It only took about five minutes for me to realize that being in a country like Denmark would be more complicated than I previously thought. Although the letters and a few words at Copenhagen Airport looked fairly familiar, the excess of extra sounds and syllables, as well as the foreign currency was enough to send me running straight to the info desk where I thankfully discovered that most Danes are fluent in English.
Needless to say, I was overwhelmed and embarrassed. The overwhelming sensation that I would be unable to navigate in another country and would somehow end up in the wrong places as well as the embarrassment of being an American who knows so little of the world was probably the worst feeling to have in the short moments I stepped off of the airplane.
There aren't enough words to really capture the feeling of being a place that is literally foreign. My first few days and hours in Copenhagen was a combination of the sound of Danish being spoken, the sight of dozens of bicyclists rolling down the streets, and the occasional yelp of an intoxicated futbol (soccer) fan. (I found out later that Europeans take soccer very seriously, even at eleven o'clock in the morning.)
The city of Copenhagen was unlike anything I had ever experienced. The hundred year old buildings stood tall and intimidating, crammed next to each other, almost shoulder to shoulder but still had a charm that made you want to enter and walk up and down their wooden staircases. The cobblestone streets, though not very pleasant to walk on with a huge rolling suitcase, were unique and was a welcomed change from the cracked pavement and pot-hole riddled streets of San Francisco.
The feeling I had from simply walking down the street and hearing a traffic jam of languages was both peaceful and exciting. I was not sure what to expect the hours before I reached Denmark, but I was honestly shocked at the kind of diversity that flourished in such a small area like Copenhagen. I later found out that many of the people in Denmark speak an average of three to four languages, whereas my limited Spanish-speaking skills left over from high school are nothing more than a phrase or two asking for the restroom.
At the same time, the people were not at all offended or upset at my limited communication, most people were friendly and stopped when I asked for help while they directed me according to my tourist map to where I needed to go. I soon fell into the routine of meeting amused Danes who were happy to help and even added in American English slang so that I'd feel comfortable. Oh, the joys of traveling.
There still aren't enough words or even pictures I could use to describe what happened in the first few hours of being in a foreign country like Denmark, but there are definitely enough memories and anecdotes to illustrate the confusion and comfort of life over there.
Political Science major (International Relations concentration)