Friday, January 18, 2013

Everyday Danish

Just like every morning at the workplace, everyone gathered to have breakfast at 10am. I poured myself a cup of tea and got a plate. What they call a plate at work is actually a paper towel. The first time they handed me a paper towel and said “here’s your plate,” I thought they were kidding, it being “Den-sarcasm-mark” and all. They weren’t. Anyway. I was just doing my I-have-no-clue-what-anyone-is-saying thing, until I witnessed the oh-so-believable unbelievable. The guy sitting across from me grabbed a piece of bread from the bread basket, a “fluffy” piece (normal American bread). He buttered it. I didn’t really think anything of it, UNTIL HE GRABBED A PIECE OF RUGBRØD TO TOP HIS FLUFFY BREAD. This Dane had really out-Daned himself. He literally put bread on bread. The visual still makes me chuckle. 

My favorite days are BIRTHDAYS! Kagekone (cake lady) is served on a woman's birthday. It's a two-layer shortbread-like cookie with a jam in the middle. Very tasty, and a bit creepy. Topped with licorice and Danish flags!

I’ve been living here for over a month, and one would think I know how to use the washing machine. I have no clue how it works. Okay, you all are probably thinking one of two things: she hasn’t done laundry in over a month? OR she knows how to use a washing machine in the US? Obviously I have done laundry, and usually there are words on washing machines. Welp, not this one. There are FOUR BUTTONS and I can’t figure it out. One has all these numbers that mean nothing to me, another is the temperature (a number in Celsius, of course), then there’s one that looks like the sun rising over a hot water bottle with a ½ in it, and a C with a circle. There is no way I am just bad at all things house related. Those buttons are crazy. I never do the same things twice. Sometimes it runs and spins and I open it up (another ordeal) to find dry, dirty clothes. I heard water. It never touched my clothes. What’s the point? Where’d the water go? Right now I am running a load. Who knows what I’ll find when I manage to open the door.

Anyone care to enlighten me on what these mean?

Sad but true story: I was really impressed and proud of myself when I made ice cubes in Toffifee trays. I kind of want to go to the store and ask if they sell ice. I might as well wear the US flag when I do it. As if there would be any question. 

GENIUS! Toffifee ice cube trays.

It has only taken me a few weeks at work to introduce my five fingers into my wardrobe. Surprising it took me this long. Unfortunately there is a good bit of snow on the ground, and five fingers aren’t even cold-weather shoes.

The opposite of five fingers would have to be snow boots. They’re warm and comfortable and awkwardly clunky. So, like people would wear Dr. Martins to the clubs in the 1990’s, I wear my snow boots to the clubs in 2013. Do yourself a favor, and learn from my mistakes. Don’t dance in snow boots for five hours. Just trust me. And there's a lot more advice you can take home from this story.

When in Denmark, do as the Danes do—play handball!! I attended my third practice tonight, and I love it! I still have a lot of work to do, because I don’t understand the rules or the positions, but I am getting there. The practice is conducted in Danish, so I have a translator by my side all the time. They have a hard time explaining the rules to me. Actually, they tell me no English-speaking country is good at handball. One day as I was leaving work, my boss stopped me as I was walking out the door (he knew I had practice later that evening) and said “I need to tell you one thing.” OH NO, what have I done?! “You will be the best handball player when you go back to the United States.” I don’t even know where I would play handball in the US, but we all know I’ll try. 

I can’t quite figure out what sport it is most like. It reminds me a bit of lacrosse with some basketball. There is a good amount of contact, but I learned tonight that you can’t grab someone’s throwing arm shoulder from behind and throw them to the floor. Oops. You have to wear this extremely sticky substance on your hands so you can actually grip the ball. This complicates throwing, and it also rips the skin off your fingertips, but it’s all great fun. 

I am loving my job. Trying to understand techy manuals written in Danglish is a bit difficult, but in the end it’s fulfilling when I get it. Or just figure out the correct phrase they were looking for in English. As a part of our software, we have a Training Site. It takes the user to documents, powerpoints, manuals, and basically anything about our software. I was asked to create an icon that will be used for this site. I must say, the end product is pretty sweet, and I worked really hard on it. If I can I will post it later. Other reasons for loving my workplace are I can go do Gangnam Style in the canteen (eating area) with the lady who cooks up lunch and sing Lady Gaga, or anything else, in my office. I can be my quirky self, and no one cares, or at least no one cares in English!

Time and time again, I am proving myself to be a plant murderer. Helle came home to crispy poinsettias. I have a dying hyacinth in my room. Anyone can grow a hyacinth here! I can’t even keep ferns alive in Charleston. I could probably kill an air plant. Fake plants might be my only option, and those are so classy. I want to buy a desk plant. Maybe it's a sign that I can't figure out how to buy one at the store.

