Monday, May 23, 2011

On Denmark, and Subsequently, Copenhagen:


A look back at my first impressions of Copenhagen, in July 2007:

Wow. That's all I have to say. Denmark is beautiful. In every respect. I arrived in the Copenhagen Airport and noticed every minute detail, design wise that is, that America just conveniently leaves out of their designs. The littlest things that the normal person wouldn't notice; like the pattern of the stone or pavers, or metal detailing of the trim work. Every bridge and overpass here are all works of art in their own right. We arrived at school later, in the center of Copenhagen, which itself is so damn confusing.

My apartment is located just outside of the city, about a five-minute metro ride away from the center. I'm on the 8th floor and there's an elevator, unlike my place in the East Village, thankfully. There is a huge window in my room that is about five feet by five feet–a very large square–that can be opened all the way (talk about unsafe! and very un-American!), or tilted inwards to ventilate the room. The curtains, unfortunately, do not block out the light in the morning, so I keep waking up early everyday–mainly because the sun rises at 4:00! But on the flip side, the sun doesn't set until 22:30 each night. Wow. But this big five by five hole/window also over looks this beautiful park–Amager Fælled–(talk about a tongue twister, right?) with this river/canal thing, and the park has a beautiful running path going through it. I've already decided that every beer I drink is a mile I have to run, which basically means that I'm already behind two miles. I need to buy a power converter. And I need to recharge my camera battery. I'm pumped for school to start, I do love school. Then, in about two weeks, we'll have cruise to Sweden, and then bus tour of Finland and Sweden–all the while stopping every few hours to walk around, sketch and photograph important buildings in architectural history. How fun is that? 

Then, after school is over, I'll be excited travel afterwards. So far it's looking like Amsterdam right after school, then Belgium. Then Florence, then Rome, then Perugia. Then I'm meeting up with a different group of friends, going down the Italian coast to… Postiano! The seaside town from 'Under the Tuscan Sun'. Love that movie. After the Amalfi Coast, I'll finally fly into Paris for a few days, and be a Parisian, and hang out with Mona (Mona Lisa, that is), and see the Eiffel Tower and eat croissants, then –fly home. What an exciting summer this will be.

I never thought I would be one to have culture shock, just because I have always been that guy who knew there was another world out there, beyond Cincinnati, beyond Ohio, beyond the United States of America. Copenhagen is so different from the USA. I guess a lot of it has to do with the fact that Denmark is such a small nation. Denmark is a part of the EU, but since they're quite a small country, they desperately hold onto their traditions and culture as much as they can without letting in the westernization that covers other parts of Europe. For starters they're not on the euro like the rest of the EU. Why? Because they're trying to hold out and be their own nation, and not lose their identity. They also opted-out of it in 1992, under the Edinburgh Agreement. Respectable. But super annoying. Honestly, what's the point when almost the rest of the EU is on the euro? I got nothing. Honestly things are so expensive here in Denmark. And that's the thing. It's not like things are truly expensive, it's just the fact that there's a 25% sales tax on everything, and I mean everything. So imagine buying something in the US, and then add one fourth of the cost. That's no fun.

It's just strange and so surreal. The other day one of my friends compared living in Denmark, to the cost of going to the movies everyday. You know… where hot dogs cost five dollars, and so does your drink. Yep that's Denmark. (Ps: that really is the price of a hot dog and a drink, in the city! You don't even want to know what the actual price of things are at the movies.)


Back to the cultural thing. I seriously feel like Denmark is stuck in the late 90s in certain aspects of daily life. For one thing, Hollywood has not infiltrated Denmark. And this goes back to the westernization thing. Or lack there of really. I'll elaborate. Whereas in the US it feels like cell phones are more of a status symbol these days, rather than actual cell phones, in Denmark you rarely ever see a camera phone. Let alone a smartphone. Actually, to this day, I still have not seen a smartphone in Denmark. You know why? Here's this nations work schedule (or at least what it seems to be): Get to work at 9am, take a lunch break from 12-2, then leave work at 4pm. I could totally be down with that! It's very odd though. In Denmark, when they leave work, they leave work. None of this...I have to be able to be reached by the office or send out an email, at all times. Which in a way is sort of refreshing. In the USA you always hear that in Europe they work to live, whereas in the USA people live to work, which is really true when I think about it. For starters in the EU most nations have about six weeks of the year off for vacation, whereas in the USA you usually get one or two. If you lucky. It's just small things like that.

For one thing these people are never in a hurry. I mean never. One thing they are though, is very punctual. Late is late to them. 30 minutes, five minutes, it's all the same.

The other day I was walking to the metro (subway we would call it) and I was practically running up the left side of the escalator, just because that's what I'm used to doing in New York. Even when I was in NYC I never understood why people were always in a hurry. I think I even wrote in one of these entries something along the lines of… 'Why is everyone in NYC rushed all the time? To go sit in the office or to wait for yet another light to change?' It's odd. So when I was practically running up the escalator the other day and thought: I have no rush at all. I'm on time. I'm going to class. So I just stopped. It was nice.

I know I've said this to myself many of times, but I honestly think Europe will make me slow down. I really just think I'm ADD and that's what it is. (However, as of May 2011, I am, still, not ADD). The other day my friend was like. 'Man you are always wanting to move onto the next thing, and go to the next place.' AKA: I can't sit still for more than an hour in one spot. And honestly I don't (not to say I can't see why some would) think that there’s anything wrong with that. There is so much of the world to see, to stay in one spot for too long a time. Though, there are times when just standing still (figuratively) is oh so healing.