Your house or Aarhus?
My friend Lucy (left) and I (right) at the main beach in Aarhus
“Dane’s are weird but good looking, shy (until you give them a beer) and they pay a lot of tax”
This is what you’re told to expect when you land on Danish soil. However, from my experience during my time as an exchange student at Aarhus University, a small student town three hours from Copenhagen, this stereotype only partially rings true.
Firstly, Danes are not that strange- at least no more strange than you or I. Perhaps, this perception stems from bizarre traditions that they continue to uphold such as the throwing of cinnamon at people who are still unmarried at twenty five and pepper for those at thirty. Or perhaps, it is celebrations like Fastelavn, a festival from the viking years, where people dress up, sing songs and beat barrels with cats painted on it in the hopes of being crowned the ‘cat queen’. However, despite these wacky traditions, the Danish people that I have met have been exceptionally kind, welcoming and humble.
Lucy (Left), Molly (Middle) and I (right) dressed up for Fastelavn- the cat beating party
The perception of Danes, and in fact Scandinavians everywhere, as impeccably well dressed and attractive is very much a reality. While colour is generally avoided like the plague, the ‘Scandi-Candy’ in this region seem to look effortlessly beautiful at all the time. However, if you are hoping to fit in and trick a few locals into thinking you are as cool as the Danes, you’ll need to source yourself a killer pair of black skinny jeans, black converse sneakers and an oversize black scarf.
Me attempting to dress like a Dane
As for being shy, this stereotype is quite accurate. For the most part, Danish people will keep to themselves unless approached. While many misconstrue this as a display of arrogance, it actually stems from a respect for personal space and privacy. This all changes, however, after a beer or two. Suddenly, your quiet and studious room mates are transformed into rapping sensations and queens of the dance floor. I experienced this first hand during my corridor’s Tour de Chambre, a tradition at my college Vilhelm Kiers where each person must come up with a theme for their room and a party game to play. This was an amazing experience that allowed me to bond with my Danish room mates and get to know them a little better.
My Danish room mates and I during the Tour de Chambre
Finally, yes- it is true that they pay a lot of tax, but unlike in Australia where such a burden is paid begrudgingly, the Danes are more than happy to pay up as it funds the welfare state that provides them with free education, health care, student allowances, rental assistance and great infrastructure. From my experience, many people here view tax as an inevitable element of living in a socialist paradise.
Despite the insight that this stereotype provides, Denmark and Aarhus in particular have so much more to offer. The six months that I will have here will not be enough, and I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to live in an incredible town surrounded by the best people. Aarhus will always be my home away from home.
Studying Law at Aarhus University, 2014
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