Hyacinth: my latest victim.

I was getting on the 200 bus in Viby Torv, and it's a blue bus so you have to enter through the front doors and pay the bus driver or show him your pass. My pass is good for Aarhus county, but I play handball in Hørning in Skanderborg county, so I have to pay an extra 10 kr each way. I go up to the bus driver, show him my pass and say "I'm going to Hørning." Taking out one of his headphones (why did he have headphones in?), he replies "That's nice," and gives me a wink and a smile. Unsure if the middle-aged bus driver was flirting with me and letting me ride to Skanderborg county for free, I give him a slightly confused smile and head toward the seats. Then he says, 
"Oh! Do you want a ticket?" "Yeah, that's kind of what I was implying." He then asks,"Do you know where you're going? Would you like me to make an announcement?" "I've been there before, but if you really want to make an announcement for the girl who has no clue what she's doing, you can." Take the amount of attitude you think I said that with and divide it by twenty. It was quite funny. 

Speaking of funny, Europeans use "funny" and "fun" incorrectly. Anytime "fun" should be used, they say "funny." Was your weekend funny? Unless you're my friend, Lauren, who laughs at everything, I bet you meant fun. But then I find it funny, not fun, and laugh inside. 

Foggy day in Hasselager. My iPhone 3GS in incapable of taking good pictures.

Since I am no longer attempting to be a vegetarian, I thought it was high time I live up to my American identity and find myself a good burger. After asking around the lunch table where a co-worker and I should get a quality burger, we decided on a place called Sharks. I read raving reviews about "The best burgers in Denmark" and it was even ranked one of the best burgers in the city by a local website that does reviews on a bunch of things. I was excited. I was craving a burger, a big, juicy burger, that would make me feel like I was in America for a little bit. I ordered the Chicago Blues burger with bleu cheese, bacon, onions,lettuce, pickles, and tomato. There were other options like the New York Hangover with fried onions, bacon, cheese, and a fried egg, or the Texas Burger with guac and salsa, the San Francisco on some strange bun with the usual suspects, cucumber and marinated mushrooms, OR my favorite, The Las Vegas All-In, a 14oz burger with double cheese, bacon and scrambled eggs. I would probably have gotten that one if the burger was half the size. Not customary in Denmark is to take your food home with you in a doggy bag. So not only do you pay too much, you don't get to take your leftovers home with you. Eat up! I also got a side of fries, and a bottle of water. Because tap wasn't an option apparently. 

Half my burger from Sharks. Glad my phone focused on the bleu cheese and lettuce graveyard.
If this is the best Denmark has to offer burger-wise, an American can only shake their head in disappointment. It was a mediocre at best. There was still pink in the middle, which I prefer, but the burger was dry. The toppings were good, but really all I could taste was bleu cheese. I would have been upset if I paid $10 for such a meal, but I paid $25. Ouch. The fries weren't even anything to crave. McDonald's are probably better. Even though there was a Chiefs helmet on the wall, I won't be returning. 

On a clear day you can see the Sea from the tall hill.

Where Americans sort of have a personal bubble, Danes have a small personal planet. Seats in the bus are in twos. If someone is sitting in one, that means both are taken, you stand. Also, I have found myself getting strange looks by people walking. I think I walk too close because people will look back at me like some creep is on their tail, following them to their home. I don't look creepy and I don't act creepy, but I'm some alien invader on their personal planet, and that's not okay. I don't even speak their language. And a nice smile is not universal in this case. 

New year, new me. I'm preparing different dishes from around the world. Hungarian goulash, Italian minestrone, Thai chicken curry. Knorr really knows how to capture cuisines from across the world and put them in package of just-add-water soup. 

Why Europeans don't eat peanut butter. Bird cashew cat noot? It's okay. Not the best tasting, but the only option.

 In case you were wondering, they do talk about Vikings. Once Denmark had conquered all of Scandinavia and Greenland. Now they have a tiny country, but a good men's handball team. When they're feeling down, they "show the 1992 soccer game when we beat Germany, and everyone is happy again." Quoted a co-worker on that one. It's the little things that make them happy. Maybe that's why I like it here. It doesn't take much to excite me or make me happy. I'm amused by simple things, and so are they. Right now this is the only place I belong, and I am pretty happy.

"I'm really craving that school chalk candy!" That's fun. or is it funny?

Many fun things coming up! I might get in touch with my cultural side soon...thinking outside the packet. Next post will have better pictures, even though the washing machine button ones are pretty good.