Esperanto Language Blog

Universala Kongreso – something for everyone! (Part 1/2) Posted by on Aug 12, 2011 in Uncategorized

David Dougherty’s comment caught my eye and finally he tells all of what the hell he was doing at the Universala Kongreso de Esperanto (Abbreviated: UK).

I learned Esperanto in 2005, and have had a fabulous time with it. I felt that I had to finally attend an Universala Kongreso. This is the biggest annual Esperanto event with visitors from all over the world. This summer I made sure to be there, from July 23-30, in Copenhagen, Denmark!

Here are my impressions from the perspective of a first-timer at the UK. Overall, I can say that I had a really good time. I used Esperanto every day, and met people from all over the world. I would like to share some of my observations, for the benefit of anyone who is thinking about attending an UK for the very first time.

The Congress hotel is big too!

1. The UK is big. Really big. There were, I believe, about 1,400 people there. Normally, I see this as a great opportunity: more chances to meet people.

[Chuck: The amount of participants in UK, typically range from 1,000 to 3,000 participants. In its centennial congress, they reached a record of 5,946!]

That said, during the first three or four days of the Congress, I felt that I was sort of lost. It became apparent to me that many of the people there go to the UK every year, and already know many people. They greeted each other and chatted, while I just wandered around aimlessly in the convention center. I was the new kid on the block. Were people rude to me? No, not at all. I just felt a tad out of place. It reminded me a bit of my first week or two in college, and I was not really experiencing Copenhagen, either.

I did meet some people, and they were mostly people I already knew from the Internet. This was great–I have chatted or spoken with some of them online for years, and this was my chance to meet them in person. Bit by bit, I started to meet people, including several who I did not know from any other place. By the fourth day, I had found my own “crowd.”

I know I'm in the Congress, but where...?

2. You have to find your own way at the UK. Once I did, things started falling into place. The UK has many events going on at the same time, so you have to choose. In the beginning, I went to several lectures on various topics, but these were not what made the Congress come alive for me. I stopped by one or two official meetings of UEA where they made some decisions, committee-type stuff. This is all very well and good–UEA is a formal organization, and many of the people who come to the UK are there to work. For me, this was vacation, and I wanted to experience some things that I otherwise could not. After drifting in and out of numerous events the first several days, I came to discover my “niche,” as it were. My niche proved to be the artistic and cultural events, exploring Copenhagen itself with my new friends, and smaller gatherings. Not every Congress can be all things to all people, and not everybody will like every event. However, there is a wide variety of programs, and I learned to explore various things until I found what I liked best.

For me, the questions were very simple:

a. Where could I meet people?
b. What were my personal interests?
c. What could this Congress offer me, that is not available elsewhere?

Once I figured out the answers to these questions (keep in mind that the answers to these questions will vary with each individual), I began to enjoy the Congress and to benefit from it. I had to remind myself that Universala Esperanto Asocio was offering many opportunities without pushing any of them–it is up to the individual to find what he or she likes.

In the next part, you’ll learn what he discovered in Copenhagen, so check back next week to find out! In the meantime, you can enjoy some of the national TV coverage of the event

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About the Author: Chuck Smith

I was born in the US, but Esperanto has led me all over the world. I started teaching myself Esperanto on a whim in 2001, not knowing how it would change my life. The timing couldn’t have been better; around that same time I discovered Wikipedia in it’s very early stages and launched the Esperanto version. When I decided to backpack through Europe, I found Esperanto speakers to host me. These connections led me to the Esperanto Youth Organization in Rotterdam, where I worked for a year, using Esperanto as my primary language. Though in recent years I’ve moved on to other endeavors like iOS development, I remain deeply engrained in the Esperanto community, and love keeping you informed of the latest news. The best thing that came from learning Esperanto has been the opportunity to connect with fellow speakers around the globe, so feel free to join in the conversation with a comment! I am now the founder and CTO of the social app Amikumu.


  1. Boris Kolker:

    Bela rakonto. Mi provos konigi gxin en Fejsbuko.

  2. Vaughn Seward:

    Is there a way to easily look back on previous entries in your blog (other than going back page at a time)?

  3. Chuck Smith:

    We’re currently in the process of revamping the archive system, but until we finish that up, you can easily get to older content with the following link:

  4. Neil Blonsteon:

    I recommend UK for the very fluent, very organized, somewhat assertive Esperanto speakers. One should experience smaller Esperanto conferences, with one or two hundred participants, in Europe before experiencing the Universal Kongreso. I state this as an Esperanto speaker for 40 years who has gone to UK-Berlin (2,700 particants) and several other UK’s. (I was lucky enough to go to a conference with 200 participants BEFORE the one with 2,700 and bonded already with a hundred people who also came to the Berlin-UK. In different years I also went to 2 musicians Esperanto conferences (2000 and 2009), and a socialist Esperanto conferences which are much smaller (a few hundred participants for a week. That is much more manageable for the less fluent, less assertive. There are probably a dozen national Esperanto conferences in Europe with 2 or 3 hundred participants each. Several other interest group conferences are usually announced by March.

  5. Enrique:

    If you have the chance, don’t ever miss the opportunity to participate in a big Esperanto convention. I participated in Vienna, Austria, in 1992, with 3033 participants from 75 countries, and Beijing, China, in 2004, with 2051 participants from 51 countries. Now I am trying for Hanoi, Vietnam, 2012.

    Those were the greatest Esperanto experiences in my life. Don’t miss them if they are possible for you.Of course, I recommend you to practice as much Esperanto as you can before getting there. But even if you think that your Esperanto is not up to par, go the same. You will get lots of practice at the convention.

    Then, try to speak only in Esperanto. Don’t even get near any group that are talking any other language. To speak in English you don’t have to travel.

    The say that “Harvard is what you learn when you aren’t in class.” This is also truth for the convention. Spend lots of time in the lobbies and public areas, speaking to everybody in your way, and better if they are from countries which aren’t familiar to you. Don’t stop trying to speak … in Esperanto.

    Reciprocating … people came to me to speak with me. I didn’t have to make a big effort to find people that liked to speak with me. In Beijing half of the participants were from other parts of China. They wanted to speak with me. But I also spoke to people from many other countries … from Africa, Europe,
    Australia … I even played table tennis with a lady from China.

    You will be surprised how much we have in common with individuals from any country, no matter how strange that country looked to you in the past.

    While practicing Esperanto, think in Esperanto, don’t translate. If you keep thinking in English, you will never get the flavor of the Esperanto language.

    Even if you are a beginner, go the same. Practice as much as possible before getting there. By any means … go to that big meeting. If in 2012 … most likely we will meet in Hanoi. Look for me. I am Enrique from California.