Over the past few weeks I’ve purchased some plane tickets and made the rounds to people letting them know that I’m headed off to Denmark. Having never purchased international travel tickets, gone to a foreign country alone, or made somewhat spur of the moment life plans, this felt like big news to share.
I told my grandmother first. “Great – when’s your ticket?” While happy for me, she was completely unfazed by the news.
Hours later, my parents. “Okay. So you’re going to be there all December?” Again, not an iota of surprise which, given that I had not only asked for my passport, told them in detail about this tall gingery clown I’d fallen in love with but also practiced Danish in front of them….well I guess it was pretty obviously coming.
Next: the landlord. “Hey, are you available to meet on Monday?” “If you’re moving out in October you have to let us know by the end of the day.” Bu–what? No…I just… What?
Finally the boss talk. “So here is the information to set up direct deposit. Also, I got asked to participate in a piece this Halloween so here are the dates for that and also…um…*hands and voice suddenly getting all awkward and shaky*…I hate to have to do this but I have to put in my last day because I got a ticket and I’m leaving for Denmark.” *wide-eyed nervous pause* “Yeah, we figured. When are you heading out?”
Turns out that apparently people are very supportive of my quest to pursue love and adventure in Denmark. Telling people has been almost exclusively difficult in my head. I told my grandmother first as I was worried about how to tell my parents. She just stared at me and in her most no-nonsense voice said “Liz. I know you. You just have to say the thing and you have to say it now. You’re already making yourself crazy building everything up in your head. Besides, it’s not like they don’t already know.” And she was right.
No, telling people wasn’t the hard part.
Learning Danish is the hard part.
Danish is simultaneously incredibly easy (‘de er mine’ –> ‘they are mine’; ‘hej, godmorgan –> ‘hello, good morning’) and completely nonsensical (‘bjørnene fortæller jer om det’ –> ‘the bears tell you about it’). Unlike with Spanish, I have no friends with whom I can practice and really very few resources from which to learn the language. I’ve been using Duolingo, a very helpful website/app, to learn the basics, but the words I’m learning have thus far seemed completely useless for every day conversation–unless of course I’ve been woefully misinformed about Denmark and everyone there spends a lot of time about turtles drinking beer and elephants eating people (not kidding…these are the practice sentences I have. Elefanterne spiser jer. The elephants eat you.).
Learning a new language without a teacher, classroom, textbook or any understanding of how the heck ø, æ and å sounds should be formed is, to say the least, utroligt svært. I spent a few hours some days ago sitting inside a coffee shop with my laptop propped open, headphones plugged in and Duolingo in front of me. I realized after about 45 minutes that people were staring at me. Turns out when you mumble “Jeg vil ikke have nogen æbler til morgenmad” at a computer screen, that’s sort of weird. By the time I had completed a few lessons, the only thing I could say and really mean in Danish was ‘jeg vil gerne have en øl’ –> ‘I want a beer’.
Are any of you coffee lovers out there from Denmark (or speak Danish)? Any resources on learning a new language? I’d like to be as prepared as possible for my adventure so I can emerge myself in their (hopefully existent) coffee culture and report back to you with my findings. Hjælp mig!