Seeing the Good and the Shangri La Principle

Seems like I am running a constant battle with people who do not want to engage with my points and instead would like to discuss my character.

A friend of a friend posted to Twitter about a scandalous situation in the UK where people who have jobs are still living in poverty because minimum wage jobs do not keep body and soul together. This is some major fucked up shit, I totally agree. The sticking point for me, was that she said “This would never happen in Denmark!”

Now. I know plenty of working people living in poverty in Denmark but plural of anecdote is not evidence and why would I say “But my friend Inger and her husband Bill are living in poverty!”? The conversation ends with “They are an exception,” (to the rule something “never would happen” but fine)

The main point that the working conditions in Denmark are pretty good does still stand. The Danish workforce has a pretty sweet set of rules: the hours are good, the pay is pretty okay and all that good stuff. But this is only if you are lucky enough to have a job.

Some people do not have a job and after a while the borough council tries to nudge them back into employment. They have counselling, workshops, team building and work placements. This is all pretty good, if there are jobs, right? You get your confidence and skills built up and then you get a job. Hurrah!

Except, like in a lot of countries (the UK included), the work placements are often in real companies. If this was an overlong interview process, I would be fine with it. A week or two, working in a shop and then getting a job at the end of it? Fine. Instead, just like the UK, the work placements are for months and there is no guarantee you will get a job at the end of it.

I quit my gym because they seemed to be entirely staffed by people on placements. I’m sorry, but what the fuck was I paying for? Not cleaning, the place was filthy. Not maintenance, the machines were broken. And not staff, that was coming out of my tax bill.

Instead of being all anecdotal in this woman’s face, I showed her some news translations of how the borough councils force people to have medical treatment, against medical advice just so they have “tried everything”. Sure, you might not have working poverty but the boroughs can force the unemployed into poverty if they don’t want electroconvulsive therapy.  Instead of reading what I sent, she assumed I was saying Danish health care sucks. And when I clarified she tried to break my argument down into two possibilities.

“Are you saying:-

1) The UK is better than Denmark

2) Denmark isn’t perfect?”

No other possibilities given. I gave her my third possibility, what I was trying to tell her.

3) Denmark’s problems do not make up for the good things, for example work/life balance or living wage.

Then, and this was a bit shitty of her, I don’t mind her hearing it from me, she said “I am sorry YOUR EXPERIENCES are so bad. I am sorry Denmark IS TREATING YOU badly” (emphasis mine).

So, when UK employers do x,y and z; then the UK is “bad”. When the Danish state do p,q and r; then it’s just “my experience”? That is pretty shitty.

I understand where she is coming from, I totally do. There is a breed of lefty liberal yoghurt knitting person who NEEDS Scandinavia. Like, totally needs it. If they hear any criticism of the way things are done in any of their favourite Scandinavian countries, they defend it with “Obviously it’s not PERFECT, where is?” or “That’s sad YOU had a bad time.” I know this because I was the exact same lefty liberal yoghurt knitter and I buttressed by idea of Scandy paradises with the exact same shitty arguments. I expect I could have the same argument now about Sweden or Norway because I need them to be better, now I have discovered the truth about Denmark.

My personal experiences in Denmark, by the way, are pretty top notch. I do have some problems at work and occasionally in public, but no one is forcing me to work for free in a gym, no one is insisting I have electroconvulsive therapy, no one is spying on me to check I’m not lying, no one is offering me a vacuum robot instead of household help, no one is kidnapping my infant child, no one is accusing me of being a bad parent, no one is refusing me life saving treatment because they don’t want to admit their hospital can’t do it, no one is attacking me and dragging me away from people I care about because it would be cheaper to put me in a halfway home for alcoholics, no one is stereotyping me as a tax cheat because 1.5% of people from my community are.

I’m alright, Jack.

If you have a friend or some family in Denmark, and they are white European, chances are they are also having top notch experiences here. They won’t tell you about the crushing loneliness. They won’t tell you about the time they weren’t entirely sure if someone was being racist against them or if they were having a bad day. They won’t tell you these niggling things and so their reported experiences will be positive.

The unhappy foreigners are usually being actively treated badly by this country but also are able to read the news. They hear about the scandals and PING they realise that Denmark’s faults do not make up for the good stuff. Which makes them very unhappy because they NEED Denmark.

Meanwhile, I seem to make a lot of people unhappy because I refuse to “see the good” and I go around being “bitter”. These people believe that Denmark’s problems are less than the good things going on here, and if I would only report on the good things, then my blog would be “objective”. They think because I do not discuss the good things, then I am unaware that they exist. How childlike some people are!

There are some good things about Denmark. The work/life balance is good. The rate of pay is okay. The lack of commercialism is refreshing.  The respect for childhood is lovely.

BUT. The work/life balance is being eroded. The cost of living is too high. Commercialism is limited but every Danish household does still have their own “keeping up with the Joneses” battle. Children are emotionally stunted by their institutionalisation and child abusers are left to their own devices.

