Friday, March 28, 2008


I was just catching up on some other expat blogs I follow and the topic arose about being stared at in Denmark. It reminded me of some funny situations I've been in since having moved here.

The staring - as I said in a comment elsewhere - it amuses me! For the first 6 months I was here I found myself constantly whispering to Ole.. "they're looking at me again!" I fought off the urge to break into my best New York/New Jersey accent and say "Are you looking at me?" "Do I amuuuuse you?"

I tend to conveniently forget that I'm in a foreign land when we're together as we speak English between us. So when we're out and about and speaking English it slips my mind that it may be strange for others to hear us talking. Especially since I'm not really a quiet person - I'm the one in the grocery store holding something up and yelling down the aisle.. "Look honey - they have REAL Ocean Spray cranberries!". This inevitably leads to the stares - all the heads whipping around at this strange voice.

Granted, I live in a small town smack in the middle of Jylland, so I understand it. I suspect at times that I'm known around town for being the "American" girl - granted no one has gone to the point of running away when I approach, but still! Our house is also somewhat of a fishbowl as we're located on a corner with about 5 other houses facing our house from one side or another. I think the residents or our little dead-end street are amused by me, but that's another story. :)

But the Danes definitely aren't shy about staring at something different or unusual. In the US, we're brought up with the "it's not polite to stare" mantra drilled into our heads, so we stare a bit more secretivily. You know, hold up the newspaper in front of your face and sneak a glimpse as you turn the page, etc. Not so in Denmark - if they want to look at you, they do. They just stop and stare. It's a bit unnerving now and then!

One of my funniest stares came a few weeks ago at the Sprogskole. It's a language center so those in the neighborhood must be used to it by now, right? Maybe not. We were on our break and a few of us were having a conversation in front of the school, in English. Our school is right next to a Netto shop. This very old women came out of the shop with her Netto sack in hand - she was strolling past us and just stopped dead in her tracks, whipped her head around and just stared at us. I turned and said Hi to her and she then smiled and went on her way. But the way she looked at us you would've thought she had seen the second coming.


  1. So staring isn't just a German phenomenon...I was beginning to think I had a permanent mark on my face.

    (BTW, I came across your blog when reading a few other expat blogs. I hope you don't mind me checking it out every once in a while.)

  2. O O (that's a couple of staring eyes).

    Funny observation. But I need to ask - have you been to Copenhagen? Did people stare at you there too?
    Because I'm afraid it's not because you're an American or because all Danes stare. You are in a part of Denmark where people apparently didn't learn common politeness of non-staring. I've been there too. Work as an archaeologist, get around the country a lot. I have NEVER been stared at so much as when I was driving a battered van through petty villages in Northern Jutland. Their eyes seemed literally to be popping out and I worried they'd need a collective physiotherapy session from all the neck and back twisting they had to do in order to follow me with their eyes.
    So - my point is - I think staring is more "small-town" universal than it is particularly Danish.

    I enjoyed staring at your blog post, thank you.


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