“It just doesn’t help me,” says my colleague. She’s talking about the age-old expatriate ‘sport’ of Dane-bashing – a good old moan about Denmark and the Danes. In her case, she still has to live here and her husband will still be a Dane when she wakes up next to him in the morning.
Personally, I am so sick of hearing the same moans I have developed a five-point plan. Dane-bashers: prepare to be debunked!
The weather and the dark
This weather is not unique to Denmark, the whole of northwest Europe ‘enjoys’ murky foggy darkness with a generous side of precipitation for a big part of the year. This, and the darkness factor, can’t be changed, so you can’t blame the Danes for it. Also, without the cold and dark there would be no hygge. Like Sinestro to the Green Lantern, everything needs a nemesis.
Yes, we pay an arm and a leg, but did anyone lie to you about this when you were making the decision to come here? Or did you know full well what the taxation rates were and decide to come anyway? Thought so!
Oh no… are you in a healthcare system that treats you like a patient not a customer? Do they refuse to move you up waiting lists just because you have money? Do they only send you to see specialists and run tests because you actually need them rather than because someone will pay? Well heavens to Kirkegaard, it seems your health is in the hands of people who have studied medicine rather than business.
This is a tough one to defend. Danes can be a wee bit smug about stuff like fjernvarme or the welfare state. But remember, dinky Denmark is a really tiny country and they have to keep their end up somehow. Try and react as you would when a little kid runs up to you and proudly tells you they won at Cluedo. Smile and close the discussion with something positive like: “And you have given the world lovely lampshades too.”
It is hard to get Danish colleagues and neighbours to open up about their lives to you. You will never be welcomed to a new area by a smiling neighbour on the doorstep with a plate of brownies like in American films. You are going to have to work at it and work hard. The two most powerful solutions are God and babies. By that I mean being a member of a religion or having a baby and going to mother groups. If none of these things are an option, you are going to have to make the effort. Join clubs, invite your neighbours over, invite your colleagues, take cake to work, whatever it takes. But if all you ever do is complain about Denmark, then you can hardly expect to be invited back.
Of course there is a place for a little Dane-bashing among consenting adults behind closed doors but if you’re going to Dane-bash with me, please come up with something new.