The little differences

grey The little differencesWhen Vincent was describing his trip to Paris to Jules in Pulp Fiction (just before they shot the black drug dealers with the tasty burgers) he was saying how it is the little differences that he noticed. Since expatriating myself to Denmark I have been noticing the same thing, some things are so very different as to be noticeable, some so very similar as to stand out.

Last time I visited here the main thing I took home was that some Danish people, I will not name names, eat prawns in mayonnaise for breakfast. The most obvious example is that the roofs are very steep here. They sit at an angle of about 60 degrees as opposed to the 30 degrees at home. I think this is because when it snows in winter the builders like to encourage the snow to fall off rather than crush a building. Jette and I went swimming on Friday night, we have a big public pool right across the road. Obviously the sign outside the male change room was different, it said ‘herreomklædning’, once inside the differences continued. I was greeted by the sight of three men standing around chatting, completely nude, not a thread. Now, thankfully back home in Australia I did not have any reason to spend any time in change rooms not being a football player but I do not think that Aussies would be comfortable standing around penises in the breeze chatting like that, maybe they are, I will never know. I found a corner to change in, hastily threw on my swim shorts and went swimming.

The public toilets here are really clean and fresh looking, you have to pay which is not a huge impost considering a fee of three kroner saves one from having to stand in ankle deep urine reading about some poor bloke who wants to meet his soulmate. The bread here is amazing, two nights ago Jette introduced me to Danish Rye bread, not the soft fluffy stuff we get in Tassie. This Rye is solid and almost black, full of grain one iPhone sized slice had me needing an afternoon nap, great with Vegemite, which by the way you cannot buy here as it is enhanced with Vitamin B. The Danish food authorities are trying to decide if it is a food or a vitamin supplement, judging by Jette’s reaction when I fed it to her there would not be much of a demand for this black gold in Denmark.

Pushbikes and cars. The most common method of transport is pushbikes, it is not uncommon to see a grandma pedaling furiously around with her shopping or a father with his entire family perched on handlebar seats and tucked into little trailers attached to the seat post. Every road has a one quarter width lane purely for pushbike use. When crossing the road it is important to look carefully as the bikes are quiet and can really sneak up on you. Speaking of crossing the road, they drive on the wrong side here, sometimes I find myself forgetting and more than once I have taken my first step only to have a bus or a grandma on a pushbike go whizzing past my nose.

Because they drive on the wrong side of the road it is natural for Danish people to walk on the wrong side of the footpath. I find myself constantly bumping into other pedestrians while out walking and doing the weird walking-more-slowly-from-left-to-right dance when approaching random strangers in the street…while I am on random strangers, Aarhus has passed the stranger smile test. Today on my way to the supermarket I did a little test that I sometimes do in a new city, I simply smile openly at strangers to gauge responses, Aarhus had a nearly 100% strike rate with the return smile. I may have been a bit ambitious with the skinny jeans wearing teenager with spiked up hair.

The cars are tiny and most drivers have an uncanny ability to fit them into postage stamp sized parks. Cars names are along the lines of the Chevrolet ‘Sprite’ the Peugeot ‘Happy little fun car‘ and the Renault ‘I don’t care if you think I am gay sedan‘ It is rare to see a car that will comfortably seat more than two adults, or four midgets. Last Thursday Jette took me to a work function to meet her colleagues. One similarity that stuck out is everyone enjoyed a good laugh and the blokes were interested in cars. Bernt, one of Jette’s colleagues arrived in a Chevrolet Eldorado, the boys, including me, were soon outside kicking tyres, listening to the big V8 engine and drinking beers, not dissimilar to what would happen in Australia except that Bernt had been spared the expense of a right hand conversion.

I am relieved to report that the most commonly used greeting is ‘hi’, their formal greeting when meeting someone in a position of authority or who you want to show respect to is ‘G’day‘ this did result in a few funny looks when I said “G’day” to the supermarket boy packing my groceries this afternoon.

Saturday night was a big party night, Jette’s father Jens Peter and his partner Majbrit held a combined 110th birthday party, Jens Peter recently turned 60 and Majbrit 50. The night started out like any party in Australia with people lining the walls clutching their drinks and suffering halting conversation. My conversation was even more stilted by my non-existent Danish, basically I hung off Jette and tried to find some English speakers. When we sat down to dinner however I learnt two things about parties in Denmark. One was that instead of making speeches it is completely acceptable to write a song and have everyone in the room sing along (quite a sight, especially when you cannot understand a word) and Two that anytime the conversation falters at the table it is completely acceptable to say “Skol” at which point everyone at the table has to take an enthusiastic swig of their drink or risk looking rude and uninterested. I had finally learnt a useful Danish word and was enjoying a chat with the English speaking lady that Jens Peter had kindly sat next to Jette and I. Leaving the table after dinner thoroughly skol’d I had a lovely chat with Jens Peter about Australian bushwalking and the like (surprised?) before retiring to a corner with Jette’s sisters and brother in law. As the night grew old the party morphed back into what you would commonly see in Australia, some people drinking, the obligatory way too drunk guy trying to make friends, more people dancing, they love ACDC here, which along with my lengthening hair, makes dancing, or standing there banging my head, easy.

The following day back at Jette’s apartment I managed to assemble my Ikea desk bought on Saturday and set up something of an office from which to study and work on my book. The view out the window over Aarhus serves as both inspiration and a reminder that I am no longer living in Tasmania, not that I can forget, every time I open the fridge those prawns are staring back out at me.

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