Do you see? I do realise there are good points. But they are NOT good enough and they are more than cancelled out by what goes on.

Seems to me, the only way to maintain good mental health in Denmark is to bovinely accept that you will never change anything and so ignore the “negative” news stores. Let the State get away with how it treats people and have nothing to do with trying to improve things. Accept the bad things and minimise them in your head, so you can enjoy the good things. If bad things directly happen to you, then rationalise them away with fairy stories about how bad things directly happen to people everywhere. (Instead of fighting for your rights like you would have done “everywhere” else) And then aggressively attack anyone with a desire to make things better. Call them names, insist it is just in their head, tell them to go home, tell them other countries are similar or worse.

This is no way to live and I refuse to do so.

I know a handful of people who can juggle the day-to-day grind of living in Denmark and staying mentally healthy and I have no idea how they do it. Vitamin Wine, is my guess.

am trying to find a way out of this country because it obviously does not want me here. But it takes a lot of compromise and planning. Only complete pricks up and leave a contract with a school mid term. I have to sort out a lot of things before I can go. And it’s not just me, there are other people to consider.

At first I wanted a perfect country and then when I saw Denmark could never be so, then I just wanted a liveable country. Now, I can see I could never survive long term here, I need to find somewhere that will hear me suggest improvements or vent about frustrations without getting all bent out of shape.

11 thoughts on “Seeing the Good and the Shangri La Principle

  1. I could go on and on about this! I think my blog is written pretty honestly and objectively. I don’t have an agenda for or against Denmark, I just write it how I experience it, but I was told over the weekend that my blog is “too critical” of Denmark. Huh?

    I have plenty of criticism of my own country as well, but I’m not writing about living in the US. I’m writing about living in Denmark as an expat and I think it’s ridiculous that no matter which silly or serious bit of life here I point out, it’s always “for good reason” or “not like that at all” or my “spoiled, skewed American perception.”

    I give up! If people are happy to pay insane taxes in exchange for an imaginary membership to a fictional utopia, who am I to rain on their parade? I’m just critical enough to see it for what it is. Nothing more, nothing less.


    1. o.O OMG! If *your* blog about yummy recipes, awesome thrifting, holidays and a kick-ass new car is “too critical”, then what hope do the rest of us have?

      Danes can suck my motherfucking DICK! If they can’t take your message on board, which is put respectfully and graciously, then they will never learn to evolve and roll with the punches.


  2. Why is it there is so much hype about Denmark? I mean let’s be fair, no country is perfect. If other country sucks, so is Denmark – perhaps in different aspect. This is why I get all riled up when anyone says Denmark is their dream come true, and that the country makes them wet in their pants. Seriously? Life here is just like every where else.

    Salary is big here but food is expensive. In Indonesia salary is low, but food is abundant and super cheap. Then again, it might be difficult to travel since airplane tickets everywhere is standard priced.

    Things like that.

    and I don’t get it why everyone has to take it personally. Witness me talking about how bad Danish water is to a Dane and you’d think I’d insulted their grandmother. Tsk!


    1. Right!
      I think what happens is, these Danes go out into the community and they say the good things about their country. Most people only tell you a fraction of what is good about THEIR country, so people think “oh boy, oh boy, Denmark must be something!” Then if anyone comes with anti-hype, the Danes descend on them like aphids, sucking out our very life-force.

      Did you see that thing on Facebook, for Copenhagen Post? Prompted by Copenhagen dropping from Most Liveable City to Third Most Liveable City, the paper asked “How could CPH be better?”
      Some people came up with “It could be a bit cleaner!” or “People could be a bit nicer!”
      The acting out and carrying on on that thread, I never would have imagined before.

      I used to think it was people who worked for the government, who have a vested interest in dragging us wide-eyed yoghurt knitting immigrants into their web so we make them lots of money and piss off before we need any social services, who put this message out.

      But they don’t need to, do they? The people of this country (and some suck up immigrants), will gladly work as its PR minions.

      The joke is on them because Denmark does not give a FUCK about them. Dane or foreign, as soon as someone is vulnerable, this country chews them up and spits them out.

      I might be bitter but at least I know where I stand.


  3. That all sounds like familiar loik, the Danish non sequitur, in company with the repetitive clichés that masquerade as an answer, the myth of the model society is sacrosanct, either because they really believe it, or because they are f*****g ignorant. So a little manipulation with what you had plainly said, comes out pink from the wash, and takes on a whole new life of its own…just to suit the myth loik!
    Criticism of the land of milk and bacon is an F word, even when it’s constructive, rational observations are met with denial, as in the banal, it-could-never-happen blah, blah, what you have said is mushed up into crap, because they don’t accept that you have an opinion about anything, they want you mute, preferably.
    When I first came here, someone asked me where I came from, I told them, and they replied, ‘AREN’T YOU GLAD YOU’RE HERE’, *pause*…how would that be met if it had been said to a Dane some place other than DK! (oh! OK, most run home because ‘ I HATED IT’!!


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