Danish Social Norms

Danish Social Norms

This week in Denmark I finally started school which is probably the first time I remember looking forward to school. It has also helped me embrace and immerse myself in the country’s culture. School is difficult but I have made a few friends to help me with it and help me improve my Danish skills.

The people my age here can be very friendly and rambunctious, just as my friends back home which felt welcoming. Adults here are very relaxed on parenting to the point where their teenage children openly talk in front of them about how they got drunk that weekend or when they were with friends. I suppose the legal drinking age, which is sixteen for drinks consisting of lower amounts of alcohol, is something that does play into that and does make it much more socially acceptable than what I am used to. As well as a large percentage of teenagers smoke cigarettes and people seem not to mind at all.

The communication that some people have between each other is both scary and hilarious. I saw a teacher the other day flip off a student who was blocking his car. A lot of people say the word fuck quite often as well. I thought I was a loose cannon with my swearing before I came here but they use language like that about three times the amount that I do.

Besides the occasional cigarette butt they do a much better job of keeping the streets and sidewalks clean than the U.S. ever has. I love the architecture of all the old buildings, it never fails to amaze me.

I am still absolutely loving this entire country and am so very happy.

5 Things About Denmark I Have Learned So Far

5 Things About Denmark I Have Learned So Far

This was my first week in Denmark and so far things are going well. It wasn’t too easy at first but now I am starting to get into somewhat of a routine. There is so much here that is yet to be discovered and I am very excited to do so but here’s a list of what I do know so far.

#1 Danish Is Quite Difficult

I walked off that plane on Sunday thinking that I knew enough Danish to at least hold a very short conversation. I know basic phrases and I thought that I would understand at least 10% of what people said in a conversation. I have no idea what anyone here is saying at all. My current host family speaks in Danish during meals and it just goes in one ear and out the other for me and I am always embarrassed when someone asks me something in Danish and I have to tell them that I can’t speak Danish well at all. I will be taking lessons in school to help improve it but I am so lucky most of this population speaks English otherwise I would be screwed.

#2 The Scenery Is Much different than what I’m Used To

My hometown in the United States is 2700 feet(or 832 meters) above sea level along with many mountains in every direction you look. Here I am right next to the ocean and I did not think anywhere could be as flat as this. It’s all gorgeous here but I continuously look out at the distance and think I am dreaming because of the lack of mountains or hills or any difference in elevation.

#3 The Fashion Is So Simple

Normally what I wear in the U.S. would be some slightly tight jeans, a pair of vans, and a t shirt or bro tank with a unique design on it. And my current haircut consists of long hair coming from the top of my head that just barely touches the bottom of my nose along with all other sides of my hair being shaved down. While I was touring my school wearing a bright blue hoodie to match my Captain America shirt I noticed that I didn’t just stick out like a sore thumb, but looked like a hot pink sheep among a large flock of white sheep. People my age had simple plain shirts that at most had a few stripes on them with their hair either contained or cut short. My only response to that is that I foresee a shopping trip in my near future along with possibly a haircut.

#4 Interest In U.S. Politics

I can understand the interest in the current presidential race going on in my home country because it may affect our relations with other countries. I am glad that I cannot participate in it because of my age because I don’t care for Clinton or Trump. I assumed people would be asking about other topics such as guns or the lack of healthcare and college paid for by the government, and it is not too late for people to ask about those topics. So far I have only been asked a couple times about the presidential candidates and I think that I will try to memorize an answer for every time I must answer that question.

#5 The Area And Convenience Of How Close Things Are

Back home I had to drive everywhere, nothing was a simple walk away unless you want to sweat for an hour in the hot sun. Here there’s everything just a short distance away and I love it. Every household only needs one car because most of the time people can bike or walk anywhere they need to.

Everything here is going well and I love it, I am sure this exchange will be everything I want it to be.

My Last Day in Seoul

My Last Day in Seoul

Today was my final day in South Korea and to top it all off the Rotary Conference had a fantastic closing ceremony. Believe it or not the opening performance was a well known singer in South Korea called Psy who is most famous for his song: Gangnam Style. After the his performance the Rotary president gave a few words as well as the next Rotary president which afterwards they had a series of acts done by many talented people across the globe. They did any sort of art that included dancing, singing, and playing music.

I mostly wanted to reflect on this entire trip in this blog though so that is what I will be talking about now. When I got here this was the most diverse place I could think of. There were surprisingly fewer people that spoke English than I expected, there were very many people, and I had no idea how the table manners worked and wasn’t sure if I was supposed to eat my fries with my fingers or silverware. That all felt like it happened over a month ago.

