Danish. A north Germanic language spoken by around 6 million people, principally in Denmark. It is also ranked in the top 15 most difficult languages to learn. Perfect, just perfect. Like living in Denmark wasn’t hard enough for a foreigner, the language just kicks you when you’re down. Luckily for me the majority of Danes can spit a few Danglish words my way and it makes relatively little sense, but enough to get by. The Danish government try to tackle this problem for us foreigners by offering FREE Danish classes. Not just a handful either, but a WHOLE YEAR…and continued free education if you pass the end of year exam. Impressive stuff Danish Government, impressive stuff. So where do I sign up?
Here actually 😉
Back to school
I remember the first day of classes as if it was yesterday. A new backpack packed to the brim with binders, booklets, dictionaries and more. A kiss on the forehead from the wife and I was off into the unknown. The classes were to take place in the International House, an enormous building that not only has offices (used for job searching for ‘new Danes’) and classrooms, it also houses a few dozen overseas students. After walking up 12 flights of stairs and breaking a sweat I was greeted by an equally exhausted eager student, Leri. We clicked almost instantly, maybe due to our athletic backgrounds (although originally from Georgia, Leri competed at the World Championships in figure skating) or for our humour in realising how difficult this Dansk was going to be to learn.
Higgledy piggledy, potato throat
The class was stacked with over 20 keen fresh faced outsiders but throughout the course of the year, more and more empty seats were available. Whether it was down to personal issues or the struggles of at lære Dansk, people were dropping like flies. At first it was hard to find a seat, now there were enough to put our bags/feet on, but through it all Leri and I stuck together. We completed our first end of year module exam and PASSED! WHOOP WHOOP! Sadly, for me, Leri moved away to coach figure skating in the Netherlands where his new found education in Danish means squat-diddly-piss. As for me, I have enrolled in continuing learning this higgledy piggledy, potato throat, yodelling bollocks of a language for at least another year, or for as long as it takes me to comfortably order a beer without my voice breaking.
Welcome to a Brit abroad, which is me – Marco. If you’ve ever wandered what Jeanette’s bit on the side is like, here I am. A 28-year-old retired British Olympian trying to fit into Denmark’s incredibly unique way of living. Its been an eventful almost three years of being a Copenhagener, and I’ve learnt a few life lessons along the way. I hope you enjoy a short snippet of what I’ve encountered so far.
Trying to fit in
Denmark. Population 5.5million. You’d think it would be easy to make a friend or two. No sir. Well at least not for your first few months trudging around the cobbled streets of Copenhagen listening to the throaty murmur that is Denmark’s native tongue. What is it like to be a foreigner (again) in an uncommon land you may ask? It wasn’t easy. Moving here from the rat race city of London was a shock, one that I was excited to see where it would lead. Amidst the endless rows of yellow houses, coffee shops and abandoned baby prams there is a charm to Copenhagen but you have to claw away at the surface. To leave your old eyes you once looked through behind.
The skyline of Copenhagen is littered with the green patina that has aged the roofs of its historic buildings beautifully. If you spend too long looking up, you are bound to be walked into by a Dane with the absence of an apology.
Once you’re in, you’re in
Step one: get yourself a bike. The more rusty and shit looking the better. Step two: wear white, grey and black clothing. Step three: a fresh pair of sneaks. Ok now that you look the part, how in the hell do you feel at home here? Answer: Friends. I’ve met a lot of foreigners in Copenhagen whose friend base consists of mainly (if not completely) of fellow ex-pats. It was my challenge to break through the frosty façade of the Danish society and make myself some good old fashioned Danish chums. Luckily, because Copenhagen is a cooking pot of culture you are always likely to find someone with similar interests. For me it came in the form of a tattooed guy with a colourful past, studying theology in hopes of one day becoming a priest, just my luck. From my own experience when meeting the locals, those who were the most accepting were the ones who had travelled far and wide to temporarily escape the ‘Truman show’ bubble of Denmark. Once I was in with him, his friends followed suit and also like having their own token foreign buddy.
Before I knew it and without realising, I felt a great weight lift from my shoulders. My phonebook began to fill up with lots of Anthon’s and Anders’s, Lars’s and Lasse’s, Joekim’s and Jonas’s. My mundane weekends now became over booked with plans to chill in Kongen’s Have or go for quiet drinks in the evening at the Log Lady on Studiestræde. Being able to walk down the street I live on and wave to the lady from the bakery, the brothers from the coffee shop and Pete from the men’s store gives me a sense of belonging, a feeling of home. One thing is known about making friends with a Dane, you’ll be friends for life.
What’s my next adventure in Copenhagen? Fatherhood…to be continued.