I have struggled with what to write about while in Copenhagen, because I myself dislike reading about people’s abroad experiences. I strongly dislike seeing the photos that people upload of places that millions of other people visit each year, as if that individual is the first person to ever see the colorful buildings of Nyhavn or funky entrance to Christiana. However, I also know that I want some way to document my time here besides just photos, and since I left my travel journal at home (oops) I am going to use this blog as a semi-substitute. I say semi because I hope to write about my experiences here, and the things that I can’t stop thinking about, not just a laundry list of all my adventures.
There are, of course, many striking things about Copenhagen that I had heard about but was still surprised to see firsthand. It is overwhelming to realize that this international city is truly the closes thing to a utopian city that I’ve ever experienced. All of the rumors are true – everyone is friendly, well-dressed, and attractive. Even more, the streets are beautifully clean, there are very few homeless people, and I have not once felt unsafe, even walking in the middle of the night down quiet streets. However, there is something that I can’t stop thinking about that isn’t even really related to these amazing qualities of Copenhagen (because it is truly amazing). Rather, I can’t stop thinking about how much of America there is here.
Every cafe, restaurant, bar, or club I have been to has played American music. Every person I’ve met speaks English in addition to Danish (or whatever other languages they may be fluent in). Every grocery store has American products, every shopping street has American store brands. Everyone here knows about what’s going in America at all times, beyond just talking about Donald Trump. This may not be that surprising to many people, but as an American student abroad you are almost conditioned to be ashamed of your culture, especially going somewhere as chic and visionary as Denmark. You are told that only Americans talk in public (and always too loudly), that Danes are always taller and dressed better than you, that you can realistically never learn their language in the time you’re there but that every Danish person knows yours. I tried to hide my American-ness as much as possible, and dreaded speaking to people because of the dreaded question after they notice my accent – “are you American?”
However, I’ve quickly noticed that this self-induced shame is completely and totally unnecessary. Although pretty much all of the stereotypes are true, and Americans usually are the loudest in the room, WHO CARES? It didn’t take long for me to give up on trying to fit in and “be Danish” because, as I’m sure you could have figured out, I’M NOT DANISH. Despite the dismal state of American politics and social life at the moment, I am still proud to be American. If the rest of the world hates America so much, why is it impossible for me to escape American influence? I admire every aspect of Danish life, from their community ideals to everyday pleasures like bike rides without a helmet. However, this doesn’t change the way I feel about my life in America, and I’m not going to pretend to be embarrassed of where I come from.
America is everywhere, and that is not a bad thing. I could write for days about the impact of colonization and the connection to globalization today, and how staggering it is that America’s influence is so far-reaching and deeply entrenched in foreign cultures, but I’m going to end the post here. I am studying abroad at the University of Copenhagen, an American student just here for the semester. I plan to immerse myself in the culture as much as possible, but I don’t intend to erase my cultural background from living for 20 years in the U.S.
And for your viewing pleasure – here are some nice photos from my Mom spending time with me for the past few days. Future posts will definitely comment on the people I’ve met, the places I’ve been, etc. For now, enjoy the gray days of Copenhagen through my iPhone camera!