mardi 12 mars 2013

Things that surprise me about Denmark - Prams

Denmark prides itself on its minimalist style. If you go to a Danish home, you will remark that it is uncluttered, the colours are neutral, the forms are quite angular, the decoration is cosy. Think wide open spaces.

I am a pack rat. I save everything. I have boxes and boxes of old assignments, knick-knacks, pens, toys, whatever, etc., etc.

Pack rats are not welcome in the typical Danish household. 

So imagine my surprise when I discovered the Danish pram or baby carriage. 

They are huge, heavy and bulky. I just can't picture them in the bare Danish home. The wheels are quite big, they are difficult to manoeuver and they take up a lot of space.

Prams outside in Copenhagen. Author of photo: Den Nation.

Actually, people just leave them outside in their building's courtyard all night. If someone did that in France it would get stolen sooner or later.

So why do Danes like them so much?

I have not seen too many pram models that deviate from this vintage style. It seems like time has stood still here Denmark on this front. And it has. Danes love the traditional pram. I quite like the look of it as well. Almost all Danes slept in a pram like this when they were a baby, so when a Dane has a baby it's almost a given that they will sleep in a pram just like their parents before them.

They are very roomy and comfortable. It's true, I have to admit, it looks so comfy that I'd like to sleep in one too! They are so big that parents can use their pram until the child is 2 years old. They also retain heat very well. For a child, it's the next closest thing to their bed as the child can actually lay down flat. I have never seen a parent carry their baby in a sling or a carrier.

The thing that really throws me for a loop is the way Danish parents just leave their children outside alone in their pram. In the above photo, there is a baby sleeping in the pram with the green cloth. The baby's parents were enjoying brunch in the café while their baby slept soundly outside. 

This goes against everything I know. You can't leave a baby alone outside! 

But Denmark is safe. Child abductors, what's that? If there was a problem with child abduction, I'm sure the babies wouldn't be alone outside anymore. I've even seen babies sleep in big fields or parks, alone. And they sleep with a monitor so the parent can hear them crying in the café or wherever they are.

Babies waiting for their parents in front of the pharmacy. Author of photo: Den Nation.

My husband lived in Denmark during his adolescence. He'll never forget the day when, shortly after having arrived in Denmark, his mother rushed into their flat with her cheeks flushed and beads of sweat on her forehead. "There's an abandoned baby sleeping downstairs in a pram!" she cried, "let's call the police!" Imagine if she had called the police... you probably could have heard them laughing from a mile away. As she was frantically pacing her flat, the neighbour was on her balcony next door. She saw my mother-in-law pointing out the pram to my husband and told her flat-out that it was indeed her baby and that the baby was just getting a bit of fresh air, nothing to be worried about.

I love the coffee cup holder! Author of photo: Den Nation.

I had dinner tonight with two Frenchmen, one Danish man, a Belgian lady and a Swedish man. The Belgian lady explained that at first she thought it was crazy the way things are here with the prams, but that once she had children she understood the utility of the Danish pram. My Swiss friend here says the same thing, at first she was horrified, but now she totally swears by it! Anyway, the Swedish man explained that in Sweden there are some primary schools where the children are outside most of the day. We compared the French/Belgian and the Danish/Swedish school systems and one major difference emerged. In Denmark/Sweden children are free to roam around and do as they please (within reason). They are encouraged to discover things on their own. The pupils call their teachers by their first names. The French/Belgian (French Belgian) system is totally different. Everything is structured and formal, nobody can deviate from the programme. So these Swedish children spend their days outdoors participating in activities under the guidance of their teacher. And yes, they even nap outdoors!

What do you think about the Danish pram? Does it suprise you as well? 

18 commentaires:

  1. The size of the prams doesn't surprise me, but leaving the baby in it alone does! That would definitely never happen in France, and even back in Canada I know parents don't leave kids unattended in cars or outside without supervision. It's a very interesting cultural difference, and I'll admit that I wish France were considered as safe for children as Denmark. I rarely see dogs tied up outside shops or restaurants here, let alone babies!

