By Max Offer
---- — Hej! My name is Max Ofer, and I am in Denmark through the Rotary Youth Exchange Program. I live in a small town called Hjallerup, consisting of 3000 people, in the northern part of Jutland, the main peninsula of Denmark.
I arrived on Aug. 11 and I have been here for 6 weeks. I have been enjoying all of it. I have made many friends and I have experienced some amazing things. I am currently living with a family of five. They are all very kind to me, even though I do not see the two eldest children very often, as they have moved away from home. My family has been very helpful to me, and they have done many things to make me feel as though I am at home. They are constantly telling me about Denmark and teaching me Danish. I feel like a part of their family. I am very happy to be with them.
The language is not similar anything I know. Danish is very hard and there are rules for everything. The problem is that there are many exceptions to the rules, making the rules apply to about half the words. I have not learned the language, and I am not able to have a full conversation with someone. I just know a little bit of Danish. It is very hard because the words look very different from the way they are pronounced. It is true that the language sounds as though the people have a potato in their mouth.
I have not traveled to Copenhagen, but I have traveled to some other large cities in Denmark. I live near Aalborg, the sixth biggest city, and I have traveled to Aarhus, south of where I live, and some smaller cities up near the tip of Denmark. I have been to a cool modern art museum, the ARoS, which seems to be based off of the Guggenheim on the interior. I have also seen the sea on the east and on the west side of Denmark.
Before I came to Denmark I had heard that the Danes were the happiest people in the world. I had also heard that there was a large middle class here. I have found both of these to be mostly true. The Danes are very content with how they live and what they do. They are not laughing all the time, which is what this stereotype can make you to believe, but they do have a sense of humor. Danes are not “happy,” but they are content and satisfied with their lives.
The Danish middle class is much bigger than in many other countries. There are not many very poor or super rich people in Denmark. The majority of the wealth is distributed among the middle class. I also heard that Denmark’s average salary was over $100,000. This surprised me, but it is not what it may seem.
In Denmark there is an income tax ranging from about 50% to 60%, which means that Danes only get to keep about half of that. This does not sound bad at all, due to the benefits of free education and healthcare. This is only part of the picture. Everything is much more expensive in Denmark, and there are taxes on things like cars that are three times the price of the product. If you bought a car in the USA for $20,000, that car in Denmark would cost $80,000 after taxes. I have found that people get more things for free in Denmark than in the USA, but at a large cost.
When I came to Denmark I expected different things from what I was used to in the United States. I expected everything to be a little bit smaller and cleaner. I came expecting to have to change my habits to fit in. When I arrived I found that things were not all that different. All the cars were smaller, there were windmills everywhere, and the people were a little bit less outgoing. Besides those things, I have found that most of my expectations turned out to be true. I tried not to come to Denmark with expectations, but I had heard so much about Denmark, I couldn’t help myself.
I am having a great exchange, and I plan to write to the paper monthly.
Max Ofer is a Cooperstown Rotary exchange student in Denmark.