Yesterday goes down in the books as the first day that I rode my bike in the city of Copenhagen, and also the first time that I fell off my bike in the city of Copenhagen. Don’t ask me how it happened. I’m going to blame the bike. Thankfully, there were no cars coming, so I only ended up with a dirty jacket and some bruised knees. Besides that slight mishap, yesterday was great. I went into the city for class in the morning, then after class hung out at a nice little coffee place called The Living Room. It was dimly lit with huge comfortable couches, soft music, candlelight, and tons of “hiding” spots in different rooms. The only downside to the place is that it would be too dark to do reading or homework. In my next post, I’ll show a picture that Alex took there, which gives you a good sense of the atmosphere. I’ll definitely go back again! After that, I met up with Emil and biked to his apartment in Frederiksberg, which is about 5 kilometers from DIS. Then, we met my Danish language and culture professor and some other students for dinner at a nearby cafe where I had pasta with filet mignon. Thank you DIS!!!
Today is Wednesday which means I have no class. Many Wednesdays I will have field studies in or around Copenhagen, but today there is nothing scheduled for me. Instead, I’ll be hanging out at home, doing laundry for the first time here (wish me luck), and then going into the city tonight for an event at the Studenterhuset, a cafe for students in Copenhagen: http://studenterhuset.com/
…not the best idea. Being in Denmark has been great for me so far—for the first time in my life, I can wear heels and not tower over everyone. I’m 5’10, and that’s taller than the average American man, not to mention 95% of American women. Here, the average height is around 6 feet for men. I’ve seen plenty of guys at least 6’4, which is rare in the U.S.. The only problem is that when I’ve tried wearing heels, they sometimes get stuck between the stones in the streets, resulting in an awkward stumble. I suppose that’s the price I have to pay.
Today was my first full Children in a Multicultural Context class—both the seminar and practicum discussion were today, so class was in “session” for a total of 4 and a half hours. Luckily, Danish professors seem to be more laid back than most American professors (so far). Maja, our professor for the class, gave us an hour lunch break, where our only tasks were to eat, and to ask random Danes on the street one of the following questions: 1) What is your definition of culture? 2) How do you feel about multiculturalism? or 3) What is your experience with or opinion on childcare in Denmark? The only thing that shocked me was that in Denmark, multiculturalism is almost seen as an issue that needs to be addressed.
In the U.S., we are a country of immigrants. We are used to our communities being composed of a plethora of ethnicities, and in schools, we try to teach our children to be tolerant and accepting of those different from us. In Denmark, immigration is a relatively new thing. For a long time, it was just the Danes here, with occasional European visitors. Some of the people on the street expressed distaste for multiculturalism, especially when the other cultures were not European. This is not to be confused with racism. There seems to be less racism here than there is in the U.S.. My host dad explained to me that since Danes pay such high taxes, even if they are suddenly unemployed, they will be financially assisted by the government, a lot more than we would be in the U.S. Recently, foreigners have been catching on to that, and that is part of the problem and why some people have negative attitudes about multiculturalism.
In class, we were warned about some of the shocking differences between the way Americans treat children and the way that Danes treat children. For one, adults in Denmark do not interfere with children’s playtime, even when there are disputes between two or more kids. Children are not punished for fighting. Instead, they are taught how to work out their differences on their own. Danish children are allowed to use normal forks and knives as toddlers. Sippy cups do not exist. Instead, children learn early that when they tip cups, the liquid spills, and then they are responsible for cleaning up the mess. On Thursday I will be working with kids for the first time, so I will be able to witness these, and probably many other differences firsthand.