Me, ordering coffee in Danish: [blah blah blah Danish]
Barista-dude: OK, I'll bring that out to you when it's ready.
Me, really sick of people switching to English when I speak Danish to them: … Why are you speaking English? My Danish is fine.
Barista-dude: I'm Brazilian, I don't speak Danish. Nothing personal.
Me: [Feeling like an asshole for the rest of the day]
Tag Archives: my danish sucks
Me, ordering coffee in Danish: [blah blah blah Danish]
Copenhagen is freckled with what are called ‘training pavilions’.
You can do something like 25 exercises on these things, all in the comfort of a waterproof, semi-public panopticon. I started using the one on the way to work last year as a way of staying in gay-shape (big arms, chicken legs) to avoid the gym, which is subjectively boring and objectively expensive.
So I do my little turn on the pavilion a few times a week. One of the charmingest features of this routine is that the Pav sits in the middle of Copenhagen’s ghettoest (i.e. most full of teenagers) neighborhood, and I am verbally accosted by youths roughly every other time I stop to work out.
Usually this consists of low-caliber stuff, pointing and giggling and whatnot. There are three girls, though, who seem to hang out at the pavilion every afternoon, and have taken to shout-counting while I’m doing pullups or whatever (“..Three! Four! Weak! Weaker! Homo!”). I used to find this discouraging, but recently it’s become just another cut on the soundtrack of my out-of-shapeness.
Yesterday, for some reason, the girls watched me silently for a few minutes as I went through my little Sisyphus routine, and walked over to me when I was done.
‘You’re pretty strong,’ the shortest one said. Up close, she looked about 14, or at least her clothes did. Black tights, billowy shirt, and a fluorescent cacophony of belts, ropes, shoelaces and bangles cinching the parts of her she wanted to show off. ‘Watch’, she said.
She then performed a few wobbly dips, while her friends giggled ‘you’re stupid, Anna!’ I, in full Terminanish, said something instructional about maintaining balance. This continued for several minutes: A grown man amidst three vaguely criminal tweens, instructing them on outdoor exercise.
Each pavilion has an inclined row of monkey bars, each one higher than the last. I never attempt these, since it feels like a terrorist training video, but the Leotard Queen wanted instruction and an audience for her attempt at the summit.
‘What should I do?’ she asked, hanging from the lowest bar.
‘Swing,’ I said helpfully. ‘And go up, I guess’.
She was about three bars up now, and gaining momentum.
‘Good,’ I said. ‘Now make sure you—OW SHIT!’
In a wild swing from the fifth bar, her rock-hard little Converse swung around and nailed me in the chin.
‘What the FUCK, little girl!’ I said in English, holding my jaw.
She fell to the ground, folded over with laughter.
‘You guys suck,’ I said, reverting to both Danish and elementary school. They were laughing too hard to notice my scorching rage, and I was too lightheaded to fight them, so I wobbled over to my bike.
‘I’m not going to come here anymore!’ I shouted through the good half of my mandible and rode out of ridicule range.
This morning I woke up with a sore jaw, nothing to do in the afternoon and an appetite for ruining a teenager’s day. This must be what it’s like to be middle-aged.
Remember last week, how a three-blessing combo had me thinking that terrible things must lie just around the corner? Well, this week was the corner. Not only did the neighbor fracas escalate (Him, leaning out his window: 'Close your Goddamn blinds!' Me: 'No!' Him: 'Typical American!'), but I had my wallet stolen at an Australia Day party last weekend. 'Shit,' I thought. 'That's two. For this to really even out, at least one more crappy thing has to happen to me.'
Then the cops came.
At 7 am last Wednesday, I got a door-buzz and a 'politi!' from the little door-phone. They were from Hvidovre, a non-place somewhere out in the suburbs. Thinking it was about my stolen wallet, I let the mid-40s, ripe-bellied officers into my apartment, the whole time thinking, 'Wow, your wallet gets stolen in Denmark and the cops visit to make sure you're OK. The service.' After they sat down in the kitchen, I asked what was up, and was told, 'Well, you stole a credit card and ordered a bunch of shit online. And we know about it.'
