Unexpected Lessons

When traveling, there are some things you expect to make an impact. Learning the language will be hard, but have a great payoff. Learning the city will make you feel accomplished. The sights will take your breath away. But the best parts of study abroad are the ones you never saw coming. For me, this is Ian, Louis, and Kenneth. I will never forget the hospitality, kindness, and hygge that they have shown me and leaving them has actually caused me more tears than I would ever admit to them.

I met these boys at a restaurant-bar combination in the building I’ve been living in. “Up Wonder” is a cute diner on the first floor of the building while “Down Wonder” hosts the bands and bar in the basement. Hygge is really something they practice, and let me tell you how.

Because of its proximity to my building, it became one of the easiest places for me to stop for a quick bite in the evenings. I stopped by there at least twice in the first week, meeting Louis and Kenneth at the restaurant. Louis was absolutely hilarious, sassing the cook constantly about Danish customs making “no sense to his French self.” They talked to me about Copenhagen, what to do here, and wished me well.

I came in next week for a soda, wanting to talk to Louis again and tell him I hit one of his destinations and met Ian. He was quiet, let me order in Danish, answered in Danish, gave me my soda and let me leave the counter. The cook, same as before, talked to me for a few minutes, and I left. This circle went on a couple of times that week, as Kenneth and Louis were not to be back until after the weekend.

Seeing them again was hilarious. He lit up, yelled my name, and ran around the counter for a hug. It was so funny to have an explicit connection with someone as random as the pizza guy, but I genuinely had a great time just talking with these guys. I made it a point to stop by at least 3 times a week, even if for a soda, to see them all.

After 4 weeks, my Danish was much better than the first time I stumbled through my order. All the guys were impressed with my accomplishments and were so excited for me to be able to flaunt my language so confidently after a few weeks. And, after accidentally pronouncing skinke with too harsh of a vowel, Ian (the quiet one) says to me in a perfect southern-drawl how to pronounce it right. I STARED. He just laughed…and said one of the most memorable things to me of the entire trip: “I would never have hindered your experience by telling you I was American.” Ian said it was so rare for American students to want to learn the language, he refused to talk aloud to me so that I would continue to grow in Danish. We must have talked for an hour after that, him telling me what he had wanted to say in the last few weeks but determined to be more fun to watch me struggle in language barriers.

I am genuinely going to miss these guys. I think they were a major driving factor in the desire I had to learn Danish. Their English was good, but talking to them in their language, at least for a bit, felt more like I was trying to get to know them as they tried to get to know me. If you guys ever see this, thank you. You made me feel at home by going out of your way to help the struggling American with her language deficits. Thank you, and if you’re ever in the states, let me know. I’d like to show you the hospitality you showed me.

Tak skal du have, meg vin.