A guide to Hitch Hiking in Denmark

“I would never do hitch hiking it’s for hippies” says a friend not such a long time ago.

After 3 days of travelling he came back to me and said “It’s so easy and amazing, I am so good at it!”

In Denmark I doubt it’s very common to hitch hike, you would most likely find foreigners or back packers doing it in the summer but that’s where it ends. However, I found it one of the best to travel (as well as car sharing). Because it’s efficient, easy, and most important a way to make your travel an experience rather than some time you are “wasting” on a train. Some like to be on train on their own, letting their mind wandering, I also like doing this but I also feel that when I hitch hike I always meet amazing people.

Hitch hiking is a way for people to meet but somehow there is a selection process going on. Why? Because not everyone will hitch hike, therefore if you put your self out there it means you have energy, time and the will to meet people (it doesn’t mean you have to be talkative but you shouldn’t feel uncomfortable being in stranger car). Plus while doing this you rely on others, you assume being dependent and in an society becoming more and more individualistic interdependance is often seen as a weakness.I see it as strengh because if I can’t do something on my own I am not scared to ask for help.

The selection process continues because not everybody stops to take hitch hikers. I like to believe that the people who stop are inherently good not matter who they are and they background because they see someone on the road and stop to help, they know they won’t get anything in return appart from a nice chat maybe. You also have creeps that stop but I haven’t met any.

That’s where the magic happens, I had the best conversation riding people’s car, it’s such an easy to meet people when you are in a foreign country and want to get into the culture. It’s a very interesting way to communicate because all of sudden the akwardness that people may feel while having to talk to strangers isn’t really there. You have at least one thing in common: going somewhere therefore it’s your starting point.

Learn how to hitch a ride!

Thanks to Emilia, Cecilie and Christoffer for this video :)

Are you ready to put in practice what you learned from our previous video? I am heading to Copenhagen this week end and I am getting ready to encounter this!

 

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Your difference is your strengh, use it!

You are abroad and your plane just landed, the first person you see wears a huge cooking pot on his head like a hat. You may think “mmh that’s the custom, I should probably do that to fit in culturally”.So you go the first store, get a pot and here you are, ready to embrace this foreign culture.

What if the person was part of strange sect, or maybe lost a bet. He could also simply be crazy. He isn’t the majority, he is one of them but he isn’t all of them. The line between individual differences and cultural differences is blurred when you are abroad because you don’t know the custom, therefore you could think that if someone seem rude to you it might be cultural whereas they could simply be a jerk :), to what extend culture affect one’s behaviour, and to what extend is it his own personality? That’s a question I would love to answer someday.

Therefore if you want to integrate to what extend should you strectch your values and change? To the point when they break and you aren’t even yourself anymore, too scared to be put aside?

Well the good news are that as a foreigner :

  •  You are weird anyway for everybody else. They will pobably blame it on your culture, therefore don’t worry too much about any social faux pas, some use alcohol as an excuse (a quite bad excuse if you want my opinion) , be creative use your nationality!
  •  If you are a great person, people will like you. If they don’t want to make the extra effort to be friend with a foreigner, they may not be worth your extra effort to be friend with them (they are foreigners to you aren’t they?). It’s great to be curious and want to know different people, but friendship goes both ways. So be true to yourself, don’t try too hard to fit in because you won’t and they are tons of different individuals in a country, the one you met, that could be careless aren’t the majority, they are a part of it, a part you can put aside, to spend your time with the one that matter, the one that prefer that you don’t become danish :)

We are all different no matter where we come from still we usually want the same things: connecting with others, feeling we belong somewhere.

While trying to be culturally aware and sensitive when we travel it’s good to keep in mind that nobody likes to be seen as walking cliché. We are all individuals and especially in western society we like to emphasize how unique we are, how different we think from our neighbour therefore, therefore don’t jump into conclusion when you meet a foreign person (or background it can apply to any situation) , they might be like that because of their cultural background, or because it’s their personality…probably a mix of both but at the end what matters is how open you are to the communication between the two of you.

