Letter to a Denmark Hopeful


It's funny because the first exchange student I talked to before I came to Denmark was named Eric. I am here with Rotary, by far the best exchange program to go with if you A) Like to save money B)Like to have contact with other exchange students C) Like to go on trips with random old men from your host country (I went to bornholm, this little island off the coast of sweden D) want to go on a cheap tour around Europe at the end. I know these things, I went to Costa Rica for 2 months with AFS, and it cost about 5,000 bucks. This exchange is costing 1500 for the plane ticket, and some insurance, along with necessary clothing and spending money. But Rotary gives about 60 bucks a month.

Let me tell you a little about this crazy land.

Denmark has a population of around 5 million. The population is mostly on Sjælland, the island with Copenhagen on it. Copenhagen is an old, wonderful city with no skyscrapers. Denmark isn't amazing in the nature, since it is mostly flat with little forests and fjords here and there, but the buildings always get me. Some of them are older than America.


I have just been to Southern Sweden, but it is not all that different from Denmark. Things are farther apart, the language is much easier to pick out individual words (in danish, hvad hedder du? is pronounced vel hilla du.) Nothing looks like it sounds in either language. Let me tell you that you are going into the realm of Scandinavia, where most of the population will want to speak english with you, because their languages are supposedly so hard to learn. But I have been here for 4 months and I am about 50% fluent, which means I can spend a whole day speaking danish to get what I want and know what I want. I cannot get into political discussions, but with a fine mix of english and danish, called danglish, one can basically get around and not be stared at. well i dunno, i still get stared at when i speak english. it feels like everyone on the street/train/store is listening to exactly what I say.

Danish people are cold until you A) know them or B)speak danish. This was my observation in going into a Danish school, where the kids are together for every class for 3 years. they don't have cliques really, people just hang out with their class. People are willing to speak english to you, but have a more difficult time nursing you through your first few danish conversations. sometimes when you are standing with a stranger and your danish friends, no one introduces you. sometimes people don't say goodnight, sometimes people don't talk to you...

You asked how people dressed... they dress preppy. they like the colors blue tan and black. they wear black leather coats, high shoes. the boys wear preppy sweaters. people mostly shop in the same places and wear the same clothes, but it's strangely okay. they don't really care about looking the same, i think it makes them feel more connected with eachother.

Do you like living there?

Any exchange is hard. Sometimes I wonder why I ended up in Denmark. I do like living here because it is very different from the US. Things make a little more sense, the laws are very relaxed, we drink a lot of beer and have fun. danish people are like siblings when you are drunk with them, but at school the next day they are a little cold.

Whats the biggest diffence?

either the drinking laws, the relaxation of sex, the getting around on the trains and buses for everything, the flexible school system, the LANGUAGE!

And is it better or worse then you expected?

A cheesy rotary quote goes like this: It's not good, it's not bad, it's just different. It is so damn true. I really hope I didn't spoil Denmark, I think you should email some more people that are over here. I have come to know this place as life, with its ups and downs. i have not been homesick, i haven't been too depressed. scandinavia is a beautiful place with beautiful looking people, but the fact is you can never ever become one of them.

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