Commuting Outliers

One thing that frustrates me about this country are the people employed to tell foreigners “your instincts are off. The things you call ‘rude’ or ‘inconsiderate’ or ‘anti-social’ are laden with your cultural baggage. Those things are actually POLITE in Denmark. Taking offense or feeling upset are inappropriate reactions. Danes are just like that. YOU are the problem. ”

Because it is so untrue as to be dangerous. If it is cultural cohesion you are looking for, making Danes out to be monsters or savages or special needs somehow, reinforces the Us and Them issue enormously.

There are Danes who can behave considerately or selflessly or kindly to strangers. We tend to marry those ones. Or we work with them. Or meet them at badminton club. And we say “I don’t mean you” when discussing culture shock. As if the Danes with manners are the exceptions and not these shit cocks we don’t know.

Observe one of ‘your’ Danes when encountering a rude one. They tell them off, they mutter, they accidentally on purpose shove them. If they don’t confront them at all and the interested foreigner asks about the situation, they say “ugh, they were some asshole from Copenhagen/Jutland. They don’t know how to behave because they are a penis.”

Now the only reason that I bring all this up (after all, I have been here five years and to a large extent I have gone native and don’t give a flying fuck about the Rudes anymore), is that I commute by train into Aarhus at rush hour.

On my train, there are some familiar faces. I smile at these people. They smile back. They initiate the smiles about half the time. We let each other out when de-training. Those waiting at Aarhus stand back and let us off and give us ample room to do so. This extends to non regulars too.

But later in the day, day trippers and other casual rail users: it is totally different. They cannot conceive of needs other than their own. They cannot predict the movements of others (so they walk on collision course). They exhibit extreme selfishness.

Now, don’t come and tell me being inconsiderate is cultural and not liking it is imperialistic. There is nothing culturally distinct about those commuters on my train. They just know better and so they do better. They understand how their behaviour impacts on the community and alter it to fit.

The Noble Savage explanation is poor. Though the resulting advice “suck it up, it’s not going to change for you” is probably sound.

Next time a Dane is a public nuisance, just laugh at them. Openly or inwardly. As you would a peasant fresh off the haycart back home. They don’t know any better, they probably don’t mean any harm and your nonverbal social pressure is the only language they understand.

5 thoughts on “Commuting Outliers

  1. Such a timely post! I took the train from Copenhagen to Jutland this past weekend and was appalled when a women ran over my foot with her luggage, scratching my new, expensive boot, without even blinking or offering an apology. My feet were not in the aisle, she just couldn’t be bothered to wait her turn getting to her seat and felt entitled to push by. Sometimes I wonder how much longer I’ll be able to survive among neanderthals.

    I wish her a lifetime of blisters from her cheap Bilka shoes.

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  2. Another brilliant post! Thanks! I reckon I finally worked out the reason there are so many insufferable Rudes in DK. i would love to hear what you think of my proposed explanation, which you can find here: http://drnatalieoak.wordpress.com/2013/09/23/too-handsome-studies-show-that-scandinavian-men-may-be-just-that/ Hope to hear from you : – ))
    (I am out of DK now. Moved back to England 2 weeks ago after 17 years!!!! And now I am missing so very many things about DK, but not the Rudes!

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  3. There are rude people everywhere. Daytrippers and random travellers and inapropriately loud American tourists. People are not rude because they’re danish, they’re rude because they are just generally not well brought up, or don’t know what is considered apropriate behaviour. I think it’s probably easier to think about it that way? maybe? When I encounter them, I ignore them or scowl at them, or if they’re really rude towards others, I call them out on it. But since I’m danish myself, I don’t feel that they’re intentionally rude to me because of my nationality, or because they don’t like me for some reason. They’re just generally rude people; their loss, really. Who wants to be friends with them, or employ them, or marry them? No one, probably….

    I have to say, though, that the “I don’t mean you” comes off as somewhat offensive. It’s like when my stupid, racist colleague hurries to add that he “doesn’t mean the nice cleaning lady or that bright young man from the legal department” when we challenge him, after he has been ranting for ten minutes about all those pesky muslims… *rolls eyes*

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    1. I feel exactly the same about “I don’t mean you”

      There are rude people everywhere and I don’t take it personally.

      Rudeness is socially acceptable here so there is way more than in, say, a town or city or village of comparable size in the UK.

      Hell, even in rude London the average level of rudeness is refreshingly less than in Aarhus or Fredericia.

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