The road less traveled or my EVS experience

Travelling is suffering?

I was visiting one of my Danish friend I met in the kibbutz and we talked about travelling one of our common passion. He had read somewhere that somehow, travelling is suffering. It’s not easy, it will change you.Maybe not a week of holiday in Hawai (but who knows?) but that’s not what we were thinking of…

Hitch hiking is the prime example, it takes time, you don’t know when you will get to your destination, you have to rely on others and you have to be patient and flexible. It’s really much like my EVS experience.

When I started it we could say I was on the side of the road ready to catch a ride to get to my destination. But I wasn’t alone I had this partner I had never met before, Helena this really awesome woman from Spain. I had just finished another hitch hiking trip in Israel so I was seeing everything behind this israeli glasses that I had forgot to remove. I was making the same sign as in Israel to stop a car but in Europe you use your thumb….We were like Jon Snow,we know nothing!

 

When we were trying to get a car I had something in mind for our direction. I had read in my description I would do something with students, like activities or workshops. However that description was outdated but I still wanted to go there. My friend Helena kept telling me I should try another way but I woudn’t listen, so it was very difficult to get a ride it’s like going to a closed road…not gonna work!

Nobody cares for hitchikers here? So what!

So people would not stop, I felt nobody cares here, why they don’t talk to me why is it so hard to socialise, what is wrong with THEM?

But finally after a month of struggle and not understanding anything on my side of the road some help came up. I had this EVS training in october and the two amazing trainers I met there, Anja and Tobias, gave us a good hand, driving us much further down our way and helping me to understand that the road down there was closed so I could try something else.

I agreed with Helena it was better to be a bit flexible but still all these people were terrible to socialise with. I wasn’t so good myself anymore. Imagine a hitch hiker sitting down on the road that can’t even stand up to get a ride, nobody will stop!

So after complaining going on strike and so one something we French really master, I stand up on my feet, I tried to smile and I also used my thumb to get a car and little by little we would get some ride down the road. When you hitch hike you have different cases, either nobody goes all the way to your place which is often therefore you will take a lot of small ride or you are lucky and someone take you almost all the way down. Our situation was more like the first one.

However we also got better, we were talking with our drivers, taking their advice about how to get further down. So we learnt. For example you don’t socialise the same way in Denmark than in France or in a kibbutz with a bunch of young volunteers. You need to adapt, to be open and really patient. It’s as if Danes are like ice cubes but they don’t melt in the sun, or very very slow. Therefore it will take you time to break the ice! Being too direct, something that could work in Israel quite well, will never do there.

I had never struggle making new relation abroad so I had to change a lot, it was good I realised all the annoying I would do (I observed how my mom was when she was mad, well I was doing the same :) ) and try to change but i wrote about that before

Then I was still unhappy about this road close down there because it’s something I really wanted to do. However talking with colleagues I realised that some other way would be nice to explore. I was there so why not take a chance right? That’s how helena and I started the blog. I am really happy about it and Ana the new volunteer is keeping it going! It’s right here and it’s lovely!

We also decided to write a sign with some direction we would like to go. This way we started to help on the shows that the school was doing, with lights, recording, editing.I tried some ways I have never been before. I really improved my editing, I discovered color grading and had the chance to develop photography, that I really love now.

Another path

Then you become more daring. With Helena we thought we could try some different ways and meet further down. I started to do some more personal projects, especially related to photography.

Finally at the end we met again, we had learnt a lot on our journey together, through a lot of nice and friendly people among the crowd that woudln’t stop. They helped us, we had great time with them and all of them gave us something that we keep for our next trip. It was indeed difficult, it took time, sometimes we would stand under the rain for an hour and another would get a long ride under the sun with very nice Danes. We also learnt the social cues, to use our thumb, learn some Danish to not get lost, be flexible, not judge hastily especially if you don’t want to be judge.

