vendredi 31 mai 2013

Things that bother me about Denmark

I sometimes make it seem like everything is perfect in Denmark and that France is the bad guy. This is not always the case. There are some things that bother me about Denmark. It's not perfect and I want my blog to be honest and reflect MY reality of the place where I live.

My favourite square in Copenhagen. Author of photo: Den Nation.

So without further ado...

1. The drinking culture. It's very similar to the UK, but at least it bothers me less here because it's not as aggressive. I am not the type that likes loud drinking and getting drunk. A lot of student events, like in the UK, revolve around drinking. And I don't want to hang around smoky bars drinking.

2. Which leads me to my second point. Smoking is still allowed in certain bars here. How can that be in such an advanced society? The smaller, pub-like bars allow smoking while in bigger and trendy looking bars smoking is not allowed. That kind of goes against common sense for me, as in a smaller area the smoke would be denser; a bigger bar would disperse the smoke more.

The Danes are the Scandinavian people that smoke the most. Due to high levels of smoking and drinking, they are also the Scandinavian population with the lowest life expectancy. It doesn't really affect me as there are plenty of non-smoking bars, but I can't understand smoking being allowed in small bars.

3. The Danes are hard to get to know. You can break the ice with drinking, but a lot of times it's hard to know what they are thinking. They don't seem to be very expressive. While the French are reserved, once you get them talking about something they are passionate about like politics, they are on fire! Which brings me to my next point...

4. They don't seem to care about politics. They are like Canadians in this way - it's better not to talk about politics. I must admit, though, I miss the fiery political conversations in France. Actually, it seems to me that the Danes don't object to much - they just seem to accept things without much of a fight. While I think that France goes too far with the strikes sometimes, I think it's good and necessary to fight sometimes. Note: Denmark recently had a teachers' strike, but I don't know the outcome of it.

Ebeltoft, Denmark. I love the bright red colour of these summer houses.
Author of photo: Den Nation.

5. I have gotten used to going out in groups of couples in France. While I think it's good that couples have their own friends that they see without their better half, it seems that Denmark has taken it to the other extreme from France. Couples tend to lead separate lives here.

6. They don't really seem to invite you over to their homes. They like to go out to cafés for drinks, but they don't have the long dinner evenings I am used to and love in France. And when you do get an invite, it's quite clear that you are the friends of one half of the couple. The other half often sits there quietly or goes off alone. There's no way that would happen in France.

7. They have a strange sense of humour. I don't know if you remember, but a few years back there was a big scandal with a Danish comic strip that was insulting. Yes, sometimes their jokes can offend. I have not experienced this firsthand, but I know it happens. For the Danes this is normal as they grew up in a culture where it is the norm, so I don't really want to criticise them since I am a guest here, but I know that this is problem for non-Danes.

8. There are certain things I don't want to talk about on this blog. So let's just call this point discrimination. Certain Danes - I am not going to say who - discriminate against certain groups in Denmark. Again, I have not been affected by this, but I know that this is an issue.

Aarhus, Denmark's second largest city. Author of photo: Den Nation.

9. If you want to learn a language, don't pick Danish and don't come here. Pick a country and a language that you can learn more quickly. I'm not saying that Danish is harder to learn than other languages, because although the pronunciation is tricky, it is not especially difficult. It's that the Danes don't want to hear you speak their language. They don't want to hear foreign accents and they don't have the patience to help you struggle through a sentence. I have actually seen some language exchange offers where the Danish person stipulates that they are not willing to accept someone whose level of Danish is too low. So learning Danish takes time and patience. This is not like France, where you can progress relatively quickly and feel like you are getting somewhere.

10. Before somebody jumps down my throat and tells me to go home if I don't like it here (and I really do like it here!), let's just end with my final comment that everyone can agree on - it's sometimes a struggle to cycle because the wind can be really strong. At least the country is flat though!

11 commentaires:

  1. See, reading blogs from around the world can be very insightful.....I thought my Canadian husband was odd in not being interested in politics - here in Italy everyone talks about poltics (and the antics that politicians get up to) and evryone has an opinion (the same goes for football) - and my Windsorite just couldn't give a damn :) - about politics or football

    1. Yes, I think that maybe Italians talk about politics more than French people. And I agree completely that Canadians, at least the ones I know, don't really care much about politics. It's all about being PC as well. You see, it's too risky talking about politics because you could insult somebody and Canadians are generally too polite for that. Insulting somebody can mean the end of a relationship with that person.

