On the first evening in Haderslev in south Denmark, I went to my host Christian Juhl’s mothers home. It was a linguistically-challenged affair. Noone there knew English and I didn’t know a word of Danish. My energy was spent mid-way through the meal after all the animated acting involved in communicating what I was trying to say. I gave up and sat in silence eating Gammeldags hvidkal – a mash of cabbage and cream (quite nice). But the family – Christian Juhl, his sister Rita, her husband Gunnar and their mum Annalise continued to speak in Danish. I thought Christian must have been telling very interesting tales because Rita was drawing in her breath every few minutes.
The following day I met more people making sharp intakes of breath, every few sentences. The Danes must be easily surprised I thought. But its only now at the end of the first week here that I realise its their characteristic way of speaking. Spoken words are followed by a gulp of air.
Now I don’t rush to ask what the matter is when I hear a “whu”. Its just air making its way into a Danish throat.