It has been five weeks since I first touched down in Copenhagen, Denmark, nauseous, overtired, terrified, and thrilled. In those five weeks, I have seen the highlights of the city, spent a few days in western Denmark on a whirlwind tour of psychology in the welfare state, and… what else? Oh, classes. Right, those are a thing. Does the amazement that comes from being in a foreign city wear off after a while? I don’t know. As familiar as it comes to feel, every so often it still hits me; Toto, we’re not at Wheaton anymore.
European cities in general are pretty amazing. Maybe it’s the architecture or the pastries or the general European-ness of it all. Copenhagen is very different from any American city I have visited. For one thing, bicycles are the transportation of the choice. Staying out of the bike lanes is key to surviving the city; I have lost count of the number of near-death bike-related experiences I have had. Most of the Danes speak English in addition to their Germanic potato-mouth language with weird alien letters like the o with the cross doohickey. Slowly but steadily, I am picking up Danish with the help of my Danish language and culture class as well as my Danish host family. Like, I can order a coffee in Danish, which is all you really need to know anyway.
Denmark repeatedly ranks at the top of “world’s happiest country” lists. You might not think of it to look at them; they keep to themselves, and they are certainly not in a constant state of exaltation. Between their free healthcare, childcare, and education, relatively high levels of social equality, decent wages and benefits, and a small country/almost tribe-like feel of community, we might have a hint. Denmark isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but being here for five weeks has confirmed what I had already expected based on my pre-departure research: there is truly nothing like a Dane, and I am quite pleased to have the opportunity to pretend to be one for the remaining three months of the semester.