Friday, March 5, 2010

Miss Communication

The Danes are starting to believe I can understand their Danish conversations. Sometimes I can figure out what they are discussing without actually knowing the words. Every so often you hear a word that sounds English which will lead you in the right direction.... blah blah blha sdbvlk jbdiul nbigmh Sea World. .snaj dfb lnuihw opivnenr...Put that together with everyone's concerned faces and one lady pulling herself around by her pony tail and you get the picture. I'm sure the next lines were people asking about how it happened, what will happen to the whale, and were people watching. I am getting better at picking out clue words and have been more comfortable with nodding, laughing, and pretending I'm following along without exactly knowing what is being said.

Without knowing the jokes, I know this one lady at work is really funny. She is always saying something in a loud, sarcastic tone. Then she gives me the old wink and double elbow tap (my signal to smile and giggle). Everyone always laughs when she's around. She was telling a story in the pauseroom the other day and the crowd was intently listening with big smiles on their faces. You can really feel the approaching punch line even without the verbal understanding. Watching the excitement build up on people's faces and then seeing them react with outbursts of laughter is really funny with or without words. I found myself cracking up too and didn't think anything of it. On the way out this guy came up to me and said "I'm impressed you were able to get that joke, I thought you said you didn't know any Danish?" Uh-oh. He caught me.

On the train ride home I was watching this guy a few rows ahead of me. He is talking to another man. The second guy is asking questions. He has a pen and is taking notes in his binder. Hmmmm some sort of interview... Student reporter? Local news? A train seems like a strange place for an interview though. It looks like they are wrapping up. Wonder what that was about. Oh crud, he just looked at me. Oh crud, he is coming over with his notebook. Oh crud, I have no idea what he just said to me. Shamefully I admit I do not understand a word of Danish (I at least wish I would learn how to say that in Danish!). He repeats in English:

Him: "Would you mind answering a few questions about your commute for this transportation survey?"

Me: "Sure!"

Him: "Where did you start your commute this evening?"

Me(to myself): Oh crap, I have no idea what the name of the bus stop is! I don't even know what street it's on! Or what town I'm in! This is going to be embaressing. Why did I agree to this survey?

Me (to him): "Well, I don't really know exactly what stop it is. I get on the 300S bus at the stop right after the intersection with the McDonalds, the gas station and the H&M. About 12 minutes from the Buddinge station. Does that help at all?"

Him "Ooook, well let's just start at the Buddinge station. Where are you going from Buddinge?"

Me: "Nordhavn"

Him: "Where?!"

ME: "Nordhavn"

Him: "I'm sorry I don't know where that stop is....."

Me: "It's the next stop" (point to the red lighted sign)

Him: "Oh, you mean Nordhavn!"

Exactly. It didn't get much easier from there....


Evan said...

I like this blog because you sound like an anthropologist trying to understand an arcane people. Or gorillas in the mist. Not that I'm implying that Danish people are like gorillas.

Trevor said...

Gorillas would never leave their babies.

Anonymous said...

I am almost finished with this book called "Blink," the author talks about these things.
Thank God everybody over there speaks at least a little English. And maybe you could learn some jokes in Danish?

AL said...

FYI Damian B. O. arrives in rainy foggy old London town TONITE!

Nancy said...

I think there's nothing more refreshing than feeling like a foreigner and finding people that are open to helping you. Helps you put things in perspective.

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