On not fitting the mould

Today I am not feeling very positive.DSC00896There are many, many aspects of living here in Denmark that I see as being better than the UK and Germany but there are also some things that I struggle with. Danish society thrives on trust and also on people being similar in many ways. My husband often jokes about everything being OK in Denmark until someone gets hurt in regard to the element of self-responsibility but over the last year I would say, with less humour, that everything is alright unless you are different and don’t fit the mould.

If your child doesn’t socialise with other children in the same way Danish children do – they don’t fit the mould. If your bilingual child takes longer to learn to speak than her monolingual peers – she doesn’t fit the mould.  If your health issues can’t be fixed by group therapy – you don’t fit the mould. These are some of the downsides of living in a mainly homogenous society where group norms are viewed as very important.

After having a great start to my experiences with public healthcare here in regard to my fractured elbow, once my injury recovery couldn’t be put in a neat little box that could be treated with community group physio, I am now struggling to get any answers about why my recovery has ground to a halt, why I am still needing strong pain relief and have very limited use of my arm after almost six months.

I stayed positive all the way through – even when I had my stomach pumped and needed a colonoscopy due to a reaction to medication I stayed positive – but last week when I was told there was no more the physios could do for me and the hospital doctor dismissed my pain and problems until after the summer holidays, I felt as if the complexity of my case was making me too different to be explored more. And my positivity reserve ran dry.

I like the concept of the strength of the community and collectiveness here in Denmark but it seems this only works where the community is the same, if you are different you are either under pressure and scrutiny to conform or else you are too different and you have to fight not to be dismissed. I realise the examples above are tiny compared to some issues people encounter. I am very lucky that I have other options in regard to healthcare  and I also have the confidence to fight not to be dismissed or forced to conform but not everyone is the same and as time goes on and Danish society continues to change, the tight grasp on ‘sameness’ needs to be relaxed without losing the good sides of collectiveness.


  1. Keep your chin up and don’t give up! Am going throught a similar but perhaps less mayor problem as it’s ‘only’ a finger and not the whole arm that’s affected. In doing what turned out to be an unneccessary operation last year a doctor in my local swiss hospital stitched through a tendon when puttting the skin back together. It’s taken months of physio to regain limited movement and no-one is prepared to admit that they made a mistake. The hospital now refuses to even see me anymore! Am facing yet another operation at a private clinic to try and fix the damage with no guarantee that it’ll improve things, might even make it worse. Feeling rather lost and confused about how the system’s abandoned me so totally sympathise with you.

    • I feel for you, Anjela, I think the feelings of frustration and powerlessness are one of the greatest struggles. Plus constant pain is no holiday. I hope you get things sorted out soon too. xx

  2. Hey Melanie. Sorry to hear that you are still in pain and your arm hasn’t healed completely. It is sad that you’re having a difficult time with the healthcare system. Unfortunately, too many experience the same, my family included.

    An openness to ‘being different’, multiculturalism and a vibrant, diverse society is something I’m hoping for Denmark in the years to come. And I think we have a role to play in making that happen. So continue to speak up and share both your good and not-so-good-experiences about Denmark. Openness and dialogue is fundamental for any society to evolve to being a better one.

    • Thanks, Sarita. I guess I am not as ‘different’ as others but I hope that we can all have a role in pushing diversity forward. In so many ways Denmark has a very relaxed attitude to many things that the UK is still trailing behind on and I hope the changes I have seen over the last eight years continue.

  3. I’ve been reading your blog since discovering it some months ago and I just wanted to come out of the shadows and to put in my two cents worth: thank you for writing and keeping the blog up to date despite what you’re going through! It takes guts to stay motivated and to put in the effort to write your blog (I can’t even same the same for myself!) and I think you’re doing a marvellous job. So thank you for allowing us to get a glimpse into your life in Copenhagen.

    Life isn’t always rosy and I love that you lay it out there – the good and the not so good. I’m an expat too (Aussie in Strasbourg) so I kinda can relate to what you’re going through – I never tick the boxes either… it can suck at times! 🙂

    • Pamela, thank you so much for coming out of the shadows. It means more than anything to hear from real readers rather than just looking at stats. Thank you for your lovely comments – whilst every day things aren’t so bad – its surprising what you can live with – and this blog gives me so much pleasure to write and research it really is a lifeline for me at times. I hope you keep coming back x

  4. My, you have been through the mill, for sure. No wonder you feel exasperated, furious, depressed. But is your experience especially Danish? Or is it a case of a Universal Health System that just cannot deliver to the level of our modern expectations?
    Communal conformity is not the result of the way Scandinavian society is structured. It’s the other way around – it is the basic mindset of equality that allows a society to build itself in this way.
    Doesn’t necessarily make it ideal for all, all of the time of course, but is likely to provide the best available outcome for most people, most of the time.
    But as your elbow is still hurting like hell, I’m sure you need such philosophising like you need a giant hole in the head!
    Hope you manage to find a way through somehow and that your arm gets sorted out very soon.

    • Thanks for your comments. I have to say that my experiences here on a Universal Health System have been a hundred times better than my experiences in the UK so for that I am grateful but I am frustrated when things appear to be different to the norm they can either be viewed as wrong and need changing or wrong and need to be dismissed. I hope for a better outcome soon.

  5. Yup. It’s a complex topic, and one I find fascinating, frustrating, and at times, flummoxing. Try being an American–and bringing your loud, stand out, stand up and shout to be noticed among the crowd values to a country like Denmark. Hello, culture clash. I love the fact that Danes look out for one another and for society. I think it’s amazing. I don’t love the idea that everyone should hover somewhere around them middle–but that could be just because it goes against everything I was raised with. One is not better than the other, of course, but it can be frustrating when they try and fail to meet in the middle.

    • I totally agree. Being British I am a little less bombastic than those from the US so perhaps I meet somewhere in the middle. I agree that Denmark is a great place to live but there is certainly some more room for diversity.

  6. These are extremely serious issues ladies! The lady with the faulty operation needs to get compensation! dejligedays, your doctor MUST find a solution to your elbow. Disregarding geography, nationalities, assimilation and so on, this is a first-world country and the law gets enforced. You must not let the universal health system scare you into believing that you do not belong and you must accept what you get. I say fight!

  7. Dear Melanie
    I’m so sorry to hear about you being dismissed by the doctor. Do you by any chance have the possibility of going to a private hospital instead? I had a surgery one month ago at Københavns Privathospital in Lyngby, and I was very pleased with everything.
    I wish you all the best.

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