Before we start, for the speed readers, from the top, for those who cannot exercise reading comprehension skills in their second language, just in case I have not made that clear in everything I have ever written.
I DO NOT MEAN ALL DANES.
What exciting times for courtesy-lovin’ and friendly people to live in Denmark! There is a perfect storm right now to bring the “flink” back.
First up, Lars AP, half-American/half-Danish, wants the world’s “happiest” people to also be the “nicest”. (I genuinely cannot tell if he believes Danes are actually that happy or he is blowing smoke up their arse so they get with the programme. And at this stage, I do not care). His book “Fucking Flink“, which I must remember to get out again from the library before he comes in the spring, is a small handbook of Random Acts of Kindness and also a manifesto for the Danes. The sort of suggestions he makes are pretty standard. From the basic: let people with one item go first at the supermarket. To the medium: strike up conversations in places you wouldn’t ordinarily. To the hard: throw street parties. To the … no… don’t do that: give hugs to people in the street.
If I recall my friendliness history, and I think I do, the Random Acts of Kindness movement was started in California over twenty years ago. As I understand it, it came as a reaction to the casual violence and unfriendliness of the 1990s. Ghostbusters II was released in 1989, coincidence? There was a problem and ordinary people moved together to try to solve it.
Lars AP says that he finds himself, through shyness, being less open in Danish than when he speaks English. Less interested in strangers, less friendly to people at social situations and less helpful. This construction of a bubble is often cast as “politeness” but I get the impression he is not so sure. And he is on a mission to make Danish people kinder and more interactive.
Second up, Thomas Skov Gaardsvig took it upon himself to bring courtesy back to Denmark in 100 days. The way he tells it, there are far too many people who practise terribly rude habits. The ones he names in his show are showing up late to parties, swearing at other road users, rudeness to people in uniforms, treating cashiers like machines, playing with phones at parties, not speaking to people sat next to you at parties, leaving dog shit everywhere, pissing everywhere…
Now, excuse me for a minute because I need a rant. How come Thomas Skov Gaardsvig can make a six episode series about these basic acts of discourtesy done in Denmark and say “The Danes need to be more polite”, “We need to bring politeness back to Denmark” and list things like “not talking to people at parties” and no one says
“THOMAS, I think you are very racist. There are rude people everywhere. You are making a crass generalisation. Not all Danes are rude. How insulting that you are talking about this at all. Why can’t you talk about the WORLD FAMOUS lamps? I hope you find a country where there are NO RUDE PEOPLE and good luck because EVERY COUNTRY has rude people! I have been to fifteen different countries and there were rude people in EVERY SINGLE ONE. Not just Denmark!!!!!! Anyway, the people not talking to you at parties were doing that because you are a total penis. IT IS JUST YOU parp”
Could it be… and I’m going out on a limb here… that Thomas has “freedom of speech” to talk about the culture of Denmark and I actually don’t “for some reason”?
What strikes me about Thomas’ shows are how basic the things are he is suggesting. “Say ‘Hi’ to the lady scanning your barcodes.” “Don’t leave your dog shit everywhere” and “Don’t attack people in authority while they go about their business.”
And you can “It’s only a few rotten apples” me all you like but this guy was going out with cameras to film the rotten apples and given he only had 100 days to film, he seemed to be VERY LUCKY at finding this vanishing minority of rude people. He even tested his friends by inviting them to a party by post to see who replied, who turned up late, who told off his planted “rude” guest, who talked to strangers. (If I recall correctly, most of his friends were very polite but the point is, he had no idea how many of them were the “rotten apples”)
He makes the point that if you ask someone “Are you polite?” they will never answer “No,” because they have no idea about themselves. They remember the times they were polite and forget the times they were rude (because it was a one-off).
What is happening isn’t that we have 90% rude people in Denmark, or even 15% or 5%, we have 100% people who are capable of being rude and are choosing to be more and more often. God knows why, possibly because “everyone else is doing it”. He is trying to exert social pressure to get people to choose to be polite most of the time. YAY!
What always strikes me when I go to France, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK… is that YES there are rude people there but holy jesusfuck, there are sooooooo many polite people. Many many times more polite people and the extra polite ones are more polite than the most polite in Denmark. Of course, they could make the same show for Brits. But “stand in line” is something almost everyone does, as is “pick up your dog’s crap”, as is “talk to strangers at parties”, as is “reply to invites”. The stuff Brits need particular help with is “don’t shout at authority figures” and all the stuff about road rage.
Yes. There are rude people everywhere. There are rude people in Denmark. It is enough of a problem in Denmark that a tv show was commissioned and a book written. Can we stop attacking the messenger (me, that is), and start thinking of solutions?
You are not a rude Dane and are VERY INSULTED, here’s a motherfucking gold star for behaviour, let’s work on getting everyone on board.
Lastly, and the person least likely to receive a backlash for her views on rude Danes, the Queen of Denmark suggested in her New Year’s speech that people should try to be nice to each other for a change.
Ok, so can we just accept that 1) I am not saying all Danes are rude 2) Enough Danes are rude for the GODDAMN QUEEN to mention it and 3) We should probably do something about it before it gets any worse?
Anyway, it’s exciting times for nice people. Let’s get our flink on!