Thursday, November 10, 2005

Danishness

This morning I saw a middle-aged couple kissing as the woman got onto her train. "That's odd," I thought, "I saw that kind of thing more in France than here." Then they started saying goodbye in French. I really liked that about France - after being so prepared for snootiness, people were more open and friendly than I expected. One afternoon I was sitting on a curb by the Opera Garnier making a sandwich, and a man in a suit walked up to me. I fully expected him to tell me this was a national monument and I couldn't sit on the curb eating a sandwich like some bum, but at the last second he gave me a smile and a "Bon appetit!"

I got the best possible welcome back to Denmark: I went to Ricky's host family's house. He, his host mother, his host sister and I spent a good hour and a half at the dinner table talking and eating, and then there was tea and gingersnaps and a fire in the woodstove and three cats. It was practically hygge incarnate.

Morton is always talking about how being with other people was so important in ancient Nordic society, largely because the world outside was so harsh and dangerous. In Iceland sitting outside by yourself was synonymous with doing magic, because there was no other reason a person would sit outside alone. You could be executed for doing it. On a fieldtrip he took us to a reconstructed Danish dwelling that would have housed 30 people and their animals, everyone cooking, eating, sleeping, procreating, etc in the same space. After two months in a rather cheerless home with Tina, Jørgen and I cloistered in our own rooms with our own books and televisions, that kind of human contact sounded surprisingly good to me. A bit of the attitude seems to have survived in Ricky's host family - even though everyone has their own bedroom, the three children generally end up sleeping in each other's beds or with their mother or Ricky. So after tea and cookies Camilla probably went to sleep in Dorte's room, Ricky and I in his. Human contact = good.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

Maybe a lot of it has to do with the pace of life. Perhaps in Europe, people feel freer to lose themselves in experiences, while in America we tend to burden ourselves with concerns. It's hard to be with people when you're living in the future.

There's a lot that's positive about American work ethic, and perhaps more that's negative. I wish it was easier to get the best of both worlds.