    1. I really feel safe here compared to how I feel when I am in Paris. There is a lot of drinking in the metro at the weekends but it's all about having fun with your friends - I never feel that it's aggressive. In Paris I am always looking over my shoulder. Of course Paris is much bigger than Copenhagen, but I don't even feel as relaxed in Bordeaux as I do in Copenhagen. There are so many thieves in France that I am constantly on my guard. Of course there are thieves here, but if people leave their prams outside in the courtyard (and the gate to the courtyard is unlocked), in my books you have a pretty safe society.

  2. Okay, don't get me started on strollers (I call them "strollers"... or "baby SUVs"!)

    Back in France, we had small strollers because, well, you need to take public transportation and occasionally haul the stroller to your apartment so they can't be too heavy.

    But I find Canadian seem to favour these huuuge strollers that are bulky and take a lot of room. One mother explained that they were convenient because you can carry "all that the baby needs". Huh? What does he need? I usually throw a spare diaper and wipes in my handbag, and that's about it!

    My generous friend lent me a small stroller and we are doing just fine with it. I ain't "driving" these monster strollers, sorry. I can barely carry the baby seat, this shit is so heavy! I'm not carrying the frame on top of that.

    Phew, that was quite a rant, wasn't it!

    1. I feel that the strollers here are bigger than anything I ever saw in France, Canada or any other country I've visited. You can't really see how big they are in my pictures. Actually, they have two versions in Denmark, the tall one, and the shorter one (for non-Danes I assume).

      In Canada you have a lot of strollers that are stroller car seat combos. The strollers in Denmark are the 1950s grandma strollers. If you want to transport your baby, you buy a wagon and attach it to the back of your bike. I don't know about cars; I guess Danish parents have a separate car seat. At least the strollers have a coffee holder, though, haha.

      I can't understand how Danish parents can stand trying to manoeuver these strollers in downtown Copenhagen.

      Do you know any Italian mothers? Not Italian-Canadians because they are different. Now they would drive you crazy. They are so afraid of the wind! An Italian mother will cancel an outing because she is afraid that her baby will get too much wind!

    2. French are weird with their "courants d'air" as well ;-)

  3. I am blown away by leaving babies unattended. One crazy and you got 40 missing children.

    Here in the US it's all about the giant strollers. I don't know why it suddenly takes 40 times the amount of stuff to raise a kid now. Families have one child and suddenly they need an SUV or a minivan. My parents raised 3 kids in a normal car.

    Sorry I guess it's rant day here at dennation :)

    1. I can't understand parents that want to buy every little accessory for their children. Young children really don't care; the parents just want to show off their child.

      What is so surprising for me is that the Danish prams are in contradiction to the Danes' minimalist style. But of course the prams are not usually kept in the house, but in the courtyard or a storage room or space, so the Danish bulky pram never sees the Danish minimalist flat.

      Yes, I agree, maybe there are no child abductors now, but what about tomorrow, or next month, or next week? Who knows when one will strike?

  4. Wow, that just seems crazy to me to leave your baby alone in the street like that! I certainly can't imagine anyone doing that in France or the US. But then maybe the Danes figure their strollers are so big, old-fashioned, heavy and difficult to maneuver that no one will be able to get the kid out or take off down the road quickly with the stroller. :)

    I just can't understand why anyone would want such a bulky stroller to have to push around the streets of a big city. And in the US I can't understand why anyone cares what kind of stroller they have, it's not like they spend a lot of time taking their kid around in it, they have minivans and SUVs for that!

  5. I definitely think that part of the explanation for leaving their babies alone outside is that the strollers are way to big to manoeuver or even fit in cafés or shops.

    I certainly don't want to lug that big thing around, so your idea that the strollers (and babies) are too heavy to steal is a good one! At least in North America there is lots of space for everything; in Denmark I don't understand how parents like them because Danish people walk around outside a lot and there is not a lot of room.

