Thursday, February 28, 2013

Hodgepodge for 500, Alex

It's been a bit of a quiet month as far as posts go.  Oddly enough, this is more because there's been too much going on than that I've had nothing to write about.  So here is a brief rundown of this months news:

I'm about a week and a half into module 3.2 now.  It's been a bit of a strange experience, as we had a whole bunch of new students join the class.  So many, in fact, that there are now more new students than people I know.  Stranger still, most of the new students were put into the class directly from module 2.  It seems their teacher thought that they were all so good that they should skip 3.1 completely.  It's entirely possibly that the really are that good, but it does mean that the our teachers in 3.2 are having to repeat a lot of the stuff we learned over the past 6 weeks, and that does slow class down quite a bit.

In other news, I've had my first experience with Denmark's national healthcare system this month, and I have to say... so far, it's a huge improvement from my experience in the US.  I decided it was time to meet my doctor and ask a few medical questions that I've had on my mind for a while, so I called to make an appointment.  They assign a doctor to you when you get your CPR number, and that doctor's name and number are then printed on your "yellow card" (your CPR card).  I was a little worried at first, as the first time I called I got a message saying there were too many people waiting on the line and that I should try back later.  Next time, though, I got through no problem and made my appointment.  Once I got to the office that day, all I had to do was swipe my yellow card in their little machine, and my appointment time popped up on the screen, and I was officially checked in.  The doctor was very nice, and everything seems to have gone just fine.  Even better still, I didn't have to worry about if or when I would get a bill in the mail.  So far, so good.

And finally, my folks have been in town for the last week.  They fly out this morning, but we've spent the past week walking all around the city, seeing the sights.  When learning a new language, it helps to put things in perspective by being visited be people who don't know the language.  I was reassured by how often they would ask what sometime meant and I was able to give them an answer.

Then again, my mother was picking the words up quickly enough that we're fairly certain she'll know Danish before I do.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Off-Topic: "Girls"

Pardon my diversion from the normal update on expat life while I go on a little rant that may only be relevant to Americans.

Folks, I'd like to take a moment to talk about the TV show "Girls."

While my opinion of the show itself isn't actually all that important to what I want to discuss, here it is:  I think the show is okay.  I've been watching it more to see what all the buzz is about than because I particularly care.  It's really not a show that I look forward to each week, but it hasn't turned me off to the point where I won't watch more of it when it's on.

What I'm more interested in talking about is this idea that the show is making some kind of groundbreaking move to show normal, non-Hollywood types naked in order to shift the perception of beauty in the media.

Now, I'll start by saying that I think that's a noble goal.  Most women out there have body issues of some kind, and the media is to blame for a lot of it.

But here's my issue:

I'm just not convinced that the people who enjoy watching the show are the kinds of people whose minds need changing.  I could be wrong, and I haven't seen any breakdowns of the demographics of the shows audience, but it very much seems to be a show aimed at left-wing, hipster-leaning 20-somethings, who are already fairly open-minded about these things in the first place.

What I'm saying is that I think the show is preaching to the choir more than it's breaking any ground.  There's all this media buzz around it, about how Lena Dunham is fearless about showing her normal-girl body without shame, but I do worry that once the buzz dies down (which it will, and quickly), she'll be left with an audience of like-minded people, but without the social change that so many are expecting.

It's a lot to ask of people, to change their perceptions of what's beautiful by watching one TV show.  The media buzz puts a lot of weight on one show in which most, if not all, of the characters are vaguely unlikeable and fairly unrelatable.

And now, back to your regularly scheduled expat blabber.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Nemo vs. Copenhagen Snevejr

Snow has been the word of the week for most of the people in my life.  As winter storm "Nemo" buried most of the northeastern United States, we here in Copenhagen have been getting some fairly standard Danish snow.  I took this picture a couple of days ago from the dog park near St. Paul's Church in the city center:

I spent the majority of my life living in the northeastern U.S., where snowstorms that dropped a couple of feet of snow tend to happen at least once a year.  The picture above shows the results of a typical snowfall here in Copenhagen.

I'm gonna have to lean towards Copenhagen as the better option here.

I was at a 7-11 here a week or two ago (they're hilariously common), and the guy at the counter asked me what I preferred about Denmark as compared to the U.S.  He just refused to believe me when I told him that I preferred the weather here in Denmark.

Granted, that day happened to be chilly, rainy, and gray.  Even so, it doesn't get as cold here in the Winter, and it doesn't get as hot in the Summer.

And I'll take a bit of rain, or an inch or two of snow that will melt within a week, over this:

Friday, February 8, 2013

4 Tips to Learn Danish Quickly

Danish is an extremely difficult language to learn.  However, it turns out that there are a few factors that can greatly improve your chances of learning it before other people.  Today, I give you a few of those factors.

1.  Have a Danish boyfriend/girlfriend or spouse.  Your Danish teacher may very well assume that you have one, and therefore some of the homework that you are assigned will involve talking to said significant other.  For those who do not have a Danish significant other, see option number 2.

2.  Regularly go to a job where most of your colleagues are Danish and will happily be patient with you while you struggle to express yourself in Danish without switching to English, despite the fact that speaking English is far easier for both of you than speaking Danish together might be.

3.  Be a highly logical person who already has a fairly firm understanding of grammar rules.  Learning Danish will test the grammar skills of even the most literate of native English speakers.  If you don't already have a basic understanding of grammar, learning Danish will teach you more about the structure of the English language than you ever thought you needed to know.

And finally...

4.  Already speak either German, Dutch, Swedish, or Norwegian.  There are a few classmates of mine who, from early on in our Danish classes, were able to understand most of what the Danes said.  At first, I found this extraordinarily frustrating.  What was I doing wrong that I just didn't know what all of these words meant, even if I could understand what words were being said (which is a challenge unto itself, especially early on)?  Turns out, the only thing I was doing wrong was not knowing one of the aforementioned languages.  Enough of the words in those 4 languages (and possibly a few that I've forgotten) are similar enough to words in Danish that it's entirely possible to understand Danish very quickly.

Those who are lucky enough to fit into 2 or 3 of these factors will find themselves racing ahead of the others in their class.

As for me?  The only category that I even vaguely fit into is #3.  In most cases, I'm able to understand and remember the grammar rules easily enough.  Unfortunately, it's the words that I have a tough time remembering.

There's very little that one can do with even a perfect understanding of Danish grammar if they can't remember any of the words.