During the first part of my trip while my friend was traveling with me, two of the hosts we met at the Airbnb mentioned that Danes aren't very friendly and that they are hard to get to know. I heard this a few times throughout my trip but the more I spent time in Denmark, the less I believe this to be true.
I thought about why I didn't experience this distance between myself and the Danes and I concluded that it could be because of my Korean culture. Both cultures are pretty reserved and it takes a bit of time to create bonds and friendships with people.
There are no good or bad sides to this. It's simply just the way certain populations work. But like I said, I did not experience this and I believe it is also partly because I met so many people in the arts as well as the restaurant service industry who were all so welcoming, friendly, and kind.
Fie, one of the girls I met at Alhambra & Sons, was kind enough to extend a sincere welcome and offered to take me to the part of town where she grew up. I was floored by her kindness and gladly received it. We actually talked about this activity of invitation during our hang out and she too said that it is out of a Dane's norm to ask someone out to dinner and a get-together so quickly. At this point, I could care less because all I felt was warm, sincere kindness from a human to another human.
I learned so much about Fie and her family during the few hours we spent time together. She showed me her hometown which was a gorgeous place that had rich history and lovely architecture. We talked about many things and she shared with me her Christmas traditions (Christmas is celebrated profusely in Denmark - something I am dying to experience), lovely stories about her family, and hilarious jokes about the current state of Danish politics. All I could think was, "This is so wonderful. She is so wonderful. How did I get here?"
Some facts about Denmark
1) In the old days, there were dog statues in the windowsill of many homes. Why? You're going to love this.
Apparently, some of the women of this town didn't enjoy monogamy so whenever the dogs were facing out towards the street, it meant that their husbands were home. When their husbands left, however, they turned the dogs to face inward - to beckon in their lovers. Ha. I couldn't stop laughing at this story. There are also these old contraptions of mirrors by the windows to spy on the street and everything. Such clever ladies, I'd say.
2) Danish people never complain.
We ate by the seaside and I ordered a Coke Zero for my fried, seafood meal. Don't ask me why but I love Coke Zero and can tell the difference between Diet Coke, Coke Zero, and just Coke. Ew. I'm grossed out at myself after reading that sentence. Anyway, what I had received initially was Coke and after a couple of sips, I asked the waitress if she would bring me a Coke Zero instead of the Coke. Simple mishap - could happen anywhere, right? Oh man was I in trouble. Fie was kind enough to smooth out the situation but after the waitress left, she told me, "Yeah... Danish people don't complain about those things."
I was utterly humiliated but allowed myself to slowly forget about it as we continued to eat and share stories about our lives. I felt really awful about not keeping to cultural specifics because I felt as though I had bad manners in that moment - but I guess this is why we travel. To encounter these kinds of moments and re-evaluate why we do things on a day-to-day basis.
3) Be very afraid of geese.
Roasting and eating a goose during Christmas is actually a thing in Denmark. I think it originated here and there was a goose farm pretty close to the seaside. Coming from a Korean family, I never knew what you were supposed to eat during Christmas and our family quickly decided to not figure it out but to feast on grilled meats on a tabletop grill. Fie shared that during the early winter months, children would wander together to the community pool by the lake but would be firmly warned to stay away from the geese. Fact: They can get to be the size of little ponies and can attack people if provoked. How do you categorize this? First world problems? Someone help me.
I was so thankful to have had this experience with Fie. She also took me to Denmark's famous ice cream shop called Ismageriet where I had delicious elderberry ice cream with marshmallow goo on top. Just thinking about it makes me want another taste.
UX notes: Just like cultures have their own set of manners and rules for how things should behave, digital products informally have rules for proper manners as well. For example, asking for a credit card to test out a trial run for an app? That's bad manners. Hiding a button to encourage an accidental invite to everyone you've ever had an email exchange with in your life as LinkedIn connections? Bad manners. It is important to look at the culture of what positive manners products are producing and follow suit. Otherwise, where is the human culture in technology?