The Danish language has no word for “please.” There are various ways to politely ask for things, and I know some of them, but there’s no single, easy word I can put at the end of a question that indicates that even though I don’t know the language well enough to politely ask this without horrendously mixing up and saying something completely wrong, I’m still trying. So I’ve been smiling a lot, and I’ve come to realize two things:
- I say “please” much more than I had previously thought. I’ve never been as please-happy as some Americans can be, and tend towards a philosophy of “courtesy through indirectness” – putting things in conditional tenses, asking “do you know?” instead of “can you please tell me?” and that sort of thing. Actually, I say please all the time. A glass of water, please, and oh, please, that’s ridiculous, and would you please get your chair the hell off my foot? Thanks.
- I don’t normally smile very much. Before anyone points out that it takes only a few muscles to smile, while you need some zillions to frown, I’d like to point out that there are many facial expressions beyond simple smiles and frowns. Wandering around slackjawed and drooling, for example, doesn’t strain any of your facial muscles at all. Much as I love my blank (er, I mean, subtle) facial expressions, though, I suspect that this is something I should pay attention to. Particularly when I’m in social settings in a completely new country where I know almost nobody and am trying to make friends. As antithetical to the spirit of snotty, arrogant “take me as I am or fuck off” blogging as this might sound, I happen to like it when people like me, and I don’t have any problems modifying a minor quirk so that people like me more.
Hmm. I’ve also realized that all my posts from Denmark have been to do with language quirks. The next one, I promise, will be a culture quirk or even a rambling introspection, even if I have to say something stupid about my new ability to buy beer.