When you hitch hike you do something very different, not some many do it or approve of it so you start with this difference. Well being in a foreign country is very much the same, I was different the day I step a foot in Denmark, but I had forgotten that in Israel because i was different together with 40 different people from abroad! The trick is to keep this difference and use it as a strength, not be scared ,go for it anyway.

Now Helena is in Spain, I am still on the Danish road. I don’t know where I am going but where I am right now is very nice, with really good people that are open and take the time to show me around. Maybe they will start to hitch hike themselves somedays and then I will have given something to them in return :)

One year ago…

Exactly one year ago I landed in Tel Aviv and I was on my way to Bar’am.

My flight was on the 6th at night and my mom called me like 3 times asking me if I was sure I wanted to go because she had heard on the radio something about Syria…But I really wanted to go even though I wouldn’t know until the following where I would live for the next 3 months.

After I left the office I had 5 hours of travel. 5 hours to wonder if I had picked a “good” kibbutz, if I would enjoy it there, if this wasn’t a big mistake after all? But as soon as I met the volunteers it was fine. Better than that actually.

So what happened since?  Where am I now ? What did I get from this?

In the kibbutz I lived surrounded by people 24hours a day, with so many different nationalities and languages spoken. My Bar’am family spreads all over the world. In June I will visit some of my closest friend from the kibbutz, in Sweden :)

After 3 amazing months there I left. That was heartbreaking. I have never cried when leaving a place or a country because I felt it was time to move on, but the kibbutz that was something. I cried in the volunteer office, while handing my keys, in the car to Tel Aviv, in the hostel, at the airport, in the plane. Almost non stop until the plane landed in Paris and when my mom asked on the phone if I was happy to be home I said “NO” I didn’t want to speak because I was too sad.

I was very excited to go to Denmark then because I hated being home but what wasn’t good is I still had in mind the kibbutz and how I missed it. So I was a sad person for some time.

Have you heard of the cultural shock ? Because in September I was right in. Basically you can’t deal with the “strangeness” of the new place you are so you close down. After being extra social 3 months, I was “extra alone” for a little while. Luckily the volunteers with me were incredibly sweet and nice.The Danes I met weren’t so terrible people, it was just..the circumstances were difficult.

The Danes are probably the most individualistic people I have ever met, (not in a bad way) comparing to other places I lived in. So imagine the transition between a place where people come to be social all the time and have fun, and a place where people have a specific goal, want to work hard on themselves, stay focused.Plus they have their life here already, with friends etc…So it’s understandable it was harder to connect at first. It was a bit like the Israeli members or the kibbutz, they have their life their and you are one more volunteer passing…

It was challenging but I adapted ok I guess, even if it took time. I became more flexible at work.

I wasn’t so convince by my volunteer work here, however I really like how people work in Denmark. You don’t have the hierarchy like in France, where the boss give you order you will follow, I feel it’s more equal, my mentor give me ideas and what he has in mind but then we are really free to try what we want. So I developed skills and tried things I didn’t think I would have the opportunity to do elsewhere.

I also had to question my self a lot. Especially because I was very negative when I came to Denmark, and it was easier to blame everyone else but myself for that.

It may seem a contradiction because everybody thinks Danish don’t express their feelings but I improved a lot with this here!

In France we like to be emotional, sometimes dramatic and we think that we communicate well this way. Well not really, we just hope everybody will guess what is on our mind just looking at our face and being angry when something is wrong will be enough for it to change. Here it doesn’t work (it didn’t work in the kibbutz either…I didn’t realize it, that’s all) so even if it might be hard for me I have to use words and not my face because I understood people aren’t psychic. I feel happier this way trust me :)

I had incredible experiences in both places (and more to come!): hitch hiking, meeting amazing people ( I am proud to prove my dear Martin, that yes there are actually nice Danes in Denmark, and some have empathy!!! ;) ), visiting beautiful places, trying new food…

Today I am happy because the friends I met one year ago in Israel are still close to me, we manage to see each other and I would have not imagine having such friendship. I wonder if in one year I will still be in touch with the friends I have here, I hope so, but I don’t even know where I will be so…for now I will just enjoy it :)

I think I am a happier person now that one year ago even if it wasn’t easy everyday and that’s nice!!!

