Playing the Part

25 seconds. That’s my current best “act-like-a-Dane” time. It wasn’t particularly impressive, either. A Greenpeace volunteer simply began talking to me excitedly in Danish, their enthusiasm just too darn bubbly to interrupt with (allegedly) nasally American English. I threw in a few head nods- it certainly wanted to agree!- and even found myself adopting a cautiously optimistic facial expression that I assumed would be appropriate for this particular rant. Eventually I interjected, and only the first syllable of “sorry” was necessary for his chipper smile to fade into a slight grimace. It was rude on my part, I suppose, to “lead him on” for as long as I did. But man did it feel good.

A similar phenomenon happens when I go to the grocery store to satisfy my new-found crippling addiction- dark, salty, ammonia-y licorice. What I assume to be the price is spat out rapidly at me, though I play it cool and simply hand over the cash. Sometimes more words are spoken, though like a true Dane I am reserved and simply wait for my chance to say “tak” (thank you) and head out.

This next week seems ripe with opportunities to act like a Dane for a full minute, potentially two. I have been practicing how to order food and asking if I can help, and the word for “sorry” (unskyld, pronounced “oon-school”) is at the tip of my tongue. This weekend I will complete the Danish hat trick of visiting its three largest cities in one day. Starting in Copenhagen, I will venture westward to the third largest city, Odense, and then north to the Jutland region and its capital of Aarhus. Leaving Copenhagen will mean leaving the near-guarantee that everyone speaks English, and I look forward to a bit more of a necessity to try out Danish, or at least the arm-flailing hand-waving desperation that comes with no real shared language.

I now I only use one piece of bread to make a sandwich, and maybe even fool the grocery store clerk into thinking I’m some sort of mute,  but I’m likely still one or two steps away from being a full blown Dane. And maybe it’s more like six or seven steps, because these guys are descendants of the Vikings (pronounced “weak-ings”, perfection through contradiction), and they surround themselves with crap like this. Inspired or horrified, enjoy.

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