'What? Wait. Wait. What. What?!' I said. 'Can we do this in English? I thought you just said I stole a credit card.'
'Your Danish is fine,' the dough-faced one said in Danish. 'We know you stole it, we know what you did. We're here to take your computer.'
'My computer, why?'
'We traced the transaction back to the wireless network in this apartment.'
'But we have an open wireless connection. It's unsecured.'
'The internet doesn't work that way.'
'What? Wait. What?'
This conversation repeated itself three or four times, and somehow moved into the bedroom, in front of my laptop.
Doughface: 'That one. We're taking it.'
Me: 'Well, I just bought that one two weeks ago, so it's not going to be much help.'
Doughface: 'What were you doing the night of November 15?'
Me: 'Rented a car, fucked your father and played some backgammon. I'm sure I have receipts…' [OK, so I actually said 'I don't know']
Doughface: 'If you can't prove what you were doing that night, we're arresting you right now.'
Me: 'First of all, no you're not.' [Remember how I said I'm a dick when I'm speaking Danish?] 'You have no evidence against me at all. Secondly, it's not up to me to prove I didn't do this. It's up to you to prove that I did.'
Doughface: 'November 15!'
Me: 'Fine, lemme check my e-mails. I was probably at a concert or something.'
I sat down, opened my e-mail account and scrolled through to November, looking for invitations, confirmation e-mails, whatever.
Doughface: [audible gasp] 'If that computer's only two weeks old, how are you checking your e-mails from November?!' [Makes 'gotcha' face.]
Me: 'Wait. What?! These are on the internet. They aren't on my computer.'
Doughface: 'You just said it was two weeks old, but those e-mails say November!' [Gotcha Face intensifies to David Caruso Face]
Doughface: 'If it's only two weeks old –'
The italics seemed to do it. Doughface backed off for a few minutes. We moved into my roommate's room.
She has an original iMac.
'We have your roommate's permission to confiscate her computer,' the Ichabod Crane one said.
'Whatever,' I said. They had already assured me that we would get our laptops back that afternoon, so I figured the damage had already been done. Ichabod started rooting around under her desk.
'Where's the computer?' he said.
'On the desk. That's the computer,' I said.
'No, the computer.'
'That's the computer, dude.'
'That's the screen.' He had lapsed into the voice you use when you explain to your 6-year-old cousin how the toaster works. 'I mean the compuuuuuter. Understand?'
'Dude. That's the whole computer. Right there. The blue object the size of an armadillo.'
'No. Where the daaaaata goes. The computer part.'
'That is the computer. For Hell!' Danish swear words aren't as satisfying.
'So that's the entire computer, right there?'
I was standing there with a look on my face like I was watching a dog walk on its hind legs.
'New technology, huh?' he said.
I blew the dust off the keyboard and handed it to him. 'Do you mind if I check your badge again?'
Once I figured out the italics thing, it went a bit smoother.
'Could one of your friends have committed this crime on your computer, when you weren't looking?'
'I have unsecured internet. That means anyone can use it.'
'You mean your neighbors can log on to this internet connection?'
'YES THEY CAN. UNSECURED.'
'Oh. So maybe this wasn't done on your computer, just on your wireless network.'
'Will wonders never motherfucking cease. Yes. It could have been anyone.'
They still took my computer. And my roommate's state of the art iMac 1.0. And our wireless router. I got a phone call two hours later ('Thank god,' was my first thought. 'They're actually cops.'), and was informed that there is a 'mountain' of police work for their IT department to do, so they don't know when I'll get my computer and router back. This was a week ago. I'm writing this at a smoky yet frigid internet cafe, blinking from the nicotine and ignoring the pube-scalping death metal coming from the overhead speakers. I blame you, suburbs.
I had the following interaction in Danish at a cafe today:
Sketchy dude: Hey man, I'm sorry to bother you, but I'm an artist, and I thought you might want to look at my paintings [thrusts stack of paintings toward me].
Me: No thanks.
