Before I left for London, I was excited for warm weather and to be able to once again share in the common language. It turned out to be colder in London than in Copenhagen. And it was much harder to understand people than I expected!

For the first two days in London I felt like people were speaking a foreign language. This could partly be due to the fact that I have gotten really good at tuning people out if they are speaking Danish. However, I think it’s definitely safe to say that some Brits do have a really thick accent, making it hard for me to understand what the women at the counter of the coffee shop was saying.

She asked me if I wanted ______ on top of my cappuccino and I had to ask her to repeat herself twice before I gave up and said no. This decision wasn’t the best though because I then panicked and thought she had asked if I wanted foam on my cappuccino. What is a cappuccino without foam? I ended up panicking and politely told her I changed my mind and that i’ll have a little, thinking that was the safest bet- not too much, not too little. She repeated the ______ and I still couldn’t really make clear of it. It wasn’t until I got my coffee that I realized it was chocolate!

Once I got over the tuning-out stage, I began participating in small talk, which is something I have not done since before I came to Denmark.

All of a sudden everyone wants to chat! People also say excuse me, sorry, and cheers of course.

In Denmark if you bump into someone it’s more common to say absolutely nothing at all; it’s meant to be mutually understood as an accident.

The same concept goes for interacting with people in public. The cashier knows that their only function is to ring up items and ask if you want a receipt. I’ve had a few encounters where the cashier didn’t mutter a single word — not even the total! It felt pretty uncomfortable.

It’s a social rule to not invade someone’s privacy through something like chatting. Danes find small talk to be superficial. As an American, I don’t necessarily think that’s always the case.

In London I met many people who were really helpful in suggestions on where to eat, shop, and how to get there. I often feel like Danes want to help in situations like this, but don’t necessarily know how to break out of their shells.

Sidenote: when we first got here, my program told us Danes are nuts with many layers and that we must crack them!

Interestingly enough, I think the social etiquette is rubbing off on me a little bit. I’m used to not being bothered on the metro etc. When I went to see “Les Miserables” in London, the girl sitting next to me would not stop talking to me during intermission. Things like this happen all the time at home, but since i’ve become acclimated to Denmark, it felt weird that someone just struck up a conversation with me.

I’m realizing that my social habits are all mixed up. I’m going to come back to America a a very blunt person, but also overly polite because everyone can understand me and I can say “please” again!