How to adjust to life in the US as a Dane

09.08.16
3 minute read
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There are an estimated 30,000 to 35,000 Danes living in the United States, according to the Embassy of Denmark in Washington, D.C.

However, the U.S. can feel like a very different place to live compared to Denmark. From the lack of bike lanes to people heading down to the shops on a Sundays wearing their pajamas.

So we asked some Danish [TransferWise] customers for a few on adapting to life in the good ‘ol USA.
Here's what they said:

Don’t be silenced

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In Denmark, a conversation might include a comfortable silence or a reflective silence.

In an average American conversation, the most common type of silence is, um, well…an awkward one.

“People will go to great costs to avoid any sort of pause in conversation.”

Wise insights from Anne, a Danish expat in New York.


Go take a bike

Bike

In the U.S., many people still see biking as a fun children’s activity, or put their bikes on their cars to get somewhere “bike-friendly”, rather than using their bikes simply to get from point A to B.

Yet not all hope is lost in this car country: many larger cities are expanding their bike lanes and biking culture. While you may not be used to wearing a clunky helmet, be sure to don one in the States. Drivers aren't as accustomed to share the lanes with their two-wheeled friends.


Dress down

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Too busy to color coordinate your clothes and show off your style on the streets?

Fear not in America. In most parts of the States, there is no shame in shopping – or as a student, visiting morning classes – in sweats or pajama pants.

“Danes are much more fashion conscious all the time than Americans,”

says Else, a Danish expat in California.


How are you? Just kidding.

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You may be surprised upon how, when arriving in the U.S., even the woman at the grocery counter asks, “How are you doing today?”

Expect to receive awkward silence when you tell her things are just OK. They are just accustomed to hearing “Good. How are you?” -- the standard response to this standard greeting.


Take a deep breath

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You may arrive at a meeting that begins at 9 a.m. at 8:45. Yet the actual meeting, and not your convivial colleagues’ small talk that builds up to it, may not actually start until 9:30.

Your colleagues may also stay longer in the office -- not necessarily to work all the time, but also to socialize or test out that new ping pong table in the ‘Rec Room’.


Get your food in the door

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In the land of cheap food and choices, eating in restaurants or getting take-away items is commonplace.

Jan, a Danish expat in New York, shared this insight:

“To eat out in Denmark is usually an ‘occasion’ whereas in the U.S. it is often socializing.”

Just don’t make the classic U.S. expat rookie mistake, and forget that 15-20 percent tip on your the meal.


Put your knives away

meal

Jan, a Danish expat in New York: Unless a piece of food is difficult to cut, such as a Buffalo steak, Americans will rely purely on their forks to eat a meal.

A butter knife is usually just used to spread butter, not break apart your salads or pasta. And thinking of exercising a knife on that giant burrito? Calmly put it down, and eat it with your hands like your fellow compatriots.


Opening a bank account...and finding out about the fees

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The U.S. is strict about many aspects of life for foreigners, but generally opening a basic bank account is not one of them.

Many banks will allow you to open an account, even remotely, without a social security number, or just with a U.S. tax ID number.

However, watch out for the fees. ATMs will hit you with a $1.50-$3.00 charge for each withdrawal. And that check book you never thought you’d need? $25 please...


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