Sketchy dude: Look, I just need some help, man, I made these paintings, and –
Sketchy dude: You can just look at them, you don't even have to –
Me: I'm studying right now. Thanks, but no.
Sketchy dude: [leaves]
That's right, I'm an asshole. Maybe it's something to do with the English language, but I usually make excuses with random-walker-uppers, like "I would, I don't have any money", "I'm in a hurry", etc. For some reason, though, in Danish I just act like the fucking Terminator. No courtesy, no excuses, no mercy.
Thank God I managed to become 1.5-lingual in a deeply introverted language. If I spoke Italian or something, that interaction probably would have gone on for hours, and would have ended with me inviting the Hobohemian to live with my parents.
I have a test in my Danish class tonight. One part of the exam is to read three short, ridiculously simple 'books' in Danish and talk about them for a few minutes. I had assumed that the books would be some Dick and Jane shit, but while the language in the books is indeed Pixar level, the subject matter is pure Almodovar. The first book was about two children nearly drowning, and I've just finished 'Father', which has the following exchange:
Henrik tells his girlfriend that he can't see her for the next two weeks. "Two weeks," Marie says. "That is long. You don't love me anymore?"
"Of course I love you," says Henrik. "But my exam is important."
"More important than me?" says Marie. She cries.
Henrik doesn't answer, so Marie leaves.
Ooooo… K. That's a bit serious. Later in the book, we leave See Spot Run territory entirely
"I'm pregnant," says Marie quietly. Henrik says nothing. He stares at Marie. Then he looks down at the floor.
"Pregnant? Who's the father?" says Henrik.
"You're the father, of course," says Marie. "I haven't been with anyone else." [...]
"So what should we do?" says Marie.
"We should have an abortion, of course," Henrik says. [...]
"An abortion?" Marie says. "No, I don't want to have an abortion. I want to have the child."
"But I won't be the father," Henrik says.
"You only think about yourself," Marie says. [...]
"If you have the baby, I won't be your boyfriend anymore," Henrik says.
"Then we're not dating," Marie says. "You can leave."
Good Lord. I don't know if this 'Learning Danish With Nietzsche' approach is a deliberate decision or just a symptom of Danish Expectitis, but it's interesting that they break out the 'bortion this early in the Danishing process. I get the feeling that in the Level Two class, Henrik and Marie experience the business end of the 55 percent divorce rate, join the Hell's Angels, and start stuffing cotton rags into bottles.
While surveying the endless scorched earth of Russia's human rights record today, I came across the most promising thing yet: Overheard in Moscow. Yes, that whimsical Russian sense of humor finally has an outlet. A few minutes on babelfish later, and I was checking out the following entries:
Where it is overheard: marshrutka 13
By whom it is overheard: pushhvost
Where it is overheard: Aerocash departments
By whom it is overheard: akos
Where it is overheard: near to " Buffet of the Underground " at station of the underground " Library of a name of Lenin "
By whom it is overheard: osd
I'd make fun of the bad translation, but this is probably what I sound like when I speak Danish (especially when I'm "in eager rivalry"), so I'll just finish these off with my own Slavic conversational experience from last winter:
Me: I don't think I'm going to school today. I've got a really bad flu.
Lithuanian friend: Why do you have the flu?
Me: Huh? I just, um, got it from the –
Lithuanian friend: Because you are weak!
Guy playing solitaire in computer lab, talking on phone: No, honey, I can't come home now. I'm really busy with exams. I haven't done anything except study all day [sips on beer]. What? Just a cola.
[Translated from the Danish]
Speaking of 'honey': Should I read into the fact that the word for 'honey/darling/sweetie' is the same as the word for 'taxes'? I think that says something about the Danish relationship to salary-sacrifice.
Bonus cultural illiteracy: The word is 'skat', which to any English-speaker brings up images that have little to do with terms of endearment or taxes.
So I finally broke down and did it: I played the tourist card when I got busted for riding the train without a ticket.
