on being culturally illiterate

As many of you know, and will be eternally amused by, there are many things about the English language and the American culture that I don’t understand and several that I may never understand. There are things like the cartoons you watched as a kid, the fads that were in through your middle school years, or just the pronunciation of less commonly used words such as Braille.

However hard I’ve worked at properly adapting and integrating into American culture, there are just some things that are will always be lost in translation if you miss out on a few critical years. While I spent my much of my childhood and my early teens in Denmark, my peers went through 3-9 grade. That’s most of elementary school, all of middle school, and the first year of high school. Even though I certainly had it easier that many people I know that had to enter high school without any experience of the language or culture, there are many things I don’t understand and many conversations that go over my head.
Anyway, we’ve all had our laughs over the fact that I missed out on some American education. Some of it’s even been funny for me.

But I’ve always considered myself a little bit of an expert on Danish culture, having nearly grown up over here and all, but had a rude awakening to Danish Pop culture within my first few days here. Apparently a lot happens when you leave for a few years. So the past few days I’ve been on a self-taught intensive Danish Pop Culture course. I’ve learned a lot! And I’m willing to share with you guys:

  • Nik&Jay: a Danish rap duo. Even though they started gaining popularity right before I left 7 years, their still going strong and are (surprisingly enough) probably the most popular/well known musicians in the country. I have to give them some credit for that though, for two white guy rappers, they’ve remained on top for a really long time. Every few years, whenever I return to Denmark, I hear their songs all over the radio, TV and nightclubs, and I’ve once again come to the conclusion that A. all their songs sound alike, B. their not very attractive, and C. they are not very good. (Also, I’ve been using the TV to catch up on my Danish music, because surprisingly enough, it seems that there are two channels that ACTUALLY PLAY MUSIC and music videos. It’s not MTV, of course, but VH1 and The Voice. They show nonstop music videos, usually organized into themes (think, Michael Jackson or “Dance party”) or hit lists (think European top 40 or top 10 club).
  • “De unge modre” (the young mothers): this is exactly what it sounds like. It’s kind of like the Danish version of the MTV show “16 and pregnant” except it focuses on the lives of the mothers and their children as they grow up together. Cute. I’ve been told it’s one of the shows to watch (along with ‘singleliv’) and I already get the appeal: they make me cringe and never want to reproduce. It seems deliciously trashy and worthless; thereby making it perfect for me.
  • “Singleliv” (singlelife): I’m still not quite sure what the point of this show is. It follows single people as they go on dates. From the short moments I’ve seen, it seems kind of awkward. You’ll have to give me some time for this one. But I’m working on it!
  • “Baronessen flytter ind” (the Baroness moves in): So a few years ago, this Baroness gained fame after her and her husband invited the cameras into their castle to film their lives. Then they got divorced and for some reason, probably because her expensive habits are quickly causing her to go broke, she signed up for this new show. It most closely resembles a very odd version of “Wifeswap.” This is the concept: Baroness chooses random family, hopefully one that’s a bit odd. Baroness moves into house. Wife moves into castle for 4 days of pampering, makovers, and luxury. Baroness sees how real household works. Baroness tries to make some sort of change to the house (redecorates living room, changes husbands haircut, teaches kids expensive habits). Wife comes back home. Everyone is happy.
  • Sidney Lee: This guy is a character. He’s a professional Reality Television Personality. Now who ever heard of such a thing? He spent a few years in the US and now speaks with a perpetual slight American accent. You’ll really just have to see him to really get it, because I still don’t.

    All right, I’m out. School and such!

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