Diversity Around Copenhagen: Four Languages Before Noon


Pizza from Bottega on Dronningensgade 42

My day today is the perfect example of how much true diversity there really is in Copenhagen. I visited China, Pakistan, Denmark and Italy all before noon. I spoke English and Danish to a Chinese man, Danish to two Danes and a Pakistani, and Danish, English, Italian and Spanish to an Italian.

It started with morning acupuncture where I was instantly transported to China just by stepping into the street-side clinic. Chinese folk music was playing, the smell of moxibustion was abound and silk Chinese pajamas hung neatly on the wall.  The Chinese doctor, a former Olympic gymnast coach for the Danish national team, spoke very broken Danish and English to me with a very thick Chinese accent. I did my best with my Danish and spoke Danglish to get my points across.

After the appointment, I walked down the street to a Pakistani green grocer that sold  fresh flowers, fruit and vegetables as well as feta, a variety of marinated olives, nuts, beans and exotic spices as well as herbs still planted in pots. I purchased some tulips with the bulbs and roots still attached, blueberries, tomatoes, and a few loose mushrooms. I spoke Danish to this merchant and he did the same.

From there I headed further down the street to the cheese shop. I was almost knocked down from the strong smell of cheese when I walked in and wondered how on earth these two men running the shop could withstand breathing in that smell all day. It was a true specialty shop with huge chunks of blue cheese, a selection of Norwegian goat cheeses, as well as all kinds of crackers, flat breads, jams and chocolates. I was on the hunt for some good quality mozzarella (the kind sold in the grocery store are not the best in my opinion), but unfortunately they didn’t sell mozzarella. The Dane kindly offered the address of the Italian supermarket and I continued on my way after thanking him in my best Danish pronounced expression, “tak  skal du have!” or “thank you.”

I drove just a few miles away to the Italian import – a warehouse type shop called Supermarco & Ello supplying to many Italian restaurants selling everything from pastas, wine, spumante, pesto, coffee, meats from the deli and all kinds of dolci including world-class tiramisu and gelato directly imported from Italy. I picked up the last items needed and decided to take advantage of the 5 Dkr($.80) espresso offered at the exit. The Italian man who kindly made the espesso took the opportunity to have one for himself and “keep me company.” We started to chat, first in English, then in Danish, then a little Itailan and mixed in some Spanish. Every other word or sentence we spoke was in a different language. He spoke Italian to me as if he was trying to teach it to me and had a look in his eye like he was hoping that I would understand and instantly learn it. Surprisingly I did get the gist of what he said thanks to my very basic Spanish. He gave me a few tips on where to find good pizza in CPH (also something of a rarity here), and mentioned two places: Pomodoro & Mozzarella on Amagerbrogade 136 (which is where they get their fresh bread from), and La Vecchia Signora on Grønnegade 14. I suppose if an Italian recommends an Italian restaurant, it has a good chance of being OK. Standing there chatting like this having an espresso made me feel like I was truly in Italy – doing just as the Italians do.

As we stood there chatting, he pointed over to a couple of other Italian men. One of which was the importer of the over-the-top tiramisu. He told him that I was going to make pizza for the inauguration and have tiramisu for dessert. The man thought this was funny and said to me, in very broken Danish with a strong Italian accent, that I needed to enjoy the pizza and tiramisu and then go out in the sun and get a suntan so that I could look a little bit like Obama. I didn’t quite understand what the heck he was talking about and thought at first that I looked very pale like most Danes do this time of year, and that I was in severe need of sun. Then they explained it again. Ah! I get it. Not sure how funny I think that is though.

All in all, it was a very multicultural day. I love the fact that I can experience so many different cultures in a place that is also very homogeneous. Here’s to all us foreigners doing our best to speak Danish — the unexpected common language between an American, Chinese, Pakistani and Italian. Cheers and Ciao!

1 Comments on “Diversity Around Copenhagen: Four Languages Before Noon”

  1. I couldn’t comment on the ads post so I’ll comment here. I think they are funny and nothing to be offend of. But even in Canada I don’t think they’ll allow such ads. I saw one with Bush’s head on a toy horse in Copenhagen. Not sure what was that about.


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