Friday, August 31, 2012

The Sad Horns of Confidence

Recently, I went to lunch with some of my classmates.

At first, the waitress was speaking to us entirely in Danish, so I thought to myself, "Self, you should order in Danish."

Glancing over the menu, I realized that I actually knew how to order in Danish.  Simple stuff.  No problem.  All I had to say was "Jeg vil gerne have en burrito med kylling.  Tak skal du have!"

No problem.

And yet, when came to take our orders, what did I say?

"I'll have the burrito with chicken, please.  Thanks..."

*cue Price is Right sad horns*

It's an issue of confidence at this point.  I worry that I'm not pronouncing things quite right, and that whoever I'm speaking to won't understand.  So I stick to English, even when I know the Danish.

Not to mention the fact that I worry that, if my Danish is decent enough that they don't switch to English right away, they'll then ask me a question in Danish that I don't understand or can't answer in Danish.

Hopefully, I'll look back at this post in a few months and think, "Remember when I was too scared to speak Danish to the Danes?  That was silly."

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Stød: Nails on a Chalkboard

And now, back to your regularly scheduled Danish language talk.

I'm just about halfway through the 6-week program that is Studieskolen's Danish module 1.1, and I'm still feeling really good about it.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that, if you have the means, it might be worth taking the first few weeks of the full-time course even if you're only going to be in Denmark for a month or two.  They pack so much basic Danish into the first few weeks that I already feel so much more comfortable interacting with Danes in my every day life without having to tell them that I don't speak Danish.

The class hasn't been perfect, though.  Today, I thought I'd discuss the few negative thoughts that I have about the program.

I'll start with the teachers.  The problem with my particular class is that there are two teachers.  One on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and a different teacher just on Tuesdays.  I don't think this is the norm, but I also know this isn't all that unusual, as one of the other daytime classes I was offered had the same type of breakdown.  It may not always be a bad thing, as getting different perspectives on the language could be very helpful.  But I find that the Tuesday class isn't as productive.  To be frank, as nice as our Tuesday teacher is, I think it's more about her teaching style in particular.  She's certainly as nice as can be, but she doesn't seem to really listen.  When she asks us a question, she barely gives us enough time to respond before answering the question herself.

I also think that our Tuesday class tends to focus too much on differentiating between the many Danish vowel sounds.  Don't get me wrong, this is important.  But I think it takes a while for the non-Danish speaker's ear to tune in to the differences, and I think it's too early to discuss this as in-depth as she's trying to discuss it.  My opinion is that we need to spend more time on the basics in the first module, and less time trying to process the differences in sounds that we cannot hear yet.

And finally, there are the glottal stops, also known as "stød" in Danish.  Both teachers have discussed the use of the stød in spoken Danish, but our Tuesday teacher seems to be pressing the concept more than the other teacher.  She has, on several occasions, said "In Danish, we use stød every few words."  That's certainly true when Danish is spoken with a Copenhagen accent, but my understanding is that much of the rest of Denmark doesn't use it nearly as much, if at all.  Now, I've barely been outside of Copenhagen since moving here, but I'm under no illusions that Copenhagen is all of Denmark.  And I also feel that Danish pronounced without glottal stops on every other word is just as easily understandable by most Danes.  I'm not saying it shouldn't be taught, as it's clearly important to a lot of Danes, but I think that it's not something that needs to be so heavily stressed in the first module, when we could be learning more useful things.

Not to mention my inner vocalist shudders at the idea of using that many glottal stops in day-to-day life.  My fellow theatre school and vocal training alumni will back me up on this: After all of the time we spent in voice lessons and vocal production classes learning not to use them, as they're terrible for the vocal cords...

It kind of makes me cringe.  Like nails on a chalkboard.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Smart Carnations, Or: How to Meet Important People

There are some people in this world who always seem to meet the right people at the right time.  The truth is, these people are so socially confident that they're willing to talk to whoever is near them, and some of those people happen to be "the right people at the right time."

My husband is one of these socially confident people.

