Welcome to Denmark

Welcome to Denmark

Lourdes Alfaro, Writer

In the U.S., each state has its own culture—whether it’s the unique foods, the dialect, or even its festivals. Why is it, then, that Americans tend to think that all Europeans are alike?

In fact, they are not. Every country has its own little way of doing things that give that nation its unique flavor. Therefore, it’s a good thing there Foreign Exchange Students to enlighten the world about their own countries.

Being a Foreign Exchange Student provides an opportunity to explore new parts of the world and meet new people. Emilie Tolfjord is spending the year in Elkhart to not only learn about life as a Hoosier but to offer a glimpse into what it’s like to live in Denmark.

“One thing I like about my country is that we’re really open-minded,” Tolfjord begins. “And,” she adds, “the Christmas food!” Risalamande, flaeskesteg, and brunede kartofler are among her favorites. (Look them up to see just what she’s referring to!) However, Tolfjord also admits that there are things she doesn’t like in her homeland, too. “I hate the long school days we have in Denmark!” Everyone here can agree to that; universally, no student desires long school days. “We get way more breaks and recess.”

The long days, however, can cause a bit of homesickness at times. “I miss my family and friends from Denmark,” Tolfjord admits. “I also miss parties and our Danish Traditions.” Clearly, a few of those customs will seem odd here in America. “Some our traditions include dancing around the Christmas tree,” she explains. “Another one is called Fastelavn, which is where we dress up and put a picture of a black cat on a barrel.” If this doesn’t sound strange, just wait to hear about Sankt Hans!  “This is where we put a fake witch in the middle of a bonfire and burn it!” Sounds a bit like the Salem Witch Trials. Yet, to foreigners, the American Halloween or the extremes others go to deck themselves out for a sporting event could seem equally bizarre to outsiders.

   On a softer note, Tolfjord explains a tradition more akin to Valentine’s Day called Gaekkebrev. “This day, we send out notes to people, and for our names, we put them as dots. If the person who got the note can’t guess who gave it to them, then they owe you chocolate,” stated Tolfjord.  Or, they may just enjoy what Tolfjord calls Hygge. “This tradition is something we do when we want to feel cozy,” Tolfjord offers.

   Yet, Tolfjord won’t go home cold and empty handed from her adventures here. She will take with her a suitcase full of great memories. “My best experience here in Indiana is meeting new people and how different people are,” she states. In addition to such unfamiliar sayings as “Holy Cow!” Tolfjord shares some other unique qualities of Hoosiers that she will share with friends back home. “A lot of things I noticed here that is different are how parents raise their kids. In Denmark, we don’t have a lot of secrets with our parents. We can tell them most anything without them getting mad.”

   She also notes the difference in what is deemed acceptable for a teenager to do at a particular age. “We can drink at age 16-17 in Denmark,” Tolfjord begins, “but we can’t get our license.” She is also taken aback by how Americans of any age dress in public. “In Denmark we would never wear sweatpants; it’s disrespectful.”

   When it’s all said and done, will Tolfjord’s time in Elkhart prove to be an experience of a lifetime? “No,” she cautiously admits. “This was not one of biggest adventures. I’ve been to France, Italy, Spain, Turkey, and Australia.” In each exotic location, Tolfjord notes that “the biggest differences were the food and the language.”

   So, how many languages does Tolfjord actually speak? The answer is four: Danish, English, some French, and what she is learning now: Spanish. In any language, that speaks volumes about her!


Favorite food in Denmark? Smoerrebroed

Favorite food in the U.S.? Nachos, B-dubs

Favorite food in all her travels? Spaghetti carbonara, sushi, fried rice, Thai food


Biggest misconception others have about Denmark? Feels like a lot of people don’t know where Denmark is

Biggest misconception Americans have about Europe? That we are all from the same country

Biggest misconception she had about the U.S.? She feels like her expectation are built on movies (High School Musical)


“Must see” spot in Denmark? Copenhagen, Skagen

“Must see” spot in the U.S.? New York


Next place to travel? Hawaii

Next language to learn? Spanish