Le plus difficile plus si difficile?

Il y a environ un mois j’avais écrit ici à quel point cela pouvait être dur socialement au Danemark.

Je ne dirais pas que tout à changer mais presque. Déjà, j’ai changé, et mon opinion à changer. Il faut dire que beaucoup de chose ce sont passées ici depuis fin mars. Si vous avez suivi ou pas bande de feignasses je suis dans une sorte d’école qui entre autre prépare une des classes à l’école de comédie musicale (ceux du fond, je vous entends rigoler, c’était ma première réaction mais ils ne sont pas cons, elles ne sont pas faites par des français c’est tout de suite mieux! Personnes ne se cachent ici, ils ne se font pas lapider quand ils disent aimer les comédies musicales! ). Cette école recrute 8 élèves par an. Ici 25 postulaient déjà…Vous êtes fort en maths, donc bien sûr une bonne claque pour la majorité et même moi qui ai un coeur de pierre parfois je me sentait triste pour eux (j’ai quand même vu une amie PRESQUE pleurer! C’était effrayant…un danois ne pleure jamais).

Mais une fois cela passé ainsi que le stress avant les auditions et bien ils étaient bien mieux lunés. Puis j’ai pris l’air à Copenhague. Je trouve cette capitale vraiment sympa, certes ça en mets pas plein la vue comme Paris ou Londres mais c’est agréable à vivre, ce n’est pas stressant et c’est jolie. Je pense que je vais rester ici en tout cas c’est ce que j’ai décidé. Sauf que du coup je panique un peu beaucoup (ouais déjà!) car il faudra trouver un taf, trouver un appart et puis surtout payer même ma nourriture (ben ouais en tant que volontaire dans une école ma vie st drôlement facilitée et pas très coûteuse..). En plus tous les danois de l’école sont aussi en recherche de taf et ils stressent, et ils ME stressent :) Oh joie!

Et donc la situation sociale, c’est améliorer en partie grâce à une dispute. Je me dis parfois que c’était un de nos modes de communication préféré en France (comparé à ici j’entends) mais au Danemark ça peut servir aussi. Un danois en colère n’est pas très différent de son lui-même normal. Il a juste le coeur qui bat plus vite mais il ne crie pas ou ne devient pas tout rouge, c’est presque drôle quand vous n’êtes pas la cible.

En fait tout a commencé avec cette amie, je n’étais pas de bonne humeur et elle parlait d’un sujet qui m’énervait (la fourrure dans la mode je crois… ouais on a des débats de dingue ici ) et ne voulait pas en changer donc je l’ai planté, je me suis juste levée et je suis partie. Apparemment ça ne se fait pas ici (ouais je sais c’est mal je suis méchante et immature mais on fait souvent ça dans ma famille…). Je suis revenue 5 minutes après et on a du mettre les choses au clair. Je reprochais souvent aux danois tous mes malheurs  d’être super gentil un jour et de m’ignorer le lendemain. Alors imaginez ma tête quand mon amie m’a dit la même chose sur MOI! En fait quand quelqu’un me fait ça perso je ne veux plus faire d’effort et je me ferme. Ouais c’est con mais réflexe de protection si on s’ouvre trop on prends le risque d’être triste :) Le résultat c’est qu’elle me percevait de la même façon et ne voulait plus faire d’effort. Du coup ça nous à forcé à changer.

