Danish Diaries- Farvel Denmark!
It is still hard to believe that it has been six months in Denmark. I’m back into a comfortable routine in India and at times my brain does not register the fact that I was in Denmark the week before. Yes, I missed the spices, the warmth, humidity and so much more but there are things that Denmark will always stand for in my heart and soul.
RED AND WHITE EVERYWHERE
A Danish Table (Source- Internet)
I love the fact that the Danes take pride in the fact that they are Danish. It is a fierce pride and love that manifests in various ways. It does not go hand in hand with a nationalistic arrogance thereby making it a spirit you also want to join along. Danish flags in front of homes is a common place. You will also know if it is Dane’s birthday if you see the red and white colours in the party decorations down to tissues and tiny flag toothpicks. It was a first for me to see a national flag in a birthday party. Danes have had to explain this tradition, especially students celebrating their birthday on an exchange semester!
THE DANISH TONGUE
The way of life, even the Danish language is a part of the charm. As with any language and as an outsider, there were times when I wanted to strangle the person who invented or discovered Danish (thankfully I believe they are not alive) but with constant encouragement, I have reached the toddler stage in the language. It is refreshing when Danes tell you outright that Danish is difficult but on the other hand appreciate if you try to understand without translation. You should try this out – Rødgrød med fløde (it roughly translates to red porridge or rye bread with cream) but remember that the d is a soft l, the r is not that rowdy r and say it fast! It also happens to be the first tongue twister that I was asked to tell. A det var så lidt (you are welcome) to their tak (thank you) or a undskyld (sorry, excuse me) gets a smile and goes a long way.
Danish and English
HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS
Denmark broke a very big myth for me. The whole stereotype that the western is highly individualistic and family does not play a huge role (thanks to a ton of English series) was shattered into pieces. Yes, people are individualistic when it comes to making decisions for their own lives and how they want to live it but on the other hand, family and friends play an equally important role in their lives. Friends, classmates and even people I met around in Denmark keep this system in balance. It is not a utopian situation that I am making up as there are divorces, deaths, heartbreaks, and other issues that plague Denmark just like any other country but the beauty is in keeping it together. It is a normal expectation for the both parents – heterosexual or homosexual to play an active part is the child rearing, giving an equal opportunity in bonding. The government also provides a safety net in its social security system acting like a support network in times of need keeping the welfare of its citizens front like a family.
Family and friends enjoying the midsummer bonfire
IT IS HARD FOR ME TO BELIEVE
I don’t know if this is a European phenomenon or a Danish one but I am suspicious if Danish parents and grandparents have some kind of superpower! Parents all around the globe have my deepest respects but being in Denmark has had me amazed! The discipline that I see when kids are standing in line to climb the slide without almost zero adult supervision had me fascinated. In another place, when a heavy door accidentally fell on a young boy’s hand, I could only see tears streaming down his face in pain and no bawling what so ever. I had put that incident to that boy’s extraordinary control but over time I realized that I hardly saw or heard a baby bawl constantly. Additionally, and thankfully, I have had the privilege of a childhood without video games and internet. This forced me to think creatively and make up my own games with whatever I had when I was bored. I could see this along with a lot of parent-child interaction at all times and all places. Kids were playing in the sand, snow, water fountains or even the beach with very little – “Don’t do that” or dragging away involved.
Children playing with an interactive art piece in ARoS
I REALIZED I AM FREE TO THINK AND EXPRESS
This is not to say that India does not give me the freedom to express my thoughts because it does as a democracy. What I am talking pertains more towards the academic scene. First and foremost, I got to experience Denmark as an exchange student from one university to another. The curriculum that I was exposed to helped me dig deep into topics rather than skim through a vast number of topics. This in turn brought out discussions, various viewpoints and information to the foreground. I have gained a deep respect for the professors who do not mind being challenged and take into consideration a perspective like mine which can be drastically different from an European or a Danish one. A different way of seeing things did not necessarily mean being pushed to the side or ignored but rather accepted into the folds of academic enrichment.
YOU ARE NOT BETTER THAN ANYONE; NO ONE IS BETTER THAN YOU
This can be a double-edged sword but I am yet to see any negative effects of it in Denmark. It is not about shouting slogans and protesting for equality in all walks of life but rather a silent and strong portrayal of it in society. It is rather rare to find a Dane bragging about something. Given the Indian context of plastering top marks and ranks, it was a good feeling that I did not have to talk about my marks or where I stood in class academically. If an exam went well and you passed, good enough discussion. Moreover, it was mortifying for me call my Professors with just their first names in class but it is a norm in Denmark. It creates an atmosphere of equal footing with respect somehow. Even the Danish language does not use separate words of respect as in many Asian languages. Some way this makes way for an equal footing in life for everyone.
Where everyone has an near equal chance!
Check this link for more details – http://www.mangalorean.com/danish-diaries-equals/
I feel this strong need to remind people reading this that it is not an attempt to put India down. I have missed the sun, the colours, the food, the energy, the noise and a huge list of things that I love including chakkuli and mango pickle. India always is my home and comfort zone but if I have learnt one important lesson from travelling abroad is to take in the good stuff. Denmark has grabbed a place in my heart and with a heavy heart, I say Farvel Danmark!
About The Author:
Athmika Ramachandra is currently continuing her post-graduation studies at Aarhus University, Denmark under student exchange programme of Manipal University Media and Communication Department. Athmika is Gold Medallist in BA from Mangalore University, enjoys photography, listening to music, reading novels and trying out new food. A bitten travel bug Athmika cherishes writing and poetry and she is the granddaughter of Late Padyana Gopalakishna (Pa.Go), Veteran Journalist & Kannada Columnist of yesteryears from Mangalore.
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