Would you like an adventure now, or shall we have our tea first?
Alice In Wonderland
Things have been pretty uneventful here, and we’re just now gearing up for our study tours this week. Many people returning from the Switzerland summer program at Cal Poly stopped by the city, so I had fun meeting up with my fellow Mustangs and showing them around my new home. Celia visited my host family for dinner, which was wonderful!
Unfortunately, the joy here hasn’t seemed to make its way home. My prayers are going out to everyone dealing with hardship back in the States, whether that is Kennedy Love’s family being forced to navigate the process of mourning, or everyone rebuilding their lives and homes in the wake of Harvey and Irma. Whoever needs it, just know that I am sending as much good energy as I can from my corner of the world.
Seeing as how my life has been relatively unmarred by action, I’ve had some time for self-reflection. I’ve noticed changes in myself that are due to the cultural shift I’m experiencing here in Denmark. The Danish lifestyle isn’t as foreign as, say, going to Zimbabwe would be, but it definitely still differs.
The key parts of the Danish lifestyle that I’ve noticed are:
1. Don’t stress
Stress is a byproduct of inefficiencies, which Danish culture conspicuously lacks. Life moves at a much slower pace than what most Americans are used to (or at least this American is). Schedules are not overpacked, and every moment is savored because daylight is literally burning. There is a time for anything is required of you, and if there isn’t, you have too much on your plate.
2. Hygge is more than just an annoying buzzword Americans are obsessed with
Hygge is a supposedly untranslatable word that seems to be on every Anthropologie book cover or Pinterest board. Loosely meaning “cozy,” it is the feeling of warmth one gets when spending a quiet moment surrounded by people you care about and being content. It’s integrated into the lifestyle here, where there is no such thing as guilty pleasures (only pleasures), candles are more than a form of light and every restaurant seems to offer you a blanket to cozy up with. I quite like it, but I also chose this program because of my minor obsession with it.
3. Meals spent together can change your life
It is completely normal to be home every evening at 18:30 to spend dinner with your family, even as a 21 year old. Eating together slows down a meal, allows you to savor it, and allows a bonding that doesn’t really occur at any other time. If I had to take any element of the lifestyle back with me, it’d be this, simply because I love how every evening is spent talking, laughing, and cooking with these people who have opened their home to me. FYI: the way one finishes a meal is with the phrase “tak for mad,” pronounced tahk four mall.
4. Walking is underrated
Since coming here, I don’t think there is a single day that I haven’t walked over 10,000 steps. Public transit makes it easy to get into the city, which is extraordinarily walkable. My next mission is to get a bike so that I can blend in with the locals.
5. Slow is not an insult
Slow means that you are adequately savoring life. It is okay to sit on the couch, actually taste your food and plan plenty of time for transportation rather than driving everywhere. “Slow” is overcoming its negative connotations to become a way of life.
6. Integrate things you love into daily life
There’s something to be said for getting excited to drink out of your morning mug. Danish design is centered on egalitarianism, with everyone having access to it. My homestay mother and I get illogically excited at cacti, and they’re currently all over the house. My way of introducing things I love into daily life are bringing hot tea to school in the cutest thermos ever, sliding on my World’s Softest Socks at the end of a long day (that was sort of product placement because I want more of their stuff), and maintaining an addiction to Muji’s colored gel pens.
7. However, Do more with less
The Danish welfare state takes approximately 50% income tax, on top of notoriously high sales taxes. Stuff’s expensive here. However, minimalism is rampant. My homestay family may differ than most, but they make most everything themselves (which I LOVE). Annette, my homestay mother, sewed every pillow and sofa cover in the house. Every meal is cooked at home, lunches are always packed and the family always has homemade kefir (my favorite breakfast), kombucha, pickles and bread in the house. When it comes to decor, every object is of good quality and is always put to use. Nothing is extraneous, because if it is in the house, you have to both use it and love it. I do love this.
Hopefully you can find a way to integrate this into your everyday life, as I have. Let me know what works for you (or don’t, that’s on you, boo). With that, I shall leave you be.
Phrase of the week:
i lige måde*
(ee lee-ugh moo-luh)*
Means something along the lines of “back at ya” or “same to you”. I always joke that it must be said with finger guns, and it comes in handy quite often.
*the soft d in the Danish language is pronounced in a similar manner to the English L, save for the fact you let your tongue rest behind your lower front teeth rather than letting the tip of your tongue touch the roof of your mouth.