Puis en changeant avec elle, j’ai changé avec les autres et ça marche tellement mieux. C’est difficile de se remettre en question. Ca blesse mais c’est un mal nécessaire. Un des volontaires que je connais, un espagnol, déteste le Danemark, il ne fait que de se plaindre il a un avis très tranché. Je l’ai vu avant ce gros changement et j’avais moi même une expérience pas très facile et finalement il m’a soûlé, parce que c’est lourd de se pencher juste sur ce qu’on aime pas et surtout je me rendais compte qu’il ne se remettait jamais en cause lui. Et je me suis dit peut être que je suis pareille…Au final, j’avais peur d’expliquer ce que je vivais ici, aussi car je pensais être incomprise et que personne n’écoutait. Ce qui est sûr c’est que ce n’est pas en gardant tout à l’intérieur que la situation allait se régler. Un ami danois (Martin mon coloc du kibboutz, et oui on se voit toujours) m’a dit la dernière fois de changer ce que je n’acceptais pas et d’acceptais ce que je ne pouvais pas changer.

Donc je ne sais pas si j’aurais des amis pour la vie ici, si je vais en revoir certain ou pas mais pour le moment je préfère m’amuser, on passe de bon moments et je verrais dans deux mois, ce sera un nouveau départ. En attendant après ce post jeracontemavie.com voilà quelques photos, on a voyagé avec ma famille (tout un programme, je pourrais en faire un film d’auteur français…) à travers le pays.

Le plus difficile

Cela fait maintenant un peu plus de 7 mois que je suis au Danemark. L’adaptation a été plus longue que je ne l’aurais imaginé mais je pense me sentir plutôt bien ici, en tout cas suffisamment pour rester quelques mois de plus après la fin de mon projet.

Alors je dis plutôt car il y a quelques chose qui revient sans cesse et qui m’empêche un petit peu de me sentir super bien comme je l’étais en Israël ou en Angleterre.

Ne pas avoir de vrais liens avec les locaux.J’ai déjà dû en parler ici, le Danois est une espèce un peu complexe à aborder. Du coup je me suis donner du temps, de la patience

La plupart des gens que je connais, s’ils savent où se situent le Danemark et ont quelques infos sur le pays, imaginent les habitants avec des casques de vikings, gros buveurs de bière, froids et réservés mais sympas dès qu’on leur paie une tournée. Bref pas spécialement handicapé socialement.Il y a certaines choses avec lesquelles je suis d’accord d’autres moins.

Déjà personnes ne portent de casques de vikings par contre il est vrai qu’une bière rend le Danois plus chaleureux.Chaleur qui retombe lorsque celui-ci a décuvé.J’ai été très surprise lorsque le lendemain de certaines soirées au pub, les étudiants ne m’adressaient pas même un regards dans les couloirs. Pourtant ils ne s’étaient pas donnés en spectacle et je ne pense pas avoir fait quoique ce soit d’impoli ou d’embarrassant pour que l’on m’évite, et puis ils le faisaient TOUS.

Dur.

Mais je me suis dit qu’avec le temps cela allait s’améliorer. Je n’avais pas complètement tort. Quand j’ai commencé à travailler avec eux, on a pu se rapprocher un peu plus, à présent ils nous disaient bonjour dans les couloirs (après deux mois oui :). Parce qu’on leur posait des questions, sur ce qu’ils faisaient, on s’intéressait à eux.Mais cela s’arrêtait là. je pense que j’ai été très choqué. Non pas par leur timidité, mais par leur manque de curiosité. Je me rappelle avoir failli m’étouffer un jour lorsqu’une des filles m’a demandé ce que j’avais fait de ma journée. C’était la premère fois qu’on me posait la question en 6 mois.

Je parlais d’ailleurs avec un ami danois et il me disait que les français peuvent ignorer volontairement quelqu’un. C’est vrai que j’ai déjà fait comme si une personne n’existait pas car elle m’agaçait. Et je lui ai dit que les danois font pareil! Mais il m’a répondu que pour eux c’est presque inconscient tellement c’est dans leur culture. Ils seraient incapable de le faire volontairement.

