I have found that there are not many people of Asian descent living in Copenhagen and Denmark. This has become a bit of a struggle for me because I have grown up in a very diverse community. Denmark is a relatively homogenous population with an even smaller population of people of foreign descent or immigrants. Even within my study abroad program, there is not a lot of diversity. I have felt symptoms of homesickness when I feel like the odd one out. People have stared at me in public because I look different from them. I have had a few people ask me where I am from because they can tell I am not native to Denmark. These few instances have made me recognize that I am different from the Danes here. I have never felt strong feelings of being an outsider until I studied abroad in a new country.
Instead of creating a cultural barrier between the Danes and myself, I try my best to integrate myself into the community. When meeting new people, I like to have conversations about their backgrounds and identity. I have learned that although it looks like everyone is native to Denmark, many people are of foreign descent living in Denmark. Through these conversations, I have learned a lot about the community and have given them an opportunity to learn about my Vietnamese culture. I have also learned a lot about the culture through Danish food. Food speaks volumes about Danish history and is always a great way to build new connections. I have also spent a lot of time at Danish museums to learn about their history and culture. My favorite museum is the Freedom Museum, a museum that depicts the long history of the Danish resistance movement during World War II.
Through my experiences, I have come to understand why Danes have a strong sense of national identity. Due to their historical policies, Danes have become very reserved. However, once I built up the courage to strike up conversations with strangers in public settings, I have realized that many Danes have lots of interesting stories to share. In return, they are also interested in my identity, background, and stories. These conversations have welcomed me into what previously appeared to be an intimidating city. Although I have only been here for 1 month, I have learned so much about Danish culture and I know there is lots more for me to discover in the next 3 months!