Background: My Abu-Ghraibian biking style finally resulted in a snapped chain yesterday, so I took my bike to the Bike Dude and took the bus home. Homosexuality beckoned me into town later on, so I had to take the train. You know when you get to the train platform just as the train pulls up? In Denmark, that means you have to punch your ticket on the platform hella fast before Indiana Jones-ing yourself into the train car. I jammed my ticket into the machine, heard a half-assed 'click', and jumped onto the train just as the beeps started.
I noticed that the ticket hadn't been punched all the way, leaving just a phantom timestamp and no hole-punch. 'Oh well,' I thought. 'They never check tickets anyway.'
Well guess what? When I got to my stop there was a Red Rover lineup of train-Nazis getting on the train and checking everyone who got off. I went into teenage-shoplifter mode and tried to walk off the bus as casually and confidently as possible, possibly hoping the security personnel would conclude 'Wow, that dude's so upright, he's GOTTA have a valid ticket!' Not unlike my teenage shoplifting career, my trip off the train was cut short.
'May I see your ticket?' The behatted dude asked in Danish. After a textbook's worth of calculations before answering, I dedided to be The World's Most Earnest American: 'Oh my God, I don't speak Danish, I'm so sorry. What's that now?'
'Your ticket, please.'
'Oh, that sounds great.' (I decided 'Gee willickers' would be pushing it).
I showed him the ticket and acted very confused when he told me it wasn't valid. 'Oh gosh, I punched it. I heard a click, officer, sorry.'
His eyes narrowed. 'I'll let you go this time. Have fun in Copenhagen.'
'Vi ses naeste gang, svine-røv!' I said.
OK, just kidding. But I can't believe that shit worked.
OK, jeg skulle indrømme at Seattle er ikke så charmerende det helt år. Nu, for eksample, Seattle lige skulle til at slå rekordet for regn i en maned. Rekordet er 15.33 inches i december 1933, og står Seattle på 14.74 lige nu (Ja, ja, hvad betyder 'inch'? Din fod er sandsynligvis 10 inches læng). Også, det sneer åbenbart i dag, so det brækkes snart, tror jeg. Sidst gang tog jeg hjemm for jule, det regnede hver fanden dag. Bogstavelig hele dag, alle dage for den 30 dage blevet jeg i seattle. Argh. Men for to år siden, det kom til 20 grader i januar, sååååå…
Her er hvad, seattle ledede som i går…
Det ligner mere eller mindre københavn i maned…
That means 'good news' in Danish. The pronunciation goes something like 'mmfffsskr grnddghrwqqs (cough)'
Anyway, I've been reading a lot of Danish news lately. Trying to participate in the cultural life and all. Yesterday dumped favorable developments by the truckload:
- Remember that Sri Lankan orphan that the Danish government wanted to send back home to his civil-warring, pastryless nation? Well, they've had a change of heart (Pronounced 'The UN talked all kinds of shit on them') and are allowing him to stay. The kid's still stranded in Ebeltoft, which is pretty much Denmark's answer to Detroit, but at least he's not tribed-up in the 'Lank.
- New green card rules taking effect next spring aim to make it easier for educated foreigners to stay in Denmark and find work. 'Bout time these low-birth-rate-having motherfuckers figured out that you have to let some people stick around. This is exceedingly good news for me. Like the Australian system, the new rules give points for things like being young (check), being educated (check) speaking Danish (ehhhh), and having useful skills (does ping pong count?). I'm not getting my hopes up because the immigration service here already hates me, but it will at least be interesting to see just what roadblocks they construct to thwart my Danish dreams this time.
- In a story that begins with the 'Duh' Award-winning statement "The brand 'Denmark' doesn't have the same recognition as Coca-Cola and Apple," culture minister Bendt Bendtsen details his plan to brand Denmark as an "intelligent society which has found solutions to difficult problems." A worldwide survey found that most people only know the 'stereotypical' Danish character of bacon farmers, pastry makers, and Muslim-violence incitors. U.S. respondents named 'nudity, divorce and women's liberation' as the most prominent associations with Denmark. I love my people sometimes. The survey also revealed that, no matter what country you're from or what language you speak, Bendt Bendtsen is a hella funny name.