I have arrived in Odense, Denmark for slightly more than a week now. There hasn’t been much time to “settle in” to the new environment. I was beyond exhausted since the Master Class for Asperger’s in Perth, followed by endless feasting and shopping for 3 days in Singapore, finally the last leg of 15 hours flight to Copenhagen, Denmark.
Diffusion by Collective Confusion
Unlike my first visit to Denmark in early 2014, I have to take a rail train from Copenhagen station (linked to the International Airport) to Odense, via Central station. While buying the train ticket, I spotted a girl who looked profoundly lost, just like myself. I did the unthinkable – well, I don’t normally approach people – by stopping her and invited (or coerced gently) her to join me in the “station hunt” adventure. We were not going to the same city, but we were heading the same direction. I call this action “Collective Confusion”, we were both confused but with collective effort, we found more courage to seek assistance.
Between feeling confused with the Danish signs and seeking help to get on the right platform for the right train, I managed to grab a Danish prepaid SIM card! I was impressed by my robotic execution mode through rote rehearsals of planned sequences.
I spent some time on the train changing out the SIM card and tried to figure out the Danish instructions. Just when I was quite comfortably seated, another passenger came forward to tell me that I had taken her seat. I didn’t manage to find my seat, no one knew where my seat was! I just took the seat beside the other “lost girl”.
Arrived in Odense!
After another 2 more hours of train ride, I arrived in Odense! I am happy to report that I had received many warm assistances from the Danes, be it helping to lift and move my luggage or providing directions etc.
My assigned buddy through the Erasmus Student Network was at Odense station to fetch me to my accommodation. We met two other lovely Chinese students at the station, and gave them a ride to their accommodation. I was enormously relieved to have arrived in one piece – physically, I was mildly delirious mentally. Apart from jetlag, I was also affected by vertigo so for the days that followed, everything was passing in daze; a sense of surreality.
I am quite pleased with my room. It has a full length door and a small window that open to view of greens. The room is exceptionally quiet despite being situated along a hall of 15 rooms.
Saved by Technology
I imagine that independent life abroad with a condition that greatly affects spatial rotation capability (that translates into nearly no sense of directions as the brain fails to map 3D images accurately) must be more challenging without the help of technology. My “conquer” on this journey has been made easy by technology. I depend heavily on google maps to help me find my way around places, even though, I still occasionally take the longer route, but I get there.
Another fabulous application that makes things easier is the google translate app. The instant translation feature allows users to convert the foreign language to another familiar language just by pointing the smartphone camera at the words.
Creature of Habits
Perhaps this will be my new “tradition” when moving from country to country. The 2nd day of my arrival is marked as the “Ikea Day”. I do adore Ikea stuffs, and I love some familiarity in daily essentials. So, we went to Ikea to shop for essentials, such as my favorite contour pillow, comforter, bed sheets, towels and whatnot.
Exploration around the Hood
The helpful buddy was not going to be babysitting me all semester, so it would be wise to explore around the hood to find out the accessibility to shops and other services. See, I am a very efficient planner and have ordered stuffs to be delivered to my Denmark address before I left for Denmark. The parcel was sitting in the post office a week before my arrival, so I took the chance to look for the post office and look around the area. I knew that parcels could be collected from secured boxes whereby you would unlock with the pin provided to you; however, my parcels required signature as proof of delivery so they couldn’t be retrieved from secured boxes.
It would be much easier and leave me with more shopping options if I had known how to ride a bicycle (the Danes refer to bicycle as bike). Until then, a few neat grocers are quite easily accessible by foot from 7-17mins walk.
Be Excited about Things
I have seen this machine on a YouTube video shared on Facebook, rather recently. When I spotted this plastic bottle recycling machine in the shop, I was exhilarated! Instead of pretending to be all composed and knowledgeable, I allowed myself to be genuinely excited and curious! I walked quickly forward while a woman was using the machine; I startled her but she was nice and made way to let me take a photo. It is okay not to know everything, and we should not be shamed or ridiculed for being curious.
