Sunday, August 26, 2012

TO TOURIST OR NOT TO TOURIST

It's not exactly hard to pick out a tourist in a big city. They walk too slow, marvel at every crack on the ground and stall at each intersection to make sure they're going the right way. I'm sure the large Nikon camera swinging from my shoulder doesn't do me many favors, but after a full week in Copenhagen, I'd like to think I'm a tourist on occasion and an aspiring local the rest of the time. A friend from Georgetown and I spent Saturday afternoon exploring the Botanic Gardens and gawking at the crown jewels at the Rosenborg Castle amongst a sea of foreigners.


Now that I've been here for a full seven days, the challenge to "immerse" myself is starting to become clear. I have four months to explore the city so I don't feel pressured to see every major landmark in a single weekend. Because I signed up to live in a residential community with other DIS students, I have to make an extra effort to meet Danes. On the flip side, because there are only four of us in our apartment, we've been a little isolated from other Americans students as well. While it's nice to not be roaming the city with a herd of loud, squealing kids, it leaves us in a bit of a cultural limbo.

Last night I was able to take the train out to K√łge (pronounced like KOOgsh), a small town about 40 minutes south of Copenhagen to meet my visiting family. The father and three girls, Julie (17), Emma (14) and Ida (almost 10) met me at the train station and I spent the evening enjoying a fantastic homemade dinner of fresh salmon and chocolate-strawberry cake. Julie and Emma speak near fluent English and we had a great time chatting about schools, boys, and our love for Taylor Swift and cupcakes.

It was a refreshing change of pace to get out of the city and a wonderful experience to actually spend time with a Danish family. They were excited to hear about Georgetown, Denver and my experiences in Copenhagen so far. I'm looking forward to spending more time with them in the coming months but the experience reminded me of an old saying that is all too often overlooked: in order to make a friend, you have to be a friend. I can't sit around and wait for Danish people to make the first move. As I mentioned earlier, I knew I'd have to be prepared to push my limits and seek out new experiences. It's ok to be a tourist sometimes, but learning a new culture is about so much more than taking pictures in front of castles and swarming the bar with only other DIS students. "Someday" isn't a day of the week and if I want to be a local, I'll have to work at it every day, one handshake and one smile at a time.

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