Il y a très peu de différence entre un étranger et un fantôme ici. Il n’y a pas plus tard qu’aujourd’hui, je suis descendu dans la salle commune pour chercher un fruit. Un groupe de Danois discutaient. Lorsque d’autre Danois arrivaient ils les saluaient et discutaient lorsque c’était un étranger, non. Quand je suis arrivée personne n’a levé la tête. J’ai du me pousser pour laisser passer quelqu’un mais me dire bonjour ne lui ai pas venu à l’esprit. Pourtant il y a deux jours j’étais dans la chambre de cette personne en grande conversation. L’amie à qui elle parlait aujourd’hui me parle beaucoup aussi. Quand elle est seule. Du coup il est difficile de ne pas se sentir inférieur, lorsque un simple bonjour leur est impossible dès qu’ils sont plus de deux.

Et ça ça blesse. Parce qu’on se rend compte qu’on passera toujours après. Qu’on pourra avoir une conversation avec l’un d’entre eux s’il n’y a personne d’autres à qui parler.

Et pour cette raison je ne pense pas que je pourrais vivre dans ce pays. Certains pourraient me dire qu’il y a la barrière de la langue. J’ai pris des cours de danois puis arrêter devant les efforts inutiles que je faisais. Personnes ne veut se fatiguer ici à me parler en danois, trop d’effort, l’anglais c’est plus simple…

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The yoghurt crisis

Today we had the weekly meeting we always have in the school on fridays. It was very nice actually, first we were sitting on the floor. I don’t mind chairs but I found it more cosy and relaxed. One of the students Aki, prepared a song for us in Japanese and that was quite incredible, she had a very nice voice! And it’s so different to the songs you are used to when it’s in Japanese. So Torben was in charge of the meeting. He is one of a kind. I always wonder when I see him what can be in his mind and it always makes me laugh. He is a very funny guy and full of ideas and energy.

So he talked to us about wellness and music, and we listened to a song he composed to fix our chakra on the solar plexus. So here we were, all lying on the floor and listening to this song. I thought people around me were falling asleep, it was very relaxing.

Then he talked about the program of the week end, I like this one part “running through the woods” because I pictures a bunch of people running like mad man in the forest and I found it amusing, but actully he meant it in a more normal way like, you have running shoes and run together….well I prefer my version.

And then the serious talk came on.

yogurt_spill

Because Yoghurt is serious business here!

 You see, we have a yoghurt crisis in the school since this week. It seems to be quite a big deal. It all started when the kitchen realised that we were swallowing twice more yoghurt as usual. Literally. And it has a price, so they decided from now on it will only be at breakfast and not for snack. (yes you see in Denmark they are much healthier when it comes to snack, it’s fruit and muesli and yoghurt but well muesli on it’s own?? dry right?).

And the international students were very annoyed because on week ends it’s usually their main dish. On week ends we have brunch. It’s not bad but it’s less food so usually you get hungry earlier.

Also some of them aren’t so keen or used to Danish food so I can understand that yoghurt is safe value for them. So we started to have this debate. Why we ate so much yoghurt, and what can we have instead. In a way it’s more than interesting than it seems because it’s a good example of cultural differences here.

Many of the international students eat very different food and it’s difficult to adjust. Of course the school cannot provide their food from home but well if there is most of the things you can’t eat, both have to compromise. One of them said he found the bread too hard so he has to dip it in the water. Well I am afraid that Denmark cannot change their bread and personally I think that at least it has taste not like this awful white bread that I found in the UK.

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It’s not related but I felt like posting a picture of my sister. She looks in crisis

But we do have some alternative. Often the Nepalese cook for us amazing dinner on week ends and that’s terrific! so much spices and flavor yum yum!

Hello my middle name is confusion, I am from China

It’s 2014 and I am still in Denmark, unbelievable.  So I came back to the højskole in January on the 9th.

I had training just before in Copenhagen which was very nice and I didn’t really know what to expect from the Danish when I would go back because well they have very different social skills right but it was a good surprise because they were so nice and some literally jumped on me (weird, you have to be away 3 weeks and people love you! good to know).

I also noticed that a lot of them aren’t scared anymore and talk to us ( maybe they weren’t scared of us but now they acknowledge our existence, it feels odd! but good) and the one we “knew” before are more friendly so that’s cool.

