Five Danish Life Lessons For The Rest of Us

After three years living and working with the Danes, what insights and life lessons have I learned?

Hygge is a very rich community oriented social concept which can roughly be translated as coziness and is at the heart of Danish culture. Embracing it, Danes take the negatives of winter and with a highly practical realism convert them into a celebration of companionship, warmth, and comfort. In so-doing they take one of Denmark’s worst attributes and redefine it as part of what defines Danish culture.

Open Roads and Changing Aspen – Weekly Travel Photo

With one arm resting half-in, half-out of the diver’s side window of  our white Chevy Crew Cab pickup truck the wind raced over my skin, cooling it, while tugging gently at my arm hairs. A periodic errant gust would collide with my skin before diverting inward to tickle my face and fill my ears with the sound of the fresh black tarmac whizzing by beneath rugged truck tires. My eyes locked forward on the road, one hand on the wheel casually navigating the high mountain two-lane highway that threaded through the passes near Silverton in south-western Colorado.

Nordic Conversations Are Different

Silence. It is something Americans hate. In your typical American conversation you’ll rarely find such a thing as a comfortable silence, a reflective silence, or a natural silence.  For the average American in a normal conversation there’s really only one type of silence and that is awkward silence. A type of silence that we’re taught from childhood to avoid at all costs. This stems in large part from the American conversational approach which I think can best be described as conversational layering with each person quickly layering on new overlapping information in rapid succession. Add in the fast-paced rapid-fire approach to speaking common among most Americans and you’ve got a recipe for frustration and perceived arrogance when talking to Nordics / Scandinavians (and other internationals). 

Absolute Control – Weekly Travel Photo

Heads turned upwards towards the sky, we watched as three airplanes flew in formation above us. They cut across the airspace over Copenhagen before lazily looping back around for a second pass.  This time we looked on with baited breath as a small dot separated from the lead aircraft and plunged towards us. A few brief seconds passed before the familiar sight of a precision parachute blossomed behind the dot which was quickly taking the shape of a man.  After enjoying a few lazy spirals he positioned himself roughly over the portion of the Norrebro lakes which had been transformed into a wet-water splashdown zone replete with white targeting buoy and two lines of floating landing zone markers.

Your First Two Months Will Define Your Study Abroad Experience

I remember the surreal exhilaration as I took that first step onto Danish soil.  Even as a veteran traveler I still couldn’t help but feel a bit like Neil Armstrong as he stepped out from the Lunar Lander into the unknown.  For me, it was the start of a two-year full degree program at the University of Copenhagen and a radical change from my lifestyle over the previous three years spent working 9-5 in the mergers and acquisitions industry. I was incredibly excited but also positively terrified. Living it at the time was a bit overwhelming but, as I look back, it was one of the best experiences of my life.  It was also a major learning lesson where I made mis-steps and could have done some things better. Overall though, I made a lot of great decisions and have relatively few regrets.

Danish National Museum in Copenhagen

Over the past few years I’ve worked with a lot of international students who have been engaged in a variety of different programs which range from semester exchanges to multi-year full degree programs.  In so doing I’ve noticed a couple of trends which are deeply ingrained in human behavior which can do a lot to shape how much you get out of your international study experience. Chief among these is tied to your behavior during the early-arrival period and how you form your daily routines.

My New Nordic Conversion at BROR

It’s not often that you find yourself sitting in a restaurant staring at the menu and feeling like you’re proof reading the description for a porno.  I consider myself a fairly adventurous eater but I quickly realized that my meal at BROR was going to strip me of more than one type of virginity.  With bull’s balls, mackerel sperm, cod’s lips, cod’s cheeks, and all sorts of special sauces it was clear that I was in for what, as with any first time, was bound to either be a delightfully pleasurably undertaking or an awkwardly memorable and unpleasant experience.

Tavarnelle – Tuscany’s Hidden Secret

For those with a sense of adventure and a lust for discovery there are bountiful wonders to be enjoyed beyond Florence’s historic old city.  It starts with a southerly trip down Via del Serragli to the massive wooden gates of the Porta Romana.  This, the old gate to Rome, serves as a modern day portal between the bustling streets of Firenze and the Tuscan countryside. As we set out to explore, accompanied by a group of local representatives from the Tavarnelle Tourism Board, our goal for the next three days was simple – to discover and wander the often overlooked wonders, tranquil beauty, rich history, and succulent flavors of the Chianti countryside. Our destination was the commune of Tavarnelle Val di Pesa, which falls under the Province of Florence due to its close geographic proximity.

18 Of Denmark’s Best Instagrammers

With just three hours of darkness during Denmark’s summer nights, the pre-dusk twilight known to photographers as “the golden hour” finds itself morphed from an elusive 60 minutes at the end of the day to a luxurious window that lasts much, much, longer during the summer months.  In winter, when the role of night and day becomes switched and when the days shrink to a mere seven hours most of which is more aptly described as a brighter than normal twilight than a true “day”, the Danish landscape is similarly conducive to incredible lighting and gorgeous photography. Add in cities like Copenhagen with its modern Danish architecture blended seamlessly with historic paved cobblestone streets, multi-colored building facades, century old wooden sailing ships, canals, and wealth of vibrantly colored gardens and you have a city which is an incredible living tapestry.