I have just returned from a weekend in Denmark . Short though it was, in combination with previous trips, I have started to get a better idea of what makes Danes Danes. I must admit however that this does not mean I understand them any better! In fact there are a couple of issues which perplex and confuse me even more as the people relax more around me and speak their mind more readily. Here are a few of those issues:
Go into any Danes’ house and you will doubtlessly be faced with as many gadgets as your house desires – or if you’re like me, you will be perplexed by as many gadgets as you would ever want to set eyes on. Danes seem to be very proud of their house and very keen on having perfect houses for entertaining. In fact, entertaining seems to be a good chunk of what they do – and boy do they do it well! This however means that it is always essential to have a gadget for every occasion you might encounter, and discussing the latest gadget seems to be a quite common pass-time. Even being the gadget-ignoramus I am (Michael luckily takes the initiative to grab whatever I am offered and use it before I am pushed into it so that I don’t normally have to look like the idiot I am while figuring out what I am expected to do with the metal/plastic/wooden thing I have just been presented with), I understand the desire to make your life easy and to ‘keep up with the Jones’). However, what perplexes me further is the fact that the gadgets are not always of the best quality, but they cost an arm and a leg! As someone hinted at, it seems like Danes have so much disposal income that the companies can get away with pricing their not-always-so-good stuff higher than they are actually worth – because Danes will buy them! I don’t know if the issue is that when I was growing up we were always careful with spending money (there wasn’t extra to just throw around), but I find this quite unexplainable.
While on the issue of entertaining, I also need to say a word about the food! Maltese people DO eat a lot – believe me, portions, especially from grandparents, tend to verge on the humongous (at least in my family). So I am quite used to eating a big meal whenever I visit. However, the way Danes deal with food is different. They don’t have only one main meal, but they have a continuous stream of ‘time for food’. This starts with breakfast, then maybe some mid-morning coffee, then some open sandwiches for lunch, then afternoon coffee with cakes and sandwiches at around 3, then dinner at 6, then evening coffee at around 9 (again with cakes of course). This is particularly evident when you spend a whole day visiting people – they make sure that you are there in time for whatever meal is next, and make sure that you are fed. Honestly! I feel like all I did was eat this weekend! And when I say eat I don’t mean I nibbled: I mean that I feel like I was full from when I woke up to when I went to sleep! Definitely not good for my weight 😉
Would you leave your car unlocked with valuables lying around in full view of everyone and unattended while you sat down to a meal inside the house? I thought not! or at least I wouldn’t. However the Danes do something which to me (at least at first) looked appallingly much worse! It is very common for Danish parents to wrap up their baby in their pram, stick a baby alarm in with them, close the pram, and leave the pram unattended outside while they go do whatever they have to do until the baby starts crying. I mean – helloooo! If you won’t leave your laptop unattended, how much stranger is it to leave your baby unattended? And this is not an issue of a neglectful set of parents! It is an issue of this being the suggestion of everyone, including healthcare workers. The reason for this seems to be for the baby to get some fresh air. I guess coming from hot Malta where you can open the windows from fresh air, and leaving your baby in a closed pram outside for any length of time is possibly a child abuse offence (on account that the baby would be steamed to death!) I find this quite strange. I am learning to keep the incredulousity out of my voice now a bit better now, but I still cannot understand the concept too well!
Danes have this concept called hyggelig which is very big in whatever they do. This means that they want to have everything around them as hyggelig (cosy-feeling) as could be. They reach this state but having a lot of candles around, being very up to scratch on design issues and making sure that their houses are in a way design-havens, and also by one more thing: making sure that you get no direct light anywhere and that the light is always unobtrusive and dim. Very admirable aspirations you might say. And they are. However, I am used to bright light coming in from every window whether you like it or not (during the day), and with things being bright and airy the way to go. People in Denmark look at me strangely when I say that I don’t even know if I have a lampshade in my bedroom at home (I think there is one, or there was one at some point, but maybe it has been removed for some reason? Not sure if I would have noticed). To them this is a big offence! How can you have direct light? That’s a definite no-no to hyggelig! I often counter back that if I want to do something I want to see what I am doing…light is there also for a function, and not just to make the room look prettier! An issue I often find is that to me the houses look quite dark once the sun sets. I haven’t found any Dane who even comprehends any part of what I say about the issue. Maybe I’m the strange one? What do the other non-Danes out there say? Is having low light levels to create hyggelig the reason light was invented?
I think that is enough perplexing for one day! But maybe I’ll decide to entertain you with the rest of my perplexions. Let me know if you’re interested ;).