Generally Europeans always comment about how loud Americans are. And I guess we are. You go to the subway or metro of any European city and the one group of voices you hear that are almost shouting in comparison to the others are American voices. Europeans aren’t like that, and I didn’t realize the implications of that until recently.
If you see a group of Americans sitting around not talking to each other, they’re probably all feeling something close to dread and trying desperately to think of the next topic of conversation. We even have a phrase for this: “awkward silence”.
If we see a whole group of people doing this, but not feeling the awkward bit (a bunch of people standing there complacently in silence), the thought is “wow, they really don’t want to be around each other” or “wow they’re not having any fun at all”. Here, it means… well, I haven’t quite figured that out yet, but here it doesn’t mean the above. I’ve seen groups of long-time friends as well as new acquaintances just stand around there and not talk for amazingly unbearable stretches of time. I don’t mean like a break in conversation; I mean like 5 minutes of just sitting there, staring at each other.
As a new person trying to mingle with groups and make friends, this definitely weirded me out at first, until I saw this was the same thing everyone else does. Not that I don’t still feel weird, I just know it’s not me.
I guess we also have a less-common “comfortable silence” in the US as well. It usually doesn’t occur in large groups, and it’s that feeling where you’re just so comfortable with someone that you don’t even need to say anything. It’s rare and noteworthy for us. I don’t know if that’s what the Europeans feel, it might be some combination of both.
I just realized how ambiguous this makes our behavior. If an American is silent with you, it means either they don’t want to be around you, they do want to be around you and you’re making them uncomfortable, or they feel super-close to you. Take that, confusing Europeans!
This happened a week or two ago, and was too hilarious to not share.
In an effort to learn the Danish language, I set my phone to Danish. My friend was visiting and needed to borrow my phone. I dialed for him and he called up the girl he was staying with. Now, the Danish word for “end” (as in ending a phone call) is, unfortunately, “slut.”
So, at the end of the phone conversation, he remarked on the sillyness of the word before he hit the button and ended the call. Unfortunately, from the other end, the girl heard:
“OK great, I’ll see you soon. Bye. (pause) Haha, slut!” Click.
Why Copenhagen? Why Denmark? I get that question enough I think I should write it out somewhere.
Most people assume it’s work, love, or some government regulations that brings me out here. It’s actually none of the above. I actually hadn’t even been to Denmark, nor had I met anyone from Denmark prior to me deciding to go.
I went to Sweden and Norway for a month or so back in November. The Scandinavians I randomly met were some of the nicest, most warm-hearted people ever. To the point where I literally said to a few of them “Stop it, your kindness is making me uncomfortable.” They seemed to be caring on a large-scale as well, as in they seem to care about their citizens. At the very least, they give them things like socialized health care, their allotment towards education, not to mention that their public transportation is (relatively) clean and reliable. Not that I personally needed lots of that, but when people are generally not miserable, it seems to reflect on the way you feel while walking around in public and interacting with people day-to-day.
I started looking at other stats as well, such as their sociology. There’s the happiness index, an organizing principle and other random sources that claim this is a great place. There’s also the fact that their economy is far less in ruins than most of the world right now.
They also seem to know how to actually balance work and life. I feel like we’re getting into a feudalistic perma-debt situation in the US, and even when you’re doing fairly well for yourself, you still feel like your situation is precariously hanging on your job. If you lose your job, you lose absolutely everything. This makes people very stressed workaholics, and not really willing to push the status quo at work.
I have no idea if any of that is different here. I might find the exact same things. I might find something completely different. But I thought I’d explore while I still have the ability to do so. I’ll try to keep this updated as to how it goes!
I thought I’d start blogging so people know what I’m up to in Denmark.
For people who might’ve found this by accident: I’m Nimish. I moved from the US to Denmark, possibly without much forethought. The internet offered to chronicle my thoughts and adventures, so I obliged.