Great Danes and Danish Pastry

So my conversation partner has been busy writing her thesis and we haven’t had time to talk lately. So no new stories there. Fortunately, I experienced something else the other day I would like to share if you will forgive me for not sticking to observations about language and instead talk about culture.

I was out shopping and a foreign guy asked me to help him find a Danish cheese. I happily told him that the pack of butter he was currently examining would not do, and showed him to the cheese section. And then I stopped dead in my tracks. Which one of these cheese options was the Danish one? I had spent all my life up until now never wondering for a second if there even was such a thing as Danish cheese. I figured the Danish one would probably be the least exotic one. Like the one I would buy as a default unless I made a decision to opt for something more exiting. I picked up the most uninspiring block of cheese I could find and gave it to my new friend, wondering why he would want this when the Emmental or the Port Salut was so much better.

This got me thinking. It’s funny how you get so immersed in your own culture that you hardly ever notice that it’s there. All the peculiarities are lost on you because you encounter them on such a regular basis that you need a random foreign dude in the supermarket to make you aware of the existence of such things as Danish cheese.

And it’s not only Danish cheese we don’t bother recognizing. The great big dog, which is known in English as the Great Dane, is called Grand Danois in Denmark. Because having a French name conceals the fact that the dog isn’t that exotic after all, it’s just really, really big. And what about Danish pastry? In every English speaking country in the world the undeniable Danishness of this awesome treat is ingrained in its name. And what do we call it in Denmark? Wienerbrød. Apparently, we think the credit for this ingenious invention should go to Vienna.

I’m sure there are a lot of other examples of cultural peculiarities being completely invisible to the ones living in the middle of them. Please share the ones you can think of.



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