He is heavily involved with the local rugby league program, so we went off to London this weekend for the rugby league Challenge Cup at Wembley Stadium, so that he could meet-and-greet with other representatives for the international rugby league scene.  This was only my second rugby game ever, the first having been at a game that my husband played in back in Boston where the crowd would have been lucky to top a full dozen.  At Wembley, we were two out of 79,000.

Now, I'll be perfectly honest: I'm not really into sports at all.  I don't have any particular sport that I watch, or any team that I support.  But I can also say honestly that I've always enjoyed going to games whenever they've come up.  There's nothing like a happy sports crowd, and this one was an amazing.  Rugby league fans are incredible.  Sure, there are rivalries amongst the fans, but they're all so amazingly good-natured.  It felt like everyone was so happy to be there, no matter who everyone else was supporting, and it gave the whole event a really happy, festive feel.

Since my husband was at the game representing Danish rugby league, we were given fun little VIP passes to the post-game schmooze-fest in the Great Hall at Wembley.  I've never had a VIP pass for anything.  I've never even had a backstage pass for a concert.  So, this was an interesting event.  The snacks were good, and the people were nice.  Most of them seemed dressed more for a cocktail party than for a rugby match, but there were enough casually dressed folks there for me to feel comfortable in my jeans and sweater.

Towards the end of the event, after my husband had rubbed elbows with everyone he'd planned to rub elbows with, we sat at a table to rest our feet.  We were soon joined by two men in suits, both with carnations in their lapels.  I would never have thought to start a conversation with them, but my husband loves to chat with everyone.

So, he turned to them and said "Those are smart carnations.  You must be very important."

As it turns out, they were.

One was in charge of the Warrington Wolves, the team that had won the Challenge Cup that day.  The other... happened to be the Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons.

When he found out I was American, he started asking me what I thought about the upcoming American election.

I had a conversation about politics with the Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons.


My husband leads a ridiculous and surreal life, and my life has become ridiculous and surreal by association.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Accentuate the Positive... and the Negative

There are up sides and down sides to living in any country.  Over the last few days, I've seen a few clear examples of Denmark's good and bad sides, so I thought I'd share.  

I'll start with the positive.  

The Danes are an extremely trusting people.  They trust their government, and they trust each other.  Over the weekend, my husband and I went to a second-hand shop and bought this little sideboard:

Since we don't have a car here, we made arrangements to have it delivered on Monday afternoon.  Well, actually, my husband made the arrangements.  In Danish.  I understood that the cabinet was 500 kroner, and the delivery cost was 200 kroner.  What I didn't catch was that the delivery cost was to be paid when it was delivered, not when the cabinet was purchased.  So, when the guy showed up at our place, and after we'd brought the thing into our "pub room," he surprised me by asking for the 200 kroner.  Which I didn't have on me, having assumed it was already paid.  Once I called my husband to verify that the delivery charge was to be paid upon delivery, I apologized profusely and ran around the block looking for an ATM.  Didn't find one.  Closest one was a good 10-minute walk away.  So the delivery guy not only drove me to an ATM, but he also navigated the one-way streets, going out of his way, to then drop me back off at home.

Now, you might be thinking, "Of course he did.  He wanted his money."  True enough, but we later discovered that one of the doors on the cabinet was locked, and we didn't have a key.  So, my husband called the second-hand shop to see if they had the key.  They said to stop by the store and they'd see what they had.  When I got to the store yesterday, the man at the counter handed me a bag of keys, supposedly keys to every piece of furniture in the store that needed a key, and told me I could take the bag home, find the key that works, and bring the bag back when I was done.  So, today, I'll head back and drop of the bag of keys, having found the working key and opened the cabinet door.

This is all totally mundane stuff, but it's stuff that just makes me feel really great about how kind and understanding and patient people can be.

But then, they go and screw it all up.  

A couple of days ago, the Copenhagen Post posted this article.  The article discusses a flyer that was posted by the management at a local movie theatre warning movie-goers that, since the Muslim holy month of Ramadan was coming to an end (a month in which Muslims are not supposed to do things like go to the movies), they could expect an influx of "annoying" Muslims at the large blockbuster movies, and that security guards would be on hand to deal with any "unacceptable behavior" by said Muslims.