This was by far one of the best places I have been to. People here are extremely kind, the food is amazing, and there is far more to do here than in my hometown. I feel as if I am coming out of this a slightly different person, one who is less ignorant about others’ cultures and a little less close minded. I think that feeling comes with all travel though.

The biggest thing about travel is that you cannot expect anything or you will probably be let down. Be educated in where you are going and know things such as a bit of its history, its population, and basics in that language such as “excuse me” or “thank you.” Traveling is an addicting feeling and it costs a lot most of the time so plan things out carefully but be prepared in case things don’t go your way.

I have personally traveled outside of the country a lot more than most of my peers. You learn a lot from it that include some of your actual opinions towards things and skills. I have had this amazing experience and such a great opportunity to travel and I am extremely happy for it.

The Power of People

The Power of People

Today was somewhat uneventful. However, I did attend a luncheon that was held at the Rotary Conference. During my wait for that event, I went to see a part of the convention called the House of Friendship.

The House of Friendship was made up of many booths run by Rotary clubs arounds the globe. In each of the booths was an interest or a cause that Rotarians have in common and organized so that they may be able to participate together. We saw a lot of these booths including  bird watching, beer tasting, piloting planes, and a personal interest that I have: skiing.

After  wandering around for a bit we found a place that was promoting something called Shelter Box that held a couple of tents and various tools such as shovels, hammers, and rope. My parents took a look around with an attendant to see what it was about while I was not as interested since I had been getting wifi in the convention center.

While I was messaging friends of mine that were back in the States another attendant came up to me and introduced herself. I did not want to be rude so I slid my phone back into my pocket. She asked about where I was from and about my exchange and was a very kind lady. She showed me around both of the tents that were set up, how things worked, and the kits they sent out. She brought it to my attention that these kits, which are portable boxes (about 2 x 2 x 3 feet in size), are filled with enough non-food supplies to live on for months. The tents will survive years. They are not designed for someone who wants to have a fun weekend out in the wilderness, but are for people whose homes have been destroyed by natural disaster, or for refugees caught in a political crisis.

This Shelter Box idea amazes me. It is cool that someone would take it upon themselves to create a product like this to respond to situations and natural disasters in a simple and clever way. My guide listed all the countries where these shelter boxes have been used, and that list includes North Korea, refugee camps near Syria, and Ecuador after this year’s earthquake.  The boxes cost about $1,000 and Rotary clubs raise money to “sponsor” them. Learning about this really opened my eyes to how easily people like me could maybe help someone in need in a simple but important way.

Finally I would like to state that the entirety of Rotary is absolutely amazing. I think it’s a fantastic thing that so many kind people can come together and help those in need and create a global community in which you feel welcomed and I cannot wait to be a Rotarian myself one day.

Having A Birthday Halfway Around The World

Having A Birthday Halfway Around The World

On this day of my family adventuring in Seoul I had my seventeenth birthday. You would expect something exciting to happen but I don’t normally get overexcited about my birthday. However my parents let me chose something to do today and since I had no idea what I could do I decided that we should take a look at a popular place in Seoul called Gangnam which was about an hour train ride from where we are staying.

Before we went to Gangnam though we had to stop by the Rotary Conference to see the opening ceremony. They had many traditional performances that included tae kwon do, k-pop, and sand art. After all of those and the flag ceremony the president of Rotary talked and then had the Secretary General of the United Nations gave a few words as well as prime ministers from Sri Lanka – which is the country in which the Rotary president is from – and South Korea.

We left the ceremony after two hours to catch the train so we could have some time to hang around in Gangnam. Just as we expected it was packed and there were crowds everywhere. There was apparently a lot of shopping that went on there and it is most famously known by the song called “Gangnam Style,” but we could not find any fun shopping and there was not much fun things to do besides take a picture in front of some picture that represented the song.

We decided to ditch Gangnam to see some tombs of the Joseon dynasty which sadly was not too interesting if you had already seen enough temples and palaces in Korea. We got a chance to visit a buddhist temple which was gorgeous and very peaceful. My mother had been aching to get Korean barbecue ever since we had got off the plane so we had found a nice spot for it that had employees that spoke enough English and we decided to eat all the food they put in front of us. It all tasted amazing and I would eat the same meal every day if I could.

I had a great day overall and this is most definitely going to be an unforgettable birthday of mine that was spent in a place very far from my home and I am so happy to have spent it with my wonderful family.

Maintaining Worldwide Friendships

Maintaining Worldwide Friendships

This morning was the beginning of why my parents had taken me to this country in the first place, it was the Rotary International Conference. Rotary International is a nonprofit organization that both of my parents put many volunteer hours into as well as many other adults worldwide do, Rotary’s main goals are to provide humanitarian services, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations, and to advance peace and goodwill around the world. It also happens to be the organization that runs my exchange program.

