You’re Still Here? | Copenhagen vs Jutland

Every country has a rivalry between regions. You see this basic tension play out everywhere. The capital is viewed as snotty, overpriced and pretentious by down-to-earth provincial dwellers. The provinces are, in turn, seen as hickish, ignorant and inbred.

During my first month in Denmark, I asked one of my classes which Danish regional stereotype was the ‘stupid one’, so I could explain Englishman, Irishman and Scottishman jokes to them. They just looked sad and changed the subject. Of course, my region was the butt of the jokes. Later, I found out that whenever kids’ cartoons are dubbed into Danish, the stupid characters get Jysk accents. And that the Danish film board rejected a film about some ethnic kids having an adventure because the hicks in Jutland wouldn’t like it (they did actually, so in your face, snobby Copenhageners!)

Whenever I introduce myself in Copenhagen, most Danes look shocked when I tell them where I live. Maybe they would be less viscerally affected if I lived in one of the big Jutland cities. I wonder if their reaction would be the same if I lived in a similar hole-in-the-road town in Zealand. Who knows? It makes me laugh though, because although half the population of Copenhagen is from somewhere else and Denmark is only 259km across, Copenhageners rarely make it ‘over there’ (or ‘here’ as we call it).

Toll booth charges and high train fares mean that a trip across the bridge is expensive unless you get a discount. It is usually cheaper for me to visit Berlin than Copenhagen, for example. When foreigners living in Copenhagen ask for advice about what to see in Denmark, they ignore my Jutland-centric suggestions in favour of ones closer to home.

Their only experience of Jutland is seeing ‘Babette’s feast’ and the hushed warnings of their Danish friends. My foreign friends in Jutland might visit Copenhagen for a daytrip, but it is prohibitively expensive to make a habit of it.

Not surprisingly, other foreigners buy into the stereotypes. Including me. When in Rome, insult the Terroni and all that. Foreigners in Copenhagen also shudder when they talk about visiting Jutland. They could never visit the peasants there. Foreigners on the Jutland peninsula and the other islands talk about how stuck-up and snooty the Copenhageners are. How everything is overpriced and la-di-dah.

Personally, I think it is harmless. After all, when I lived in London, I made fun of the ‘provinces’ as much as the next ready-made Londoner. What surprised me about visiting Copenhagen was that for all the talk, the city was not really that different from Aarhus or Odense. Bigger sure, but the prices are the same and so are the consumer options on the whole.

Of course, these stereotypes are but crude caricatures of the different Danish regions, but as an outsider it is fun to see what the stereotypes are and how true to life they can be. For example, it is a stereotype that Jutlanders are stingy with money. I can confirm this to be almost true. They might be tight with money, but they are often generous to a fault. So, on one hand, I have been charged money to come to a party, but on the other, a bus driver drove me to the airport herself in her car after her shift because I got on the wrong bus and would have missed the flight otherwise.

In the end, these regional stereotypes bring the country together. Everyone can make fun of someone else. The Sønderjysk for their incredible dialect, the Fynboer for their lilting accent, the Sjællanders for their cockiness and the Jysk for their peasant ways. Just as spending time with your family at Christmas boils you down to a crude sketch of yourself (The Baby, The Middle Child, The Put-Upon Mother), and as frustrating as it is not to be seen as the unique and special snowflake you undoubtedly are, there is a comfort and familiarity in assuming or assigning a role. At least these stereotypes are meant with affection. The rivalry with Sweden, on the other hand, is something else entirely.