As an American, I’m not arrogant, greedy, or violent. I’m Native American, but I don’t live on a reservation. Being from Wisconsin, I’m not a dairy farmer. The harmful stereotypes we place on others is damaging for our global community by generalizing a negative trait and applying it to an entire people. Traveling graciously brings the world closer and creates an understanding of one another.
When traveling to any destination, it is important to remember the reason for travel is new experiences. Personal interaction is an essential part of taking in a new environment. How can you possibly learn about a city or country when you don’t talk to people who live there?
We travel graciously by realizing other languages exist and appreciating differences in cultures. With this belief, I was determined to get some local Copenhagen information about one idiosyncrasy I witnessed: men not opening doors for women.
Most people were unable or unwilling to talk (or they just wanted to make a Trump joke). After many attempts, I was about to give up. Enter Paul Davies, a tall, 30-ish waiter. Paul lives in Copenhagen and I asked him about the local custom. Paul (not his real name) addressed my question, “Men don’t open doors for the women in Denmark because the women can do it themselves.”
Now, before you judge the Danish man, consider Paul’s explanation, “It’s not meant as a snub to the men or the women. That’s the way it is.” As my husband always opens doors for me, which I love, I could not understand this. Paul repeated, “That’s the way it is.” From a little internet research, this cultural difference stems from the men and women in Denmark seeing each other as equals.
When you’re traveling and you notice a cultural difference, don’t assume it’s weird or wrong, it’s just different. If it really bothers you, ask a local. For travel and life, remember you are in it for the new experiences, so be open to them.
We’ll return to our Scandinavia trip highlights tomorrow. Headed to Norway. See you in Oslo!