For the last few months I have been receiving three meals a week from a local company, Aarstiderne. It’s fantastic. I wasn’t certain at first but a friend convinced me to try them, so I did. Aarstiderne supplies me with the ingredients for three meals per week and the recipe. All I have to do is cook. I had become so tired of organising meals for our family each week that all the joy I found in cooking was disappearing. By using Aarstiderne, the joy has returned. I thought I had begun to hate cooking but I hate having to organise what we are eating. I don’t mind preparing it at all.
However, that is not the point of this post. The recipes that I am using are very different to what I would typically cook. The ingredients are not unfamiliar but the way they are prepared and paired is a little different. This is probably another reason why I am enjoying it so much. I also feel that I am experiencing another aspect of danish culture. Two danish friends have agreed with me so it must be true.
When we first arrived in Denmark I deliberately decided not to learn danish. Everyone told me that it was very difficult and since the majority of Danes speak english, well there is no need. If someone does speak to me in danish, I always say, “I’m sorry, I don’t speak danish” and they either repeat it in english or say, what I assume is, “it wasn’t that important.” Having lived here for two years now, obviously I have picked up some words here and there and you can generally work out much of what is being said from the situation. Not speaking danish has limited much of my understanding of the culture but I am finding that there are more appealing ways for me to learn it.
Aarsiderne (which I can not pronounce … yet) is one. Taking the danish driving test was another. I have taken written tests in three other countries – Australia, the US and Singapore – and thought that the danish test would be very similar. Everyone said, no. I believed that they were wrong and usually told them so. I was wrong (yes, it happens!). It was different. It was not a set of multiple choice questions which reflected the text from the Road Rules book. The Danes require a bit more than regurgitation before they will give you a licence. They actually want to know that you have traffic sense – that’s the best way I can think to describe it. They place you in situations and then ask you what you would do at this intersection, for example, in order of priority. Since most of what you consider occurs without conscious thought (for me at any rate) this was quite a challenge. Especially when many of the decisions you make occur simultaneously (because my mind is so fast) and it is hard to distinguish which thought came first. As much as I resented the whole process of acquiring my licence, I am very glad that I was forced to do so. My driving has improved and I now have a better understanding of the danish mindset.
All this reflecting, thanks to using Aarstiderne, has made me feel less guilty about not learning the language. Once I leave Denmark, my opportunities for speaking it will plummet and I will lose whatever limited skill I would have acquired. However, the increased road awareness that my driving test gave me will (should) stay with me forever as will the new ideas I come across in cooking danish meals. I love that I have found a way to embrace Denmark that appeals to me.