Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Faux-Pas Series: First Installment

If there is one question you should never ask a Dane with whom you are unacquainted, it is "How are you?" 

Those three little words can only elicit one of two responses:

1) The Dane slowly backs away as though you are threatening to shoot him or her in the face. 

2) The Dane stops to think for a moment before saying, "Well, my ulcer is taking a break, but I seem to have a herniated disk so I went to the doctor and he told me I should stop cycling until it gets better, but of course I don't want to and then..."

Or something to that effect. So what is it about our beloved American expression that seems to push Danes into a paranoia/overshare dichotomy? 

They take it literally. What is a synonym for 'hi' to most Americans is considered by Danes a genuine inquiry after a person's well-being. Saying "how are you" (notice I didn't say "asking 'how are you'" to a stranger in Denmark is insulting and an invasion of privacy at the worst, and at the least, very confusing for the Dane. It shares space with the breach of etiquette that is telling inside jokes around outsiders. 

Once you know someone, though, it's alright. For the record, it's 'Hvordan går det?'

1 comment:

  1. 'Hvordan går det?'

    Well, my brother just murdered my father and married his widow, who is my mother and maybe also my lover, maybe. It's cool though because I can still talk to my dad via the evil Hell demon that is his ghost, maybe, and also I have a girlfriend but she's clinically insane, probably because I slept with her and then acted like a douche. At least, that's what Kenneth Branagh seems to think.