First Impressions of Denmark

Denmark is a beautiful country. Its landscapes are beautiful and its citizens are always willing to help if you need it. I did some research before traveling to Aarhus, but I still wasn’t sure of what I would experience while studying here. My first day spent in Aarhus was a bit of a blur. I had spent the last twenty-four hours traveling from Philly to Hamburg, Germany and then taking a train to Aarhus. Overall, I was exhausted and a bit jet lagged, so I might not have noticed as much as I could have. But here are the three things my overtired mind noticed when I first got to Denmark.

First impression of Denmark: it’s beautiful, and very green.

My first impression of Denmark was traveling through the countryside on a train heading from Hamburg, Germany to Aarhus. The accommodation was comfy, the announcers spoke half in Danish, half in English and sometimes in German as well. The countryside flew by and reminded me a little of the midwest United States – flat and full of farmland, although with less corn and more cows. When I finally got to Aarhus I was so excited to see the city, and that’s when I realized that not only is the Danish landscape pretty and green, but they are green in another way – recycling. Along the streets are receptacles to sort out your trash. While it is not the best country in the world for recycling, Denmark is putting in initiatives to reduce its waste and carbon footprint.

My second impression of Denmark: the streets are different. And bikes are everywhere

My second impression of Denmark was appreciating the architecture as I was lugging my very heavy suitcase through the streets of Aarhus. Luckily for me, Aarhus University provided me with two awesome exchange buddies, who were there to greet me and give me a very welcoming car ride to my new dorm. Cars are super expensive to own in cities in Denmark, so it’s not very common to have one. And that means bicycles are the preferred mode of transportation and what really struck me at first was the biking lanes. In Philadelphia and any big city that I have visited in the US, bike lanes are painted in the streets, and while you could bike anywhere it isn’t the safest option. Nearly everywhere in Denmark the bike lanes are like separate sidewalks. When you get off a bus in Denmark you have to look both ways for bikes instead of cars. The first few days of walking around, I might have angered some Danish bicyclists by forgetting to look for them before crossing the street. My point is: bicycles are a big deal here, and everyone has one. My favorite example of this is Copenhagen, where bicycle parking can be done in two levels, a bike on top of a bike to save space on the street.

Photo Credit: Vanessa Wong

My third and last first impression: Danish is hard.

I did my best to try to learn some Danish phrases before coming. Duolingo is great and all, and I can totally get by in the grocery stores picking out some words from labels so I know what I’m buying. But when it comes to actually speaking Danish, I’m lost. If I try to learn words by myself, there is no way I’ll pronounce them right. When I buy pastries at the store, sometimes I try to say the name of the pastry without pointing to it. That’s always a disaster, but lucky for me everyone I meet is super nice and willing to speak to me in English. Danish is a challenge, but by the end of the semester I’ll have some phrases under my belt.