As part of the cultural immersion experience, DIS has offered students various opportunities to join Danish sports teams, have an assigned København Universitet (Copenhagen University) buddy, or get a “visiting family.” Since I am so close with the family I have at home, I thought it would be best to get a visiting family here. This could be an opportunity to witness how Danish families are structured, and how they function as a unit and as individuals playing the roles of parents and children. I wanted to see how they work, eat, play, and relate to one another. Most of all, I just wanted something to remind me of the family I so dearly miss. Being in the college bubble at Villanova was one thing, because I could always go home. But here, sometimes it seems that between classes, bars, and DIS activities, we are constantly in a college bubble that encompasses all of Copenhagen–so I wanted a guaranteed bubble-popper if necessary. My visiting family was supposed to give me all those things, and more.
Since the beginning of the semester, I have met my visiting family (or members thereof) three times. They are amazing. Marie is the mother (age 34), Finn is the father (age 30?), Siri (age 4) and Vigga (just turned 2!) are the daughters. They live within one of the neighborhoods that are technically outside of, but actually a part of Copenhagen. It’s called Fredericksberg. When I rode my bike there for the first time, I got so lost that I ended up in Tivoli and had to ask two young-looking guys for directions (who of course turned out to be visiting German students, but luckily had a map). It took me 45 minutes to get there! Sad, since I had spent my run the previous day trying to locate the house on foot. Anyway, after my first night at Finn & Marie’s, I was able to make my way home on my bike in ten minutes!
Back to the actual people, though, I have learned so much from them already. On our first meeting, I discovered heir spacious apartment, filled with books (because Danes value intellect) and plants (to keep them from feeling seasonally depressed). My “sisters”, Siri and Vigga, both play with Legos, is interesting because Americans usually reserve the Legos for boys, but since Denmark is where Legos were invented, girls here like them, too. Siri and Vigga also do not speak English, because lessons don’t start until second or third grade here, so I am stuck going through Finn and Marie to translate. Nobody minds, though. When we played Go Fish with Siri’s animal cards, I was able to catch onto the animal names, the question “do you have ___,” and the word “Fisk!” which means “Go fish!” During that game, without the language barrier, we were able to bond. Then we tried counting the cards, but that was quite difficult for me because Danish requires a throaty kind of annunciation that my voice is not capable of. Regardless, I tried, and we all laughed! They are great fun to hang out with. In the end, I was there from 5 PM until almost 11! Finn and Marie and I talked about family histories, American culture, Danish culture, education… you name it. Valuable resources come from more than travel guides and DIS classrooms, it seems.
This past weekend, the family took me to the zoo! The Copenhagen Zoo is right by their house, so Finn and Marie told me that they bring the girls here often to burn some energy. On the cloudy, grey day that we went, it was not crowded, but I was surprised at how many other parents were there letting their children run around, too. It was almost like a playground, not a public park! In this way, the Danes are more lenient with their children. Marie was telling me that kids have to play, fight, and explore uninhibited by adults, or they will never grow up to be personally responsible for themselves and their actions. Such an interesting concept! Although I didn’t take many pictures, Vigga spontaneously climbed into a tunnel and I thought it was adorable.
In the zoo, they have a butterfly house! I found so many beautiful butterflies and the girls would point them out to me. They also have a hatching box with windows like we do at TLCC, and the girls and I were able to watch a butterfly hatching! It was so exciting for them, and me! The zoo also hangs fruit around for the butterflies to latch onto, which makes for some pretty great pictures.
Yesterday, Marie took a long lunch break and we walked around my neighborhood together. Since she works right down the street at the Politiken, we may make this a bi-weekly thing. I took her to the Mega Candy Store in the square, which I call The American Store because it has all these strange American junk foods (since Denmark has hardly any junk food, just candy). When I showed her around, she ended up buying Marshmallow Fluff, Hershey’s chocolate syrup, Snyders honey mustard pretzel nibs, and, of course, Goldfish. I was floored by the prospect of growing up without Goldfish, but Marie didn’t even comprehend what could possibly be so necessary about them. It made me think about the snack culture in America, which is actually much bigger than I originally noticed. So strange! By far the funniest part was when I showed Marie the Fluff, and had to email her a list of ways to eat it because she had no idea what to do with marshmallows in a jar. It was refreshing being able to share something “American” with a Dane, even if it was something I wouldn’t particularly care about at home.
At the end of the day, it seems that I have found a family unit that will suffice until I can return to mine. Marie lent me an extra blanket because it has been freezing in Mia’s house, since the heat was broken all weekend. My mom would love her for that. Finn drives his little Danish car to pick me up when it’s raining so I don’t get wet biking, just like my dad would. The siblings, albeit younger, remind me of Ben and Bitty. Even though I miss them, I know that when I go home, I will be even closer to all of them. For now, my visiting family is a great group of people I can count on!