      I didn't know that someone from Windsor was called a Windsorite! Does he like hockey?

      Looks like we have some things in common: Italy, Wales, Canada, living abroad and being married to someone of a different culture. I'll be reading your blog!

  2. So good to read a blog post that is so honest. I was interested in readin about the politics too - it is true that here in Canada it isn't really discussed too much, back home in England people are always discussing it, but not as much, I imagine as in France or Italy. I don't like the drinking culture in England either - far too yobbish for me. I think I would prefer dinner evenings - I miss that here as our circle of friends go out for food or stay in to drink and never anything different! I love gatherings around a table sharing food and laughter!

    1. I don't want my blog to give the impression that Europe is some fairytale haven. There are good and bad things about everywhere and I don't want my blog to be too anti or pro-someplace.

      See the comment I left Kathryn about Canada and politics.

      I do enjoy the dinner evenings in France, but I have issues with food and always end up eating way too much. These dinner evenings always make for good discussions around the table though!

  3. You are absolutely entitled to not like everything, and to criticize the place where you live! There are some aspects of life in Canada that drive me crazy, including political correctness, the NIMBY mentality and this need to always be super safe and super careful (living is dangerous, get over it!).

    I'm surprised to hear that Danes smoke a lot. I thought French were the specialists in that matter! And even as a smoker (a light one, mind you) I can't stand smoking indoors, especially in bars. I wish we could smoke outside though, in Canada it is not longer an option.

    I am not a big fan of France's drinking culture, so I assume it would bother me too.

    And I did hear from several expats that racism is lurking in Denmark... that's just too bad. I like multicultural and inclusive societies.

    1. I think it's important for me to show a balanced view of the place where I am living.

      I had to look up NIMBY. I never knew that there was a term for this! Yes, Canadians are so PC!

      I don't think Danes smoke more than the French, but I expected them to smoke a lot less. Since a lot of Danes are into healthy eating, running, cycling and working out, I was surprised to see the number of Danes that smoke.

      I had no idea that you can't smoke outside in Canada anymore! When did this happen? So what is an acceptable place to smoke now?

      I think France's drinking culture is different though. You've got a lot of elderly men that drink a lot, especially in the countryside. And UK-style binge drinking has caught on in the younger generations in France. I think, however, that most people over 30 living in cities drink responsibly. In certain social classes or people working in certain professions, it is not good taste to drink too much. This really is the case for my husband and his friends and colleagues.

      You come from Brittany - I remember when I visited a few years back I was shocked to see how much it reminded me of drinking in the UK.

      You used the word that I wanted to avoid using. The problem with using this word is that the Danes don't see it this way because they grew up like this but an outsider would see it differently.

  4. Very interesting post! I learned a lot about the Danes/Denmark.

    Many of the things you talk about would bother me, too. I also found many similarities between them and the French, namely the overt racism, hard to get to know them and drinking/smoking culture.

    No country is perfect, so I guess adaptation and keeping an open mind are key!

    1. See my comment above to Zhu about drinking/smoking/racism.

      Yes, racism is a problem in France as well. If you have the wrong name, you really are out of luck when looking for a job.

      I agree, it's really hard to get to know people in France, especially women. But at least I can speak the language in France, whereas here I can't.

      No, no country is perfect. I perfer to talk about the positive things about a country, but it's important to have a balanced view.

  5. I've never been to Denmark, and my only exposure to a Danish person was in college and his accent was very attractive...hah, so that's all I know about the Danes.

    It's funny when I first came to Australia in 2006 smoking was allowed in bars, and then when I came back in 2008, it wasn't. It happened quite quickly. Australia has a big drinking culture as well, but also a big "designated driver" culture.

    1. Thanks for reading my blog!

      Yes, I really appreciate the fact that Danes highly support the designated driver culture. In the UK it is the same.

      One thing that is great here in Copenhagen is that the public transport runs all night at the weekends. So there really is no excuse.

  6. I lived there 3 years ago and I am very happy that I left. All I can say is that I salute the courage and endurance of foreigners who live there.