It's just so wildly, blatantly racist that I don't really even need to say anything about it to make the point.  Other than... Hey Denmark... This shit is not okay.  Anyone who says it's okay is also a big, giant racist, and you shouldn't be listening to the advice of racists.

The people in Denmark have been extraordinarily kind to me, but I fully recognize that part of this is because I'm tall and blonde.  I look like one of them.  It breaks my heart that people who don't look Scandinavian often have an exponentially more negative experience.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Whether the Weather Be Fine...

There's a stereotype that Danes love to talk about the weather.

So, today, I'd like to take a moment to talk about the weather in Denmark.

We got to town right in the midst of a horrible heat wave in America, and stepped off the plane in Copenhagen into beautiful, Fall-like temperatures.  Mid-60s (fahrenheit) and breezy.  And that's fairly normal for a Summer day here.

But the one thing that Denmark has that I've never adjusted well to is humidity.

This is something that I realized when we were on our honeymoon in New Orleans in June.  I expected my husband, who is used to northern-European temperatures, to have the hardest time with the weather there.  Turns out, I was the first to have issues with it, and it was all because of the humidity.  The places I've lived in New York and New England have been fairly dry compared to New Orleans.

And also compared to Copenhagen, it seems.

So, on a day like today, where the temperature is currently 77 degrees fahrenheit (what would be a lovely, mild Summer day in Boston), with the humidity hovering around 70%...

I'm a sweaty mess.

And it's not attractive.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Studieskolen, Week 1 - Jeg Kan Tale Lidt Dansk

I'm told that the class is moving extremely quickly.  However, compared to the insane class that my husband and I took in Boston this past Fall, it seems like a cake walk so far.

I think that if I hadn't taken that class, and if I hadn't been completely overwhelmed to the point of tears after each one, I would probably feel differently.  But even if that class didn't teach me much, it did give me some perspective about what's effective when it comes to learning a new language, and what isn't.

One week in, and I'm able to have very basic conversations about who I am and where I'm from.  I've learned the Danish way of telling time, and all of the numbers from one to one billion.

With our teacher speaking mostly Danish during the class, I've certainly had moments of complete confusion.  The most frustrating of which happened in class yesterday morning.  We had a new student start yesterday, and he is from India.  Now, the teacher turned to me and was trying to explain to me why someone from India is called "en inder" rather than "en indianer."  Having been brought up as a politically correct American, it didn't occur to me that she could be telling me that "indianer" is the term for an "American Indian."  She further solidified the point, and further made my inner political correctness cringe, by then switching to English and referring to them as "red Indians."  This was certainly not the first time that I'd heard the phrase come from a European, but it's always a little bit shocking and always makes me uncomfortable.

All-in-all, though, I feel really good about how the class is going.  I feel like I'm following at least as well as most of the class, and for now I'm feeling cautiously confident that I'll be able to learn Danish in a reasonable amount of time.

In other news, after more than 6 weeks waiting for our furniture and whatnot to cross the Atlantic on a cargo ship, everything was finally delivered this week.  Now we can work on really making that dining room into a proper English pub.

Also, it's nice to see the Superlambanana again:

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

It Makes the World Go Roooound

Have you ever seen Danish money?  If not, here are the coins:

They go from 1/2 of 1 krone on the left (also known as 50 øre) all the way up to 20 kroner on the far right.  20 kroner is currently equal to about $3.30.

I'm of two minds about all of these coins.  Part of me likes them.  It's fun to have all of that change jangling around, and who doesn't like coins with holes?  They're like tiny metal donuts.  Fun!

Another part of me finds them irritating.  Since I'm not used to which coin is worth how much, I'm constantly standing at the register flipping them over, trying to find the amount on them.  Also, they're bulky and heavy.  Europe generally finds America silly that having bills for amounts as small as $1, but paper money is much lighter and much easier to fold into a wallet.  With all of the change I get, I often can't close my wallet at all, which often leads to me spilling change all over the inside of my purse.

But all of these things are really no huge deal, beyond being something to get used to.  Here's what I really don't get about Danish money:

As I mentioned, the smallest denomination is 50 øre, or 0.5 of 1 krone.  But if you go to buy something, often it will cost something like 12.95 kroner (as did the parmesan cheese that I bought today).  And since there is no way to give them .95 kroner, they just round up.

