It turns out that Copenhagen is a very pleasant city and Denmark a very interesting country. Despite the tragedy of missing autumn in France, I’m really glad we were introduced to this culture and its people. At the Copenhagen Citizens’ Service Centre (“Borgerservice” in Danish) we’re met with laid back, friendly people and impressively efficient service. We manage to register without any fuss — virtually everyone in Denmark speaks fluent English — and are even assigned a local doctor, who’s gender and age we’re asked if we have a preference for.
The guys at the Borgerservice give us a “Welcome to Denmark” info pack, which is chock full of interesting tidbits about the country and its people:
Informal social interaction and democracy
“Most Danes place a high value on equal rights and democracy. Compared with other countries, social interaction and the tone of voice are informal. Friends, family and also colleagues are addressed informally on a first-name basis. It is also common to address superiors by their first names. The informal tone is also valid in educational settings, where pupils address their teachers on a first-name basis.
Two basic elements of education in Denmark are discussion and debate, whether in public, in family relations or at work. Danish companies place high demands on their employees, as they expect their staff to develop, propose and implement ideas themselves. There is no need to fear making mistakes here, because companies value their employees highly. They place high priority on skills development, and most companies in Denmark offer continued training for their employees. Teamwork is also appreciated highly in Denmark. Studies repeatedly show that teamwork leads to better use of the knowledge pool and promotes creativity. It is probably for all these reasons that so many Danes are in full swing at work. They are motivated and committed employees”.
And our favourite observations about the Danes thanks to their neighbours, the Swedes:
Getting to know people and making friends
“…The Swedes say that these informal Danes are unassuming, humorous, cheerful and jovial folks always likely to say, “things will work out”, but that they are short-sighted, impulsive, individualistic, undisciplined, anarchic people with a lack of earnestness and little respect for tradition. Danes are also perceived to be relaxed, happy and easy going. All the same, many foreigners find it difficult at first to become acquainted and make friends with Danes outside the work place.
…The social behaviour of Danes can best be described by the term “bonding”. One distinguishes in general between those who build bridges to other people and those who work to… intensify existing bonds – family ties, friendship bonds, etc. Bridge builders establish contact quickly, but “bonders” like the Danes are slow to do so.
Being a small population, the Danes are used to having some kind of shared history with almost everyone in the country. When they meet someone for the first time, they will immediately try to find out what common acquaintances they may have”.
Homogenous society — the clan-based society
“In many respects, the Danes are a very homogenous society: incomes are about the same (net), they dress similarly, they all have more or less the same values, they travel to the same holiday destinations, celebrate the same holidays and above all: almost all of them have the same nationality”.
Feeling well chuffed with our newly acquired Danish resident status we bunker down in a caravan park in Copenhagen and make plans to catch up with a friend of a friend who lives here. We also plan to make the most of our spontaneous 1500km detour and see some of the sites.