  6. Hi. Very funny article! :) I've never even thought about it that way )) In Russia parents don't leave their babies outside either :)
    I especially loved this one: "Imagine if she had called the police... you probably could have heard them laughing from a mile away." LOL!
    I've learnt about your blog from BlogExpat. The trigger for me to come and read your blog was one thing we have in common.I also love learning languages! Actually anything related to languages (I'm a translator and linguist :))
    Anyway, I've enjoyed reading your posts and will definitely come back :)

  7. Hi, thanks for reading my blog! It's great to hear from people in Denmark.

    So you live in Jutland? I was just there over the weekend and I loved the slow pace of life. Well, I think Copenhagen life is calm too compared to other big European cities, but Jutland was different from from Copenhagen nevertheless.

    If anyone ever left their baby outside in Canada child services would move in and everyone would call the parents unfit.

    I'm glad what I wrote about the police made you laugh. I laughed so hard when my husband told me the story.

    Today during my Danish lessons another student told me that she could feel that I really enjoy learning Danish. It's true, I love learning languages! I really wish I could learn German as well.

    I'll be heading over to read your blog as well!

  8. i love those danish prams! i live in nyc and although i understand that space here is limited and many people live in walk up apartments - therefore the stroller should be small- i dont quiet understand the american way of strollers.....
    americans want the all in one thing : car seat, stroller, bassinet, umbrella stroller.... but it does not seem very well constructed and you constantly need to buy or exchange the seating on the stroller. you can barely fit anything in the basket underneath if you want to grocery shop. And your baby is supposed to sleep in a car seat that you attach onto a stroller? that seems to be super unhealthy.
    even though the danish strollers are super big i think they are still very danish in terms of simplicity... super well made, beautiful design and no need for any throwing parts out after a few months...

    1. Thanks for reading my blog!

      Yes, I agree with your opinions on the Danish stroller. I used to find it really strange, but I have come around to the idea (as well as babies sleeping outside alone). I was just really surprised because the Danes are really minimalist and to see their big strollers really caught me off guard.

      I never expected this post to have generated this much traffic. According to my records, this post has had 1765 hits since being published last year. I have no other post that has hit the thousand mark. That is a lot for my simple and anonymous blog. Every day I have people that find my blog from typing prams or strollers and Denmark into google. I never knew it was such a big topic!

  9. Hi Den Nation,
    I just arrived in CPH (last week), my wife went for her first day of work, and I am still hesitating :-)
    I have a few errands to run (of course new flat...), but would I dare leaving my 1 year old outside? Probably, but not today yet. Need to get used to the idea!

    1. Hi Olivier,

      Thanks for reading my blog!

      I just happen to be in Copenhagen at the moment and I can reassure you that the tradition is still alive and well! I've interviewed a few Danish friends who are moms, asking them if they leave their babies outside and they have told me that they do if the area is not too busy. If there are crowds of people outside they would not leave their babies outside alone.

      How are you finding Denmark and Copenhagen?

  10. Oh, I own one of those huge prams (I am from Estonia, a country strongly histrically and geographically linked to Denmark/Sweden) and I love it! But I leaving a baby in a stroller unattended is very strange to me (I guess we are not that safe as SWE/DAN). I did 10-15 km walks with my huge pramm (if you push it very lightly it will roll by itself), I ran two 10 km runs with it along with other sporty moms and I guess I will run the last one in may before i finally sell it.

  11. I recently started watching the show Call the Midwife. The setting is East London in the 50's and 60's. I found it absolutely bonkers to see scenes where small children are left outside front doors in parked strollers. I had to find out why they did that and am now fascinated to find out this is still a tradition in Denmark. As long as the children are safe it's fine, but it is definitely a cultural shock for those of in cultures that have much less trust in our communities.

  12. Back in 1997 a dane (Anette Sørensen) was arrested and put in jail for leaving her child in a pram in New York outside of a shop. As I remember the discussion here in Denmark back then, most people seemed to agree that they have seen people leaving their child alone in a pram, but that it is somewhat rare and not what most people would do. Of course everyone agree imprisonment was a way-overreaction. So I think there's still a difference compared to other countries, but it's not as big as made out to be.