I would like to placate you (or infuriate you, depending on your denomination), from the off that despite its name, the column won’t be catering to the religious, pious or sectarian. Unless, that is, your spiritual healing resides within the realm of football, spicy food and enjoying life in general.
As part of the international community, we’re all aware of Denmark’s deficiencies. Many of my foreign friends and colleagues are eager to point out that, amongst other things, Danes are rude and unwelcoming, service is non-existent, the weather is abysmal, taxes are a disgrace to mankind and the welfare system is a massive waste of money.
I may face excommunication by my fellow … let’s call them crusaders in the vein of this column’s title, but I fear that new international residents are getting a pretty dour impression of the place when inhaling the ill winds of constant criticism. Woe to the one who mentions Denmark favourably, lest they be set upon by hordes of rabid nay-sayers frothing at the mouth, keen to tell their story of calamitous encounters with insolent cyclists and boorish bus drivers.
Well, one evening recently provided me with some fodder, as frivolous as it may be, from which to convey why I love this place.
It began at my local pub, where I had popped down to have a couple of frosty beverages while taking in a rather important football match. I was wearing my club’s colours and despite opposing fans being present as well, there were no fights, no one got bottled and the banter was good hearted throughout the match. There are not many capitals in Europe where you can stroll about wearing a football shirt, let alone watch a game in a pub with opposing fans, without worrying about airborne pint glasses and Millwall bricks (if you don’t know what that is, ask your local hooligan).
After the match, I met up with some pals downtown, where we purchased some more brews from a kiosk before sitting down next to the stork fountain on Strøget, leisurely sipping from our bottles whilst basking in the rarely seen sun. I rather like being able to enjoy a beer or two in public without being judged a booze hound or draw the attention of the police. I also like the fact that I can buy a beer or bottle of wine any time I please, without needing to go to state-run alcohol monopolies.
It turned out that the evening in question had some longevity to it and in the wee hours of the morning our little entourage decided to locate an establishment to satisfy the cravings of the old traditional post-beverage meal. One shawarma (that’s kebab for the greenhorns) and a tub of chilli later I had tipped my hat and begun the journey home on my trusty old two-wheeled steed. I love living in a city where I can get good grub at 5am and then bike home in 15 minutes on bicycle paths that are on nearly every street in the entire city.
There is a little bakery next to my place and although they are not open at 5:15am, they are busy baking the delights for the forthcoming day and if you knock on their door, many of them will sell you a hot, freshly made bun or pastry you can enjoy when you awaken from your slumber. I enjoy living in a town with world class bakeries on every corner.
There is nothing wrong with criticism, if it’s constructive, and in fact I concur with much of what I read in our comments section, but perhaps we ‘foreigners’ should be giving Danes something from which to draw inspiration – leading by example, as it were. I would find it rather easy to go to London and complain about the packed crowds in the piss-soaked, tin-can underground, or whinge about the bumper-to-bumper traffic in New York, or suffocating clouds of pollution in Beijing. One complaint I hear a lot from foreigners is that Danes tend to whine a lot. Well, I suppose some of us are assimilating rather nicely then, because many of the ‘stories’ I read these days lack purpose and are laced with personal contempt. Let’s give newcomers a fighting chance to become disillusioned with Denmark on their own. They may even fall in love with the place. It’s not all bad, is it?