The kids and I spent three years in Denmark without returning to visit the U.S. even once. So of course it was a bit surreal to return so suddenly and be back for good…
What were my first observations?
Signs and labels in English. While most Danes speak English, and there is a lot of English sneaking around in Denmark (such as in radio music and other media), Danish is certainly the official and preferred language and all signs and labels are in Danish. It is expected that foreigners will learn Danish, and bills, government documents, etc are not provided in English.
What I imagine most Americans think of when they hear the word “danish”:
Overhearing English and American accents. A few times during our time in Europe I overheard an American accent. It sounded like clear, twangy bells to my Danish-infused ears, and I would immediately whip my head around and plaster my big American smile across my face and say something like, “I couldn’t help but overhear your American accent, where are y’all from?” The random person would say something like, “Cleveland, Ohio,” (or some other place which I know nothing about and have never even come close to visiting), and yet, the two of us would smile and nod at one another, a moment of pure American solidarity passing between us before we’d mutter a hasty and awkward goodbye and continue on our separate ways. While I learned Danish decently well during our time in Denmark, I never got to a point that I could understand random conversations that were going on around me. Especially if they weren’t particularly loud and not directed at me, it simply sounded like muttering. Now that I’m back in the U.S., of course I hear and understand everything…the little girl behind me in the checkout line complaining to her mom, the couple in the next restaurant booth ordering their dinner. It’s weird to overhear all these random conversations once again.
So MUCH of everything. The U.S. is full of SO much and so BIG of everything. So many different kinds of cars. Such BIG cars. (The kids immediately pointed out all the pick up trucks. One of them also asked why there weren’t any Renaults 🙂 ) So many stores. Such BIG stores–full of SO MANY choices. We used to complain about the lack and choice of merchandise in Denmark. If you want a bathtub, you better take the one choice: a corner spa tub. If you want a notebook, once again, settle for the one choice (black and red lined notebook, I’m looking at you).
At least in our area of rural Denmark, there were few restaurant choices and half of these were kebab restaurants which all offer the same menu. Recently as we were driving through town, the kids were exclaiming about all the different restaurants on every corner. “Why do they need so many restaurants?” asked my daughter. I thought about it and wasn’t sure…even after living in the area for eight years we had still not visited the vast majority of them, but evidently someone is patronizing them :).
Our first grocery shopping trip was at Sam’s…complete culture shock!
Bright clothing. It’s possible that the Danes are starting to branch out with some subdued colors and floral prints to counteract the stereotypical black, but still I did not see nearly the wardrobe variety that I do here in CO. Evidently we Americans like our loud fashion choices to go with our loud talking and loud laughter :).
Cheap groceries and other stuff. We learned to avoid buying a lot of things in Denmark simply because we weren’t willing to swallow the cost. Avacados for example. We have finally tried the much vaunted avocado toast:
We also rarely ate ice cream because it was really expensive for anything remotely quality and inevitably came in tiny packages (I believe sugary items such as ice cream and also nuts were subjected to a “luxury tax” which was on top of the regular 25% sales tax). Since we’ve been back I will admit to buying big tubs of Dreyer’s or Bluebell ice cream every time I go to the store, including my favorite flavor: chocolate and peanut butter…so yummy!!