Things we learned on our holiday

The British-Danish culture clash: a family holiday dispatch from a quaint English village.

Despite the rather warm September, it’s safe to say the Summer is over.

It feels like a lifetime ago we all had our summer break. Due to things being a bit tight financially, we decided to spend July in the UK this year, staying with my mother. And it certainly opened my eyes to a few things – not least the cultural differences between my place of origin and my adoptive home.

These days, I really enjoy going back to where I grew up. I was lucky enough to be raised in a beautiful English village that’s so ridiculously quaint, Hollywood uses it as a location for their films (The Holiday being one example). As a kid I was bored rigid. Hated it. But I took it for granted. Fortunately, my kids do not share my experience.

Giving them a romp in the English countryside is always a welcome contrast to urban Copenhagen life. They enjoy running amok amongst rolling fields, dense woods, and actual hills and valleys (which, of course, do not exist here in Denmark).

They love the freedom to roam, explore and make loud noise without the fear of a hard stare from a neighbour.

Because as we all know, most Danes don’t like noise… or eye contact. And yes, I know there is plenty of nature in Denmark, but it’s not as varied, verdant or beguiling. Sorry, but it just isn’t. 

Whenever I’m back home I do have to ‘manage’ my VERY Danish wife and my VERY English mother. The latter is a classic oldschool conservative with views that would make most Scandis shudder.

Steering conversation away from politics is a constant challenge. Both women in my life have strong views and they rarely align. But, this summer proved that any heated discussion can be cooled down with ice cream.  

Culture clash is something that continues to surprise me. On the surface, you’d expect Brits and Danes to have much in common. Both are developed, northern European (Brexit aside) countries with a shared history and much cultural overlap. But really, I don’t think Brits and Danes are that much alike. Our societies are fundamentally wired too differently.

For instance, I considered myself left of centre in many respects. Moving to Denmark, I discovered that I am much more centre-right than I thought. And that’s a cultural difference.

Broadly speaking, we Brits tend to value and pursue individual, personal success, achievement and financial freedom more so than the Danes. We are less inclined to be ‘joiners’. We like to do our own thing and not be told to do so in a certain way.

For instance, I have found it very hard to eke out a living self-employed or freelance here in Copenhagen as I had done back in London. Danish society is not really geared for you to go it alone, and being assimilated into the homogeny seems preferred.

After all, when you are so well looked after by Danish society, why would you even want to go it alone? It’s much easier here in Denmark to be part of the collective, to go with the flow, to do what everyone else is doing. Then again, some of us just don’t like the taste of leverpostej.

So here are five things I learned about the UK from this year’s summer holiday: 

1. Britain still hasn’t recovered from COVID lockdown. It’s better, but the scars are visible. 

2. The cost of living crisis has hit hard. Food and dining out is now VERY expensive.

3. Eight years in Denmark makes you more anxious in London crowds. It’s frantic, but by golly, I missed it.

4. Getting your kids swimming or playing in water induces a special kind of tiredness that you will be so thankful for when it comes to getting the little buggers to bed.

5. Whatever country you’re in, whatever your views, the locked bathroom will always be your sole sanctuary where you can truly relax and hide. From everyone.