Today the conference started off with a few presentations discussing the exchange program, during most of which I excused myself to work on some schoolwork since I had no need to listen to these presentations which seemed to mostly target an audience of people who ran the exchange program. I wish I could say I finished any schoolwork but the internet at the event center was very difficult to work with so I spent a lot of my time walking around the area and viewing the creative and modern architecture.

Once the first couple of presentations were over everyone started to meet in the hallways and socialize. I met with Alex and Ole who are the inbound coordinator and chairman of the district in Denmark which will host my exchange. They both proved to be very friendly and gave me a couple tips in my Danish speaking and spoke about the host city of my exchange.

Today wasn’t very eventful but it was one of my first hand experiences that taught me that people around the world can come together and become friends with one another. I would also like to point out that I am a very pleased with this organization and I believe that it is one to very well promote world peace.

Seoul: Surprises around every corner

Seoul: Surprises around every corner

There are some days I wake up and feel in a crappy mood. This happens rarely. Today I woke up ready to hit something very hard but decided that I needed to keep my cool since I was halfway around the world. I think I handled this mood of mine very well today seeing that I did not yell at my parents out of hunger and rage and no one ended up with a black eye.

We started today’s adventure with visiting the Changdeokgung Palace which was very similar to the last palace and extremely beautiful, complete with a secret garden that we gained an hour and a half tour of. Just like in a lot of my language arts classes I didn’t pay as much attention to the person talking as I did the scenery of my surroundings. We had missed lunch and were very hungry once the tour ended. We rushed out of the palace and decided it was too hard to be immersed in culture when hungry so instead of having a traditional Korean dish we went to a place that sold burgers across the street. That was probably the best burger I have ever had. Next we visited the Korean War Memorial Museum. This was the most well put together museums I have been in. It had everything from the Korean war, from the list of all who had lost their lives fighting in it  to Kim Il-sung’s limo.

We finally got back to the neighborhood of our apartment after many train stops. I was very tired and ready to just nap but we went out to get dinner. This dinner was the thing that had completely made my day and put me in a happy mood.

Dinner started with my parents looking at pictures on a sign of what was on the menu of the restaurant when a waiter invited us to come in and sit down. My mother pointed to a picture of what we wanted and told him we wanted four of them. We sat down and the table had been built with a couple small grills so that some meals could be cooked and eaten while you sat. The waiter that sat us went to go help other customers while my parents flagged down another waiter who came over and after my parents tried to order drinks he looked at us for a moment and laughed nervously since he could speak absolutely no english, but he did however get the attention of our first waiter who spoke very minimal english so that we could get our drinks.

Not long had gone by and we had all gotten our food and it had turned out to be a bowl full of rice, raw egg, raw beef, and small pieces of seaweed. We were not sure what to make of it and were wondering if we should use on of the grills of not so we sat for a couple minutes wondering what to do. In these couple minutes two people walked into the restaurant and were wearing Cass Lite shirts which happened to be the brand of beer my parents were drinking at the time. They went around and talked to every table and when they finally got to our table the girl spoke in decent english.

“If you get drunk on Cass,” she said gesturing to my mother’s beer bottle, “then we will give you free present.” She placed three water bottles on our table which seemed to be for us and asked me if I could get a picture with her. I agreed to the picture and she handed her coworker her camera and placed my mother’s bottle of beer in front of me to show off the product and once the picture had been taken they moved to the next table. I am hoping for two things currently, that the picture they took will not be something used against me in the future and that she had no idea that I am under the legal drinking age in this and most other countries.

Once the people from Cass left the table we were again stuck trying to figure out how to eat our food. We again called over our semi English speaking waiter and he showed us that we were supposed to stir it all up and eat it as it was. My mother was trying to ask about grilling it and kept pointing to the grill, our waiter had absolutely no idea what she was asking so we ended up accidentally ordering a fifth plate of food. After finally getting over the fact that we were eating raw beef and seeing my father get a spoonful of food fed to him as if it were a plane or train by our waiter we noticed it had actually tasted decent.

Throughout our meal we were listing all the things that had made this dinner very awkward and did our best to keep from laughing. We finally finished our food and paid. We gathered our things and started to leave the restaurant the waiter started to say thank you and on our way out the door he sprayed us each with Febreze. I could not handle it anymore at that point, at no time ever in my life have I ever seen that happen in any business and I laughed so hard I could barely breathe until we got to our front door. This city ceases to bore me and every day there is something far different than what I am used to and today was no exception.