It never ceases to amaze me how little time it takes for me to feel like I’ve been in one place for a long time. When I moved from Des Moines, Iowa to Clinton, New York to start school at Hamilton College a couple of years ago, my cozy campus of 1,800 students quickly felt like home. This past September, when I moved to Washington, D.C. to begin work at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, it took less than a week for me to find my niche and settle into my routine. Now, I have made an even bigger move, to Copenhagen, Denmark, but somehow it already feels pretty normal. I feel like I have known my host parents for longer than a week and a half, I have a few new friends who I really enjoy spending time with, the homework is starting to pile up, and the city is finally a little better than a confusing maze.
While I am beginning to feel comfortable in Copenhagen, and it seems as though I’ve been here for longer than I have, there are definitely some differences between this relocation and my previous moves. For instance, one of the most obvious changes is the language. I came into the country without knowing a word of Danish, and while I’m currently not much better, I am taking a Danish class to improve my abilities. For now, though, it can be a bit isolating, even with a lovely host family, because the language barrier becomes apparent in almost every conversation with my host parents. Besides the language, there are other less tangible differences that I am adjusting to. I’m familiar with the process of getting used to cultural differences, as upstate New York differs from Des Moines, and D.C. differs from both places. However, some of the changes here are so different that they still catch me off guard sometimes. Take the nonexistent law against open containers (except on the bus!). When I see a man drinking a Carlsberg on the train on my way home from work, my gut reaction is still to feel surprised. I think I will end up appreciating this divergence from the United States, however, as what 21-year-old would object to no fines for open containers in public?
Another way in which Denmark differs from the United States is in its social policies. Coming from a public policy background at my home university, I am very interested in these differences. Living with a host family comes in handy here, because I am very curious and am constantly peppering them with questions on the educational system and their views on the high taxes. I am also studying environmental science, which makes Copenhagen, with its high energy costs and extensive public transportation, a very unique place to stay. I’ve already heard about some of my friends butting heads with host families over heating and shower length… Apparently, Americans are known for their long showers! Good to know we have a reputation for being clean.
I am slowly getting my footing here in Copenhagen, and I am looking forward to the adventures that lie before me. In such a historic and beautiful city, what else could my future hold?