But some people were missing.

The class of International students is completely new. 18 new faces from Ghana, Nepal, China , Latvia, Hungary, Lithuania, Turkey and Japan.

Communicating is always a challenge,so imagine now! For instance we have 6 Chinese here. Some have a decent English you can have a conversation with them, some….well it’s complicated. It’s funny because we learn Danish together and sometimes they try to use it but we don’t get anything because we don’t speak Danish either.

That's how Chinese must feel here

That’s how Chinese must feel here

But what is odd is the “group effect”. All of sudden they forget everything they know of English and stare at you with a blank  face, like you are an Alien from another planet! And you do silly moves speak slower, louder, eventually they will nod but you will have given up before they really understood anyway.

So when you have crucial information you realise you talk to them like you would to simple minded people, and it makes you sound very rude! I literally said once to them “Asian!!! Go there now!” how awful!

There is this one Chinese guy I love to talk with, even though I don’t think he ever understood me. With the girl from Hungary we asked him “where were you?” and he said ” I am fine”…. but at least he answered!

This girl from Hungary is pretty cool, we realize that it’s easier to bond with Europeans because we are similar in so many ways. But something we can’t beat her at is drinking vodka! Once I saw her sipping it like water, and I had pretty good training at the kibbutz but now I suck.

So imagine this weird combination trying to mix with the Danes. My dear Danish that I still can’t figure out but at least I have one good friend now so I can ask her, she is a bit like my guide here. For instance I come to her when I have all this stupid question, like why do you guys don’t say hello all the time like we do? Why don’t you confront and argue all the time like French? Why the word please doesn’t exist in Danish?

So it was pretty funny to see how the Danish girls reacted to the guys from Ghana asking “hey , are you married?”. It reminded me of all the wedding proposal I had in Zambia, even though Ghana is pretty different. So their Danish teacher made them a Danish session about how to ask out girls in Danish. Not sure it worked but it’s just beginning.

We also have new Nepalese but they are the complete opposite of the one we new before: the first group was loud, noisy, crazy, drunk, troublemakers and the most lovely guys on earth.

This new group is much more chilled, sweet and …behaved!

It’s good to realise that you can’t generalise about a whole culture just knowing some of them, like the Nepalese, we expected to have crazy boys. They are all different. My Danish friend keep telling me that this school isn’t Denmark and I believe her, the students here are “special” (not in this way…) and that I need to get out and experience Denmark differently…

And now it’s snowing it’s awesome!!! I realised I had one talent, maybe I can’t sing or dance or act but I am pretty good at snowball fight!

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People are strange (or is it you?)

A view on the sea, a beautiful country, a new culture to discover how can you complain?

After all this is what we all want when we travel, new challenges, new encounters, friends, places…We need a change and we love this process of discovering everything. Still it’s not easy everyday and the new you were craving is the new you are hating sometimes.

I understand nothing, why people are so rude, why are they so mean. This habit is so stupid. Yes these thoughts could come to your mind if you are in a foreign environment and it’s …completely normal. This phase that I was going through has a name: Cultural shock.

As the name says it all it’s basically a shock, more or less long. I don’t think you have it every time you travel or maybe it’s not so strong so you don’t even realise it. I guess I had one when living in London but it wasn’t so important that it bothered me so much.

Why is the world so pink, when I am so green?

Here in Denmark it’s different. First because during all my previous travel I had the “honeymoon” phase you know when everything is pink, people are so cool, and the food, the culture is incredible. I think the best honey moon I had was in Israel. But I went to Denmark literally 5 days after leaving Israel. I left my honeymoon for a different place. Where I literally crashed.

The social life in Denmark is very different to everything I experienced before: in London it’s harder to connect on a deeper level with people, however they are very polite and nice so you can still have a social life even if you just arrived and there are plenty of foreigners in the same situation so you bond pretty quickly.