Taking Everything In
Coming from Singapore, Perth was spacious; Denmark is vastly expansive! Then again, I have not been to most parts of Perth, so I am only comparing the overall impression, and around my areas. The air is also crisp and clean, possibly affected by my good moods. My good moods are attributed by lowered sensory input of “offensive” sounds, smells, and humidity. With lesser sensory processing efforts, I find myself more energy to enjoy the small things in life, instead of having to regulate my sensory overload on-the-go. It had been something I had to do when living in Singapore because of the high level of sound pollution and constantly high humidity.
Being Less Afraid
I have an intense fear of getting lost, and I get lost on a regular basis. It is a very inconvenient “feature” that sets me back from desiring to leave home. It is especially challenging when I have very little energy left to cope with anxiety of being lost. Now that my sensory processing effort is minimised, I find more tolerance and courage to be less afraid. I also feel more confident in approaching people for help when I did get lost – this ability is often diminished when I experience sensory overload; sensory overload can trip me over to becoming less verbal or non-verbal.
So, I went to Rosengårdcentret shopping mall to “leisure” shop. I don’t usually window shop, I shop with a mission, I mean purpose. I am the kind of in-and-out person when shopping, excluding crafting shop, or stationery shop.
I love the Ikea in Odense during off-peak hours. It is almost like having the Ikea all for myself. It also holds very precious memories for me.
I had contacted a voluntary organization in Odense in prior to my arrival – well, I contacted them in April! – expressing my keen interest in joining their complimentary bike lessons. When I arrived in their office, I was told that all the spots were filled. I was quite disappointed.
Then, the mandatory orientation days arrived. To my astonishment, my apartment is 25 mins walk to the campus; bus would take same or longer time. It could have been 6 mins on the bike! I tried to take the bus, but I couldn’t find the bus stop! After wasting much time, and walking a long distance, I detoured back to take the long walk to the University. Instead of 25 mins, add another 17 mins to that.
Frankly, I quite enjoy the walk, especially that I get to walk through the foresty trails. I hate the parts that expose me to the sun though.
Setting New Routines
I was in Denmark for 6 weeks, and I had a favorite grocer – Lidl. It is perhaps similar to Fairprice in Singapore and Coles in Perth. I love Lidl because the moment you entered the shop, you are immediately welcomed by the wholesome scent of freshly baked bakery (at least I imagine they are freshly baked!).
It is smaller in scale as compared to other stores like Bilka, Fatka, or Meny, but it has its cozy appeal – doesn’t hurt that prices are more competitive, and most importantly, it has my favorite stroopwaffles and fruit minies!
Expose Taste Buds to Local Delicacy
You won’t believe it when I say that for the 6 weeks I was here, I had not tried the Danish open bread – smørrebrød. I don’t know, but we made lots of Asian foods instead, foods such as satay, curry etc. We had wanted to bake the multi-grain rye bread, but we had not the time. Now, I have been officially introduced to smørrebrød when my buddy invited me to his apartment to have lunch. It was love at first bite! Then, I was introduced to the bacon flavored Pâté – leverpostej and I am now officially an addict to it! I have liked Pâté, but never remotely near the same range of “addiction”!
Then, there is Danish hotdog. See, this was not new to me, I had this when I was here the last time, at Kolding, but this is a whole new level of delicious! The bun was crispy on the outer layer, soft in the inside; the hotdog is crunchy on the skin, the fried onion is crispy and the pickles are crunchy. Every bite was heavenly divine – of course I exercise exaggeration!
Observe, Analyse, and Imitate
Ok, so the fastest way to become a “local” is probably through the local consumer’s behaviours (and food!). I am proud to report that I have collected all the stamps in one purchase and are eligible to buy a measuring laser tool at 42% discount!
Brave the Rainy Days
Denmark is one of the rainiest countries in the world – I seriously did not know that! For some (good and valid reasons in my opinion) reasons, I left my warm jackets and coats in Singapore, because my sheepskin boots and skincare products are more important! I don’t know, I was totally confused with the packing, repacking, unpacking, and repacking, that I mixed up the luggage that stayed in Singapore and the one I was going to bring to Denmark. So, I need not only the rain poncho, but also more clothes as Denmark marches into Fall.
I am genuinely happy now. I laugh more and am less conscious of being silly.