It was a normal enough Copenhagen situation; that’s what makes it frustrating. I was introduced to some friends of my partner’s in Copenhagen yesterday evening. Two of them persisted in speaking Danish conscious that I did not understand what they were saying, and the third – rather than politely enquiring about anything – proceeded to lambast me in English for not speaking Danish, asking me why I was not spending my whole summer going to an intensive course to make sure that I learn.
The problem, I have come to see, is that I actually do not want to learn the language, because actually I do not want to be in Denmark. Actually, taking that to its logical conclusion, I am actually not really in Denmark now. Denmark is just the place I live. The county where I have healthcare cover and a mobile phone contract. But all my work, all my friends, the vast majority of my purpose in life, are elsewhere.
In essence the guy lambasting me about language was right – to manage to really be at home in Denmark, the language is vital. It’s central. That’s correct, fair and justifiable. But with the language critique comes this kind of edge of incredulity – why would I ever not want to integrate in Copenhagen? The answer is that I have things to give up elsewhere, that taking children to kindergarten in a Christiania bike and drinking Carlsberg are not my sole aims in life, and that thanks to the nature of my job I can actually live in one place and not work there, and hell I am only here for personal reasons anyway. Yes, damn it, for me Denmark is not actually the best place in the world.
When I am in Copenhagen I have this kind of a craving for a conversation over a beer with a good friend (but I have no good friends here), or a chance meeting in the street with someone I know (but I know very few people here). But to get to that stage I have to give up more elsewhere, to travel less and work less, and to commit properly to learning Danish, and those are things I cannot bring myself to do. I cannot sketch out a future here that would be to my liking and hence I need to resort to a more minimal strategy to cope for now, and look forward to trips to Brussels or London for those beers with friends or chance encounters.
In short I think this place will never be home, and I only have myself to blame.