Feel Free

Sometimes people ask me why I am so disappointed with Denmark as a whole. Why do I spend so much time moaning about it when it was clear it was just another country. Why did I get my hopes up that this place would be any better or any different from my home country?

Some Danish people have given *such* looks. The “Oh where did you hear THIS place was relaxed and free spirited?”
Disappointed-but-in-violent-denial immigrants tell me that they never shared my hopes that this place would be different in the first place. “I KNEW THIS PLACE WOULD BE A SHIT HOLE!” they cry “But you have to make the most of it!”

Well. Whatever. I was in London this week and I took a photograph of an advert for Denmark. My hands were shaking from low blood sugar and anger and a man waited by my side until the camera went down (I love that about cities, the natives give way for tourists) and so the photograph is blurry. I will read it out to you and you can just about make out the letters.

Lions are in the air

“Fly Norwegian and experience the most free thinking, relaxed and tolerant attitude to life ever. FEEL FREE!”

Now, some possibilities suggest themselves. Had I not taken such a blurry photo, I would be changing the pink haired white woman (when was the last time you saw a woman with non-standard coloured hair in Denmark. QUICK! WHEN?) to a lady in hijab. I like the way the white woman is covering her ears as if she is saying “nah nah nah, not listening!”

Either the Norwegians have suggested this copy to the ad men, in which case they are having a laugh. Norway know they are way cooler than Denmark.
Or the admen were from London and were going on the faulty information I was. Or the admen are from Denmark and they truly believe that they can say this shit and not get sued under Trade Descriptions Act 1968.

Which they bloody well should be. Free spirited are they? Relaxed is it? TOLERANT are you?

As I have said before and will say again. Most Danes are okay.
BUT the government and the culture, right here right now, not 10 years ago… not in the future… but NOW, is of closed mindedness, uptightedness and intolerance not seen in many other similar nations.
Sweden isn’t like this, Scotland isn’t like this… Denmark has broken the mould for being a little socialist paradise which decided to elect the sort of people you would avoid in situations like parties and allowed them to change everything.

Exhibit A: if a foreigner (or indeed an immigrant), says “hey, you are missing a trick here, you could streamline this process it would be a bit better, maybe you should consider it” they get a cold angry blast of “SÅDAN DET ER BARE!” which is not the sign of free-thinking-mindedness.

Exhibit B: If someone puts prawns on their smørbrod along with pickle and crunions, they WILL get told that prawns are only for egg or maybe curry sauce. That is the sign of an un-relaxed country. CHILL OUT DENMARK, Prawns and crunions is delicious!

Exhibit C: If someone is invited to a party and it says on the invite “wear formal stuff, but you know, formal wear from cultures you have links with is welcome too. Takes all sorts to make a world.” and they follow those instructions… they will be called tribal and clownish and told they are not comfortable in this country and should GO THE FUCK HOME etc. Which is the definition of intolerance. Go get a dictionary and check, THAT is the example they give (When someone is invited to wear traditional dress and then are called clownish and told to fuck off home)

Denmark! This is why I felt tricked. All the adverts in my country keep saying you are free and happy and relaxed and tolerant and kind. I read about your taxes and I *approved*! Can’t go around increasing social justice with low taxes, I thought. I heard about the high cost of food and I thought “good! the farmers are not being squeezed by unscrupulous bloody supermarkets” and I got here and the waft, the stench of racism and xenophobia! THE STENCH OF IT.

I will give you a quick example of how my country works.

I was on a bus by mistake and there were several old people sat down. One of the old women had been shoving another old woman and then the shoved woman said she could not move up any further and there was a bit of a raised voice situation and everyone on the bus did the disapproval face at both of them for carrying on. And then an old Somali woman turned and said


and they both looked over

and she waved her hand in “give over!” gesture and said something that I didn’t catch. One word, I think it was along the lines of “you’re embarrassing yourselves” but I didn’t catch it.

And the shoving old woman said

“I older than SHE!”

and the Somali woman shook her head and did the hand thing and the bus continued to look at the women with “stop shouting” faces.

Everyone involved was from a different area of the world and no one made it racial. No one made it about immigrants vs “ethnic English” (Jesus, if they ever make that a thing, I will personally slap everyone at home that uses the phrase). They just had a great time being pissed off with each other on the grounds of being bad tempered.

A second example. A different bus. A bunch of Chinese 17 year olds got on, as part of a school trip, I guess. They let an old lady sit down and she smiled at them and then she pointed at one guy’s jacket and said
“You’re wet! It is raining! It is also SNOWING too.” and did the international sign for snow. And she kept engaging them in little simple conversations about the weather and they were smiling and trying. And I had a little cry on the seat behind because no one ever does that for me.

Relaxed and tolerant, my arse.

8 thoughts on “Feel Free

  1. It should be a law that every single Dane spends a year of their life outside Denmark – that might loosen up their intolerance and promote some kind of intelligent thought. The bus situations you described would also leave me in tears and probably refusing to get on any flights back here.


  2. Interesting point.

    Not just the ads, though – most of the Danes you know would boast about their country like it’s a piece of heaven on earth. They don’t know that there are better places outside where people are not defined by rules (of what to put in an open sandwich) and where people actually have manners and NOT rude to each other.


  3. Oh yeah, and that first bus scenario with the old women. Would never happen here, in a million years. Maybe the second one could happen with tourists and some of the very nice older ladies you meet here, but the first one? No way.


  4. Those lies about Denmark in adverts make me laugh!


    If you don’t like it here then why don’t you just leave?


    Windmills *gurgle*


  5. Well, maybe Denmark *was* kind of free and progressive once, like in the seventies/eighties/early nineties, when high rates of unemployment meant that many people were basically free to engage in “alternative” activities like arranging festivals, building cultural centres, etc., and the “relaxed” attitude to some things led to some spectacular results – like Christiania in Copenhagen, which pre-“normalization” really was a completely autonomous part of Copenhagen where police would never go (at times not a very nice place, but that’s another matter). The air was freer then, in many respects.

    One thing has always been very clear though, and that’s the fact that everything in Denmark is so thoroughly registered. In Denmark it’s simply not possible to “fly under the radar” and get by without declaring income, paying taxes, etc. In many countries, people below certain levels of income (low, of course) never have to declare this income to anyone, and so there are large parts of the population for whom the authorities simply can’t tell how they’re making a living.

    But living without “the system” taking an interest in you has been impossible in Denmark since the sixties, at least. This means that in Denmark it’s out of the question to live without being “pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered”, to quote Patrick McGoohan/The Prisoner.

    In the UK this is a bit different, not least because of the possibility of anonymous point-of-delivery health care at the hospitals, which illegal aliens (say) can use at times. It’s also different because the UK has no Folkeregister, no central registration of where people live.

    But this – the fact that everybody’s lives are so rigidly controlled, and not least that people accept it – means that Denmark is also a significantly less free country, and it especially means that when “progressive” attitudes change, it’s significantly harder just to remain the same and not move along. In the eighties a certain “openness” may have alleviated this (though npt much in smaller town), but when they put on the current, mindless, intolerant record …


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