I moved to Denmark a bit more than a year ago - from a Western Europe country. I originally did not plan on staying there more than 6 months. For that reason, I did not start learning the language right away. I started learning the language less than 6 months ago. I am really willing to try and am making quick progress, but it is still difficult and I struggle with it.
About two months ago, I started a internship in a local company. The majority of the employees are Danish. Therefore, most of the people-to-people interaction happens in Danish.
This is the first real work experience I have that matches my studies and my first work experience in this country. It seems like a lot of things differ from where I come from - here in Denmark it is less formal and more relaxed, from what I have seen.
I am a very shy person. I repeat every sentence in my mind a lot of times before actually saying it. I can do a bit of small talk if someone speaks to me, but I often can't bring myself to talk to someone first. Sometimes I would like to say something to a coworker - not work related, just for the sake of getting to know them as they interact a lot with each other - but simply can't bring myself to do so. When this happens, I usually end up not saying anything because it makes me feel uncomfortable. For work matters, I manage to force myself but it requires a lot of thoughts and stress.
If you exclude the fact that I am very shy, I also take a deep interest in people and really like social interaction (especially 1-to-1 conversation). I enjoy talking with anyone as long as they initiate the first talk(s).
When my coworkers talk to me, they use English. Most of the time it is work related. When it is not, I manage to continue the conversation a bit and do some small talk. All of them have a good level of English and they hired me knowing that I don't speak Danish.
My colleagues interact with each other in Danish. Our weekly meetings are in Danish - myself being the only one talking about my work in English. They have lunch all together and have conversations together at work and at the coffee machine. They sometimes have cake and coffee together, thus resulting in conversations together.
I had lunch with them a few times, but it resulted in me sitting with them and not understanding what they were talking about, which was uncomfortable. I now have lunch with other non-Danish friends in the same building. This might be a bad move from my side, but I really was feeling too uncomfortable.
When my co-workers are having a group conversation - or any conversation in Danish - I feel like I would love talking with them, but it would be rude to interrupt their conversation to switch it to English. It happened a few times that I sat for 30 minutes in a meeting without understanding more than a few words, and that I ended up leaving the meeting without a clue of what was going on.
After about two months of work, I still don't know what many of my co-workers are working on. Some days I don't speak with anyone apart from the general "good morning" and the general "have a nice evening/see you tomorrow", because no one speaks to me. One day, I did not congratulate a coworker that had birthday. The reason for that is that the person was having a conversation with 3 other people and I could not bring myself to interrupt them. After that conversation, the co-worker left. I feel bad about this since.
We are a small team - about 10-15 people - and I am worried that they might find me unfriendly, or might think that I have no interest in talking to them.
I don't know how much that would be relevant in Denmark, but all of the people in my team are from the opposite gender. Also, as I understood it, small talk with co-workers seems to be quite important here. I also got the impression that some of my colleagues were uncomfortable when I did try to have some small talk with them - the co-workers I am talking about also seem shy.
- Is there a way to know if my concerns are valid and if my coworkers do think I am not interested in speaking to them?
- How should I behave to make them understand that I am just shy and not ignoring them?
- How could I have more interactions with my co-workers without making them uncomfortable?