The ‘desert’ of Denmark

I must confess that before I moved to Denmark I thought that the country was just the bit attached to Germany. To me Jutland was Denmark. I blame the scale on my childhood globe as Funen and Sjælland were simply lost in the blob that was Denmark.IMG_0486

On moving to Copenhagen I found that many Copenhageners think the reverse – that Copenhagen is Denmark. In my text-book at Danish language class we learnt that the centre of Jutland is known as Ørken or desert. In the first six months of living here I encounter a lot of casual negativity about Jutland and its residents and I still see this now.

On asking someone helping us in our relocation process where poorer people lived (and I meant in Copenhagen as we seemed to only see affluent areas) the chortling response was ‘Jutland’. A ‘joke’ that went way over my head then. In my first term of learning Danish my teacher told me that I must seriously improve my accent as I sounded like a bonde from Jutland – she used the term to mean peasant or farmer – and this would not be acceptable in Copenhagen. Sadly I was simply delighted that I had any kind of Danish accent at that stage. At the start of every new academic year you can see people complaining about Jutlanders coming to city and buying up apartments for their student offspring. There is certainly a feeling of them and us about it as far as Copenhageners are concerned. I know someone from Jutland who has settled here after University and he certainly notices a difference in the speed of life and also a more openness to ambition in the city.

IMG_1357So after almost 8 years this summer we decided to head to the desert that is Jutland. And after all I had heard I was surprised, both pleasantly and less so. Certainly in the area we stayed there was a huge amount of culture and architecture to explore and the countryside was beautiful. I reminded me a lot of the English countryside especially as there was a greater dependence on cars for transport. The bus stop at the end of the street where we were staying in Vejle ran every hour into the town centre – it reminded me of my childhood in rural England.

Plus it was so quiet! On the first evening we sat in the living room of our AirBnb house after my son had gone to sleep and I felt as if I had lost my hearing. There was complete silence – no distant car noise, no sirens, no people chatting in the street, no heavy footed neighbour stomping overhead and not even sounds of nature. And I don’t think I liked it.

As an observer of people I was again fascinated by the difference between the general public I saw here compared to Copenhageners. I often read about the obesity crisis facing Denmark on the shouty headlines of the tabloids but I look around me and scoff. In general most people I see on a day-to-day basis are not overweight and many are super slim. Not so in Jutland. It shocked me that there are actually fat people in Denmark after 8 years of living in one of the statistically slimmest cities in Europe and in the fittest neighbourhood of an already slim city. Another shocking thing – people in Jutland wear colourful clothes , not for them the sombre Danish rainbow of black, white and grey but my eyes were assaulted by blue, orange, green and even red!

My visit to Jutland, sadly, did bring out my inner Copenhagen city snob which has been conditioned by many years of city life. I loved the countryside, the museums, the Viking culture and we will be back again but I missed being able to get a latte easily, the noise of city life, being able to walk to shops or jumping on a bus whenever I need to and the comfort of understated clothes. Perhaps the biggest thing for me was Jutland was too much like England for comfort.

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