It was my neighbour who said it: ‘Nå, men så er jeg på forkanten!‘ which literally means ‘Oh, so I am in front!’ roughly translates as ‘Oh, so I am really early!’. She belatedly congratulated me on my birthday. But then of course she was way ahead of all the others for … my next birthday.
Danes are very punctual (apart from the odd one out), and I found that a frightening aspect of Danish society, when six years ago I moved from Holland to Denmark. I am practically always late, and I really try my best to overcome this deplorable habit.
I flatter myself thinking that I am getting a little bit better at it.
One reason for this is that I like to ‘play Dane’: to behave in such a way that Danes think that I am a Dane, too. It is an endless game, totally up to your own imagination. The easiest way is dressing up. You can play Dane by dressing in a certain way, like in wearing all shades of black and wearing flat-soled shoes. And being on time is another Danish thing that can make you look like a Dane without having to open your mouth.
Another reason is that I found my neighbour’s remark so funny that it stuck in my head. This way I found out that although I find it hard to be on time, I find it comparatively easy to be really early.
The same goes for ‘playing Dane’ while talking: get a head start. Many Danes complimented me on my Danish almost from the beginning, and I really enjoyed that. It gave me that feeling of achievement that you need so badly, when you are learning a langauge and trying to make it your own.
I also realised that Danes kept on saying it. Even now, after six years, someone will say ‘Nå, men du taler fint dansk for én, der har været her i kun seks år’. My initial efforts have been rewarding me all the way up until now. And they were not much of an effort anyway: I just started going to language school early on.
So to all of you who just have started: do yourself a favour, put all your efforts in those first few months learning Danish and be rewarded for that for the rest of your Danish life!