And you end up paying 13 kroner.

Why not just charge 13 kroner?

As my husband and I discussed tonight, the only way not rounding up would save money is if you're buying something in bulk.  Hundreds of that one thing.  And then, maybe you'll save a few kroner.

Otherwise, I don't get it.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Studieskolen - Module 1.1, Day 1 Recap

This morning, I started my first day at Studieskolen studying Danish for absolute beginners.  It seems that, like me, a few of the folks in the class may have tried to teach themselves with Rosetta Stone, or some other method.  For the most part, though, we're all right at the same level.

While the Danish class I took briefly while in Boston made my head spin, this class seems to be much more my speed.  About 10 minutes into the class, the teacher started speaking almost primarily Danish, but at a level that was easy enough to decipher based on the context.

Module 1.1 at Studieskolen focuses mostly on pronunciation, and only a little bit on the reading and writing of Danish.  Much of this first class was spent going through sentences and crossing out the many, many letters that are silent.

So far, I feel really good about the whole thing.  I feel like I've already learned a lot, but I don't feel so overwhelmed that I'm scared to go back tomorrow morning.  And the 3 1/2 hour class goes surprisingly quickly.

There's a really varied mix of people in the class as well.  It seems that only 3 of us are native English speakers (one other American, and one Brit), while the rest are from all over Europe, Asia and South America.

We'll see how many come back tomorrow.  There are 17 of us now, but I've been told it's fairly common for classes to shrink drastically after the first few days.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

This Pub is My Pub

This week was all about painting.  I wanted to make sure to paint the dining room before my husband came to his senses about letting me go with red.

The guy at the paint store did his very best to subtly convince me to reconsider by suggesting that I take the paint chips home and thinking about it.  Then he tried to convince me to take a few small paint samples home to try out on the walls.  Then, when he was calculating the amount of paint I would need, he said, "You're painting the red on all of the walls?"  In fact, I had to go back the next day for a few more supplies before I started painting, and he was still skeptical.  "So... the color is... okay...?" he asked.

I'd say the color is just fine:

My husband is putting on a brave face, and has decided that the color reminds him of an English pub.  And as he is an Englishman, I think that's probably a good thing.

Though, he would probably repaint the walls white if he could.

In other news, I start Danish classes at Studieskolen, so I will likely have an update on how that went some time soon.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Painting the Roses...err, Walls

Back in March, long before we moved to Denmark, I started to get the design itch.  It was probably because I'd been spending my days watching far too many episodes of whatever I could find on HGTV, but it lead me to write this post.

We've been in Copenhagen for just over a month now, and we have yet to really do much with the apartment aside from small projects like finding a brass lamp for the bathroom and scrubbing the floorboards.

Our furniture, however, is due to arrive some time soon.  Hopefully in the next week or so.  And that means that we need to get done any painting that needs doing.

After so many conversations with my husband in which he half jokes that I can paint the walls any color, as long as it's a shade of white, we actually agreed on a color for the dining room really quickly.

Ladies and gentlemen, he's letting me paint the walls RED!

Don't call immigration.  I kind of like it here.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Shocking Things...Only Not

I'm about to blow the minds... of absolutely no one.

It should surprise absolutely no one at all that moving to a strange country is an emotionally taxing endeavor.

It's also probably not at all surprising that it's really easy to assume you'll be fine before the move happens.  In fact, remember this post?

Here's me laying it all out there:  While I'm still completely content with our decision to move here, it's started to be really emotionally taxing.  Turns out that when you move really far away from everything you know, and you have to learn to do a lot of really basic things over again, it can cause a certain amount of anxiety.

In fact, since my husband is my anchor here, my subconscious has decided it would be fun to give me reoccurring nightmares about my marriage ending for one reason or another.

My subconscious can be a real bitch sometimes.

The good news, though, is that in a little over a week I'll be starting daytime classes at Studieskolen.  Having more of a schedule will help to make me feel more secure in my day-to-day life.  Not to mention that I'll finally start really learning Danish, which will make everything infinitely easier.

I hope.