Comic Tidbits from Life Abroad #2: Double the Greetings

See Comic Tidbits #1 here.

If you’ve gone abroad for a longer period or even lived abroad, you know what its like not to be able to communicate well from the beginning. Speaking starts rigidly, with the few phrases learned hurriedly on the train or airplane, including the formal basics of Danish: hello (Goddag – good day), goodbye (Farvel – farewell), and sorry (Undskyld – excuse me).

Yesterday I was in the Danish Red Cross looking for a way to piece together a Halloween costume for the upcoming event Magical Days Odense. Ondra and I had been there before and had already found that, surprisingly, the older women working there didn’t speak English very well or at all.

In the half hour we’d been there, they’d surely heard Ondra and I calling to each other in English and identified us as those pesky foreigners. Unfortunately, I’d found something perfect without a price tag. I nervously consulted Google Translate to polish my opening and approached the lady behind the counter.

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Hej (sounds like “hi”), I said. The woman responded to me in rapidfire Danish, probably a standard Red Cross greeting.

Trying to control the bewildered expression on my face, I replied, Jeg ikke snakker dansk. (I don’t speak Danish.) Then, like a robot, Jeg har sporgsmål (I have some questions). (That I got from Duolingo :D)

I was just about to launch into my “How much is this?” like I’d been practicing by the dressing rooms when she stopped me. Starting the conversation as if from the beginning, she said, “How can I help you?”

“Oh, thank god,” I said, touching her arm as she smiled.

Once we’d paid, I glanced back at this godsend of a lady. Mange tak! (Thank you very much!) She smiled at me again and said in farewell, Hej hej!

No Goddag, no Farvel. These phrases you learn only through a quick Google search are too formal and no one uses them. Besides, Denmark is a rather informal country.

I’d gone nearly two months in Denmark without knowing that to properly say goodbye, you just say “hi” twice. If only I’d known to repeat the greeting. 🙂

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VERONIKA GREGUŠOVÁ

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