In Africa, everyone would say hello in the street so ultra social and curious, but I wasn’t staying and the cultural differences were quite important. However I still had friends and it was nice and easy to feel integrated.

In Israel it was just incredible, in no time I was feeling home and it was very quick to bond with other volunteers. Israelis are pretty blunt and straight forward but very warm and welcoming. I guess the bubble that the kibbutz is, is also a very special environment.

Danes on the other hand are very reserved comparing to those cultures. They value privacy and independence. They don’t want to bother you. The social standards are very different. I think that was the biggest shock for me. I realised the social aspect was incredibly important to be able to feel good in a new environment and here it is taking forever to make friends. However now I understand what is going on and why, so I guess it helps to get better and be more tolerant and open.

Plus now I have 17 new friends, in the same situation than me, thanks to EVS. Something I experienced everywhere I went: as foreigners you will bond in no time, whereas with locals it will always be a challenge.

Don’t be rude to the cat, only the Danes!

This is what Helena told me after the day we spent in Odense. We were invited to meet other EVS volunteers of the area and visit the city. This day was much more than this: we understood that everything we have been doing since here, to bond with Danes was WRONG. SOOOO WRONG.

We met two Italian volunteers that have been here for 4 months, so they know much more than us! A very nice guy from Venezuela joined us but he has been here for a month only. We were in a way reassured to see our experience have been so similar… Our guide was a Danish girl, very nice and friendly who gave us a lesson about what to NOT do with Danes.

  • BE POLITE, no please no
  • Don’t say hello once a week is the maximum, we aren’t in Spain don’t say hello every time you see someone, you are invading their personal space.
  • don’t kiss or hug this is very important, don’t touch too much Danes they like distance, the personal bubble of Danes is way bigger than most Latin European ( I don’t know if French fit in this category but I would say we are more similar to Spanish and Italian than Danes so for me yes) , about 10 meters should always separate you from them, you are not dating them are you?
  • Don’t compliment please don’t do that it’s super rude to say someone has a nice t-shirt, I am not sure why but I assume it’s related to this privacy thing…
  • If you had a nice chat with someone don’t acknowledge their existence the next day they need privacy ok, don’t even think of saying hello or even..
  • SMILING, don’t smile to people you recognize no non no, if you see your co workers in the streets act like they are invisible outside of the office.
  • If you meet one friend in a place and another one happens to be around ignore them because you had an appointment with the first one so it’s rude to share your self between people. Danish are possessive ( and they like privacy)
  • Don’t say sorry all the time

To sum up be rude: remember in danish there is no equivalent of the word please…there is a reason for that…

So all the good manners your parents teach them, forget about it and you are halfway to de Danish!

We also had a language session:

  • øl  (pronounce euuuul) you will need it to survive but if you don’t like beer, cider or wine will do. Helena is on Tequila now…
  • skål (pronounce SKOOOL  you have to scream it too) if there is one time you can be polite it’s when Danish are trying to break your glass with theirs. Works well when there is an awkward silence as well. Some even do it with water.
  • hvad (Vèl I will never get how they pronounce the d here…never) Danes use this word all the time. You know why? Because even themselves can’t understand each other! A Dane told me language is only 6% of the communication! I understand him because if you rely on the mumbles that Danes qualify as words you won’t go so far… Also even if their country is so small that you don’t even realise you are already in Germany, people from Seeland can’t understand people from Jylland…AND THEY ARE 5 MILLION!!

This is why foreigners who settle down in Copenhagen shouldn’t leave Copenhagen NEVER or this happens:

  • …sighting backward…apparently this is a way of agreeing in Danish…very interesting, but some Danes told me they find this habit very ridiculous….I think it’s funny, now I want to laugh every time I see someone doing it, I wonder if that’s considered rude in the Danish code of conduct…

Now I know all of this, it all make sense, why students ignored us for two weeks at first…it’s not because we are invisible (I alsmost start to think I developed a super power really!) they were just respecting our privacy.

PS: Here an amazing tumblr helping you to understand life in Copenhagen