It is no secret that there is a big difference between growing up and living in Europe and growing up and living in America. We have different rules, different ways to do things and different norms.
As a European moving to America, you have to be aware of certain unwritten rules and I must admit that I have already been in trouble a couple of times because of the cultural differences between the two continents. Here are a couple of rules that could have been nice to know before I moved here.
Within the first two weeks I moved to San Diego, my Scandinavian roommates and I received an email from our landlord saying that several of our neighbors had been complaining because we were topless at the pool. In Scandinavia, you are allowed to be topless and even naked at all beaches around the countries and it is normal for women to be topless at the pool. As embarrassing as it is, we are now known as the topless girls in apartment 108 and it would have been nice to be aware of that rule.
Another thing you have too keep in mind when you move to America, is that it is frowned upon to talk to Americans about politics or how much money you earn. In Denmark, people are very open about those topics and it is completely okay to ask people how much money they earn in their new job and whom they voted for to the election. Politics is a very popular conversation topic around the kitchen table in Denmark.
As I told you in one of my earlier columns, people from Denmark are not as open minded toward strangers as Americans are, and it is normal not to talk to anyone when you are in a public place. But when Danish people finally open their mouth and talk to strangers, we often tend to say things a little too directly.
Danes don’t really use polite phrases and we say things as there are. Many Danish people have a really dark and sarcastic humor. Americans use a lot of polite phrases, and it doesn’t really seems like they get the sarcastic humor. This has also cost me some trouble, and Danish people often hear that we are mean.
In addition to this you have to learn the words “sorry” and “excuse me” when you move to America. Americans say sorry for almost everything they do. When they sneeze, walk by you in the hallway, and if they stand behind you in the line in the grocery store. In Denmark, we only use the word sorry if we actually did something wrong, and it has been really difficult to get use to saying it all the time. Sorry for that.
Other things that are very different in America, compared to Denmark, are the unwritten rules about having a house party. In Denmark, you are always allowed to have a party if you just tell your neighbors first and keep the music down after 1 a.m. If your neighbors want to complain, they will knock on your door and tell you to turn the music down.
In America you have to be quite after 10 p.m., and if the neighbors want to complain, they call your landlord or call the police. You would never call the police for something like that in Denmark, and if you did I think they would tell you to solve the problem yourself.
I don’t think the European rules are better than the American rules, I just think it is funny that there is such a big difference. I learned some of the unwritten rules in American the hard way, and I would recommend for other people to learn some of them before they move here.
Mathilde Rousseau Bjerregaard is from Aarhus, Denmark. She is an editorial intern with San Diego Community Newspaper Group. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.