity. One would never say Muslim Danish or Black Danish, you are JUST Danish. Interestingly enough, I’ve even noticed that many are aware of cultural differences within the U.S. but some view it as nothing compared to the Danes and Muslims. The U.S. is made of many different cultures and though nationalistically we all have American attached to our names; we are in some ways similar and in some ways distinguished/differentiated, whether you are an African American, Chinese American, or whatever.

Overall, I don’t want to over-generalize and stereotype the Danes as very insular people, that is not my point. The point is that, from my experiences so far, sometimes many Danes have not been okay with an outsider either “correcting” or directly questioning them and in doing so you have the risk of being perceived as either too sensitive or infringing on the almost absolute form of freedom of speech that is so cherished here.

Where do I even begin? First, I had a 12 hour night filled with New Year’s festivities! One of my roommates’ stepsister invited me over for New Year’s Eve dinner at 5pm. Biking there was definitely an experience, because the street that my roommates’ step sister lived on, was still full of snow! I definitely got a kick out of trying to bike through the snow and hoping that people didn’t see how frustrated I became after having to ride and then get off my bike. Nevertheless, the New Year’s party had about 20-23 people. I was in charge of bringing the wine, which someone told me was code for I probably didn’t know how to cook Danish food, hahaah. So once everyone arrived, we just sat around and had some light snacks with a couple of drinks and at 6pm, everyone sat around the TV to watch Queen Margrethe II’s annual New Year’s Eve speech. Although, my Danish may not be that good, the parts I could understand were very good. She talked about Denmark remaining to its core values, in spite of the economic crisis and that Denmark must not fall into having a crisis of values and still try to look out for each other. After that, we had a toast or “skål!”

Then we had a luxurious dinner. Appetizers: Sushi Rolls with Shrimp served with a salad. The main course was: Creamed Potatoes, Oksesteg (Roast Beef), Mixed Vegetables, Garlic Bread, Roasted Chicken, and I think I might be leaving out more. However, it was all really flavorful. For dessert we had: Tiramisu and an ice cream dessert that was in these shelled shaped cone bowls, it was served with different fruits, sherbet and regular ice cream. I love conversations at dinner and everyone wanted to know about what I study, what I do in my free time here, and just how do I like Denmark. I had some very good conversations with everyone, who were probably in their upper 30’s, but I felt like I fit right in. The question that really had me thinking was when everyone asked me if I was ready to move to Denmark now? Hmmm… I will have to reply to that one at a later time. Well at about 11pm, I had to leave the party because one of my roommates at the apartment was having a party, also. I had promised her that I would be back before midnight because she was throwing a Masquerade Party at the apartment!

Well before midnight at the apartment, we all stood on chairs and after the countdown we jumped down and toasted to each other. Then the sky was FULL of fireworks! Although, there were a lot of fireworks almost the whole month of December it produced a great “show” on New Year’s Eve. After that we all just socialized, ate the very traditional, “Kransekage” or a cake made of marzipan, and had a great party, Danish style which means it lasted until 6am. Oh Denmark…  On New Year’s Day we all had a much needed day of relaxation and basically sat around watching movies all day, from Disney movies to Bridget Jones Diaries.

Overall, I enjoyed New Year’s Eve, I think the Danes really like to make sure they bring in the new year with joy and celebration.  I didn’t hear anyone talking about New Year’s resolutions, which I admit I gave up making a LONG time ago.  There were fireworks everywhere!  On my way back to the apartment, I actually was a bit afraid I might get hit by one!  The streets were filled with people out and about or trying to get to their New Year’s festivities.  I think the whole city of Copenhagen came alive and stayed alive well into New Year’s morning!

Enjoy the pictures below!

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The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Fresher than ever.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,800 times in 2010. That’s about 4 full 747s.

 

In 2010, there were 17 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 115 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 282mb. That’s about 2 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was December 15th with 62 views. The most popular post that day was Copenhagen Youth Ambassador Update.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were studies.ku.dk, facebook.com, twitter.com, mail.yahoo.com, and google.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for danish thanksgiving, youth ambassadors copenhagen, mortensaften, racist copenhagen stockholm, and copenhagen youth amb.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Copenhagen Youth Ambassador Update December 2010

2

Racial Terminology & Cultural Context: The Power of Discussion & Reflection November 2010
7 comments

3

Fulbright Research Topic Snapshot August 2010
2 comments

4

Traditional Danish Birthday Party September 2010
2 comments

5

Copenhagen Youth Goodwill Ambassador October 2010