Back in 2008 I moved to a country that seemingly no one had heard of. Conversations went a bit like this – Me: I am moving to Copenhagen in Denmark. Others: Wow Holland, it’s a bit flat there isn’t it? Me: No, Denmark. Others: Wow, I don’t know anyone who has moved to Belgium before. Me: Argh!
It was amazing that so many people seemed unaware of a country that produces a huge amount of lager consumed by British people with a well known catchphrase, butter in silver packets and incredibly salty bacon (decreed by my mother as unacceptable and she often questioned whether the Danes keep the best for themselves – I can categorically say they do not). To top it off it was the year of the massive controversy over the publication of the Mohammed cartoons. Still people struggled to understand the apparently unknown outpost of Europe I was moving too. I confess to thinking Denmark was just the part attached the Germany but I, at least, knew where it was and that fact it wasn’t the home of tulips and windmills.
The icing on the cake was the discussion with a cab driver about the national football team of my new home – what an amazing side they were. I was a little baffled until again I realised that I was of course moving to Holland!
Fast forward seven years and the world can’t get enough of Denmark.
Nordic Noir crime programmes convinced the world we live in semi darkness all year round in thick wooly jumpers (the sun does shine for at least five months of the year, I promise!). Denmark is world renowned as the happiest place on the world and there has been much made of why Danes are so happy (the joke is lower expectations but the reality is true the Danes are pretty content with life), the best restaurant in the world putting New Nordic cuisine on the map.
The disbelief of Daily Mail readers that it is possible to ride a bike in heels and a tight skirt à la Princess Mary – it’s not just a royal thing, it’s a Danish thing. Helen Russell’s best selling (and fantastic) book A Year of Living Danishly was reviewed enthusiastically in Grazia and beyond and made British women cast their eyes enviously towards our lifestyle here. It seems that the media can’t get enough of the Danish way. Finally just this month Brits can now learn about hygge at a college in London – the Danish concept of cosiness which cannot be explained fully without experiencing it in its full candlelit glory.
So Denmark is a buzzword in popular culture now but sadly a lot of the traditional aspects of Denmark are still an enigma. Recently a Danish friend spent the weekend in a well known tourist town in the UK. After spending sometime convincing a group of girls he wasn’t from South Africa, he gave them clues – its where Vikings come from, blank looks; Carlsberg beer, nada; begins with DEN, nope; finally he mentioned The Killing and they caught on.
I kind of wish that all the real aspects of life here – the positive cycling culture, fantastic work-life balance, the family friendly ethos, beautiful design and forward thinking architecture, the unwritten rules of things like smørrebrød (open sandwich) construction, a country that respects personal space and privacy, where one of the most famous Danish actors can sit outside his local cafe without being pestered, real Danish pastries exist and the outstanding beauty of the country – all the things that made me fall in love with my adopted country so long ago could hit the popular radar.
But at least if I was moving now it wouldn’t be to Holland!
You can read my other posts on the Huffington Post here.