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She is Danish, and she is a French exchange student. But how different are they really? A conversation about identity
Marie (a French student) and Ida (a Danish student) first met in February, when Marie moved into Ida’s residence at Tietgenkollegiet.
”I thought Marie was a bit shy as she didn’t talk much the first time we met, but as I began to know her better, I realized she was observing the surroundings and is actually very open-minded and friendly, said Ida.
The girls discovered differences in their habits while spending time together in the same dormitory. Naturally, they joke about it.
”I don’t peel the cucumber when I eat it. Every time Marie peels the cucumber in the kitchen my friend and I would look at each other and be like ‘Oh, she’s doing it again’,” said Ida.
Ida and Marie making pancakes for Saturday brunch
”I always lock my door in Denmark because stuff in our dorms can be easily stolen in France. All the Danes here are like ‘Marie, why are you locking your door’? I cannot help it. It’s a reflex,” said Marie.
What is your favourite thing about Denmark?
”I like the hygge and cozy things here, with the candles and pillows,” said Marie, snuggling one on the sofa. ”It is after I came to Denmark that I was affected and fell in love with this atmosphere, and was hooked up ever since. I brought all my candles from home in France and put them everywhere in my room.”
It took a while for Ida to come up with an answer.
”It’s so hard especially when I have lived here all my life! I think I’m going to go with something boring and what I have been taking for granted all along – safety. I know that the goals I set for myself are possible because I already have the safety net acquired for education, medical welfare, etc. For instance, I might not have gone to university if I don’t have the subsidy, and what would I have become then?”
The girls have their favorite pick of festivals back home – Marie couldn’t help but smile while explaining the joy of participating in Les Eurockéennes de Belfort, a 3-5 day outdoor music festival in Belfort, France held at the beginning of July every year. Ida almost rolled her eyes at the rhetorical question and talked about Roskilde Festival.
”We all sleep in a big campsite, and there are so many people that you don’t have places for tents so you have tents on tents. There are swimming pools in the campsite too and people walk around in swimsuits. We would walk along the railroad after the concert back to our tents and it is so much fun,” said Marie.
”Roskilde Festival, obviously,” said Ida, ”I always tell exchange students that you haven’t been to Denmark if you’ve never attended the festival. It’s a big deal and I even have special shoes in orange (festival color) with the words ‘Roskilde Festival’ on them. There is an incredible special mood and you just talk to everybody, and that is so special because the Danes do not do that, ever! It’s a different set of norms that apply!”
Ida confesses she likes Dave Matthews Band, loves nature and greenery and is obsessed with the Japanese animated film Spirited Away
What do you miss among young people in Denmark, and in France?
”Innovation,” says Ida, ”you can choose that in high school but I think it should be incorporated more into the courses. I feel that a lot of Danes are too humble to the point that humility limits us. If innovation were taught, the Danes would be better in exploring our potential, acquiring the tools to create things and make initiatives, and hopefully self-esteem would come along with the tools.”
According to Marie, it is information about Europe and the European Union.
”We have 27 countries in EU, and yet the French citizens don’t know how it works, why it is useful, the research and resources it has, and they vote against being a part of the Union. French politicians do not like to take responsibility about reforms and would just blame it onto EU. We have peace in Europe for more than 60 years because of the institution, but people do not realize its significance. The Erasmus programme is so good and it would not be made possible without the EU.”
Marie likes macarons, reads Milan Kundera and thinks that Italian is a beautiful language aside from French
Ida offers som advice to newcomers:
”Enjoy Copenhagen as much as you can and grasp every opportunity to discover the city while you’re here,” she says. “Take your bike or the metro even if it is cold or raining, because that’s how you can see the many faces of beauty of Copenhagen. There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.”
”Don’t think that everything is written in stone. An important thing I learnt in university is to reach out and voice out what you think needs to be changed and the university would welcome that. One of the best experiences I have so far is talking to my teachers, asking them about the university in general and also about my education. The university provides various opportunities for us to make our own unique paths,” said Ida.
”One more thing – don’t be afraid to talk to Danes! They may be shy, or they want to give you private space. It is in the Danish culture to not be pushy, and they are doing it to be nice.”
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