Culture? shock

Before going on exchange I was warned that there was a chance that I would get culture shock, and find it strange to adjust to fitting into a different culture. This hasn’t entirely been the case. Ultimately the most confusing thing about Copenhagen is the zone system used on the S-tog and metro (mostly because the penalty for having the wrong zone ticket is almost as much as my bike cost and the maps are as clear as mud).

Overall most of the people I hang out with are international students — there aren’t a lot of Danish students in my housing and all of us English speakers seem to gravitate to one another. We are a jumble of people mostly from Australia, the U.S., Canada and New Zealand, as well as the Netherlands and Finland. There is really no natural culture amongst us. Some of us say elevator, while some of us say lift, while all of us complain about how slow it is — sadly I live on the top floor and have managed to paint several masterpieces in the landing while waiting for the elevator. We use different terms, with the Australians and Kiwis sharing a lot, and the Canadians and Americans sharing others. There is an on going disagreement on whether brunch is a favourite meal or a favorite meal — Americans do not use the British spellings of words.

Then there are other subtle differences. A Canadian invited me over for tea and I happily went over, while my Australian roommate fretted about showing up empty handed — apparently tea means a meal in Australia, whereas in Canada tea means a hot beverage. I never know whether to take my shoes off inside, usually it is split but I take them off because wearing them inside is weird. Apparently in Australia only lowbrow people drink beer out of cans or tins, whereas for me it is more efficient than having to clean out a glass unnecessarily. There isn’t really a culture to shock us, because we don’t really have a particular dominant culture. Sometimes differences are quite noticeable, other times they are funny.

Otherwise Danes are a very efficient and sometimes cold people. If you ask someone for help they tell you whether or not they can help you. That is all. Canadians are not so efficient. We are also far friendlier when checking out. One day I will train myself to stand stoically at the grocery check saying only ja and tak. No “have a great day” you crazy Canadian.

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