15 September 2006

My Scandinavian bias - and Denmark

Just a quick note to come clean and say I'm actually 1/8 Swedish - one of my grandfathers (not this one) was from Stockholm. But even though he was great fun, and provided us with dozens of Swedish books when we grew up, I'm no more pro-Swedish (as you might have thought reading this) than I am -Danish. Which we'll be coming to shortly. And anyway, among my great-great-great-grans there are a lot of Danes. A lot.

Ah, the Danes... What with the tradition of Danish pastry for breakfast, beers for lunch (not that I'd have had one, but still) and a very laid-back mentality, what's not to like? Add the plethora of aqualands, zoos and fun fairs scattered across the country, and voila - pure holiday nation!


Norwegians - although happily naive, as I mentioned earlier, are always trying to fit in, trying not to be different, yet trying to seem like suave globetrotters at the same time. It's not working. The Danes, though, seem to be just that. Denmark (at least Jutland, the only part I've been to) seems like a cross between Britain and Norway somehow. Here's a typical Danish Tudor house :)


An intriguing point is that Danes also happen to love Norwegians (I suspect it's a little like having a 'simpleton' sibling - although they do it without condescension, unlike the Swedes...). They don't understand us, though, and might as well think we're talking Swedish, so when travelling in Denmark - bring a Norwegian flag! (Why they don't like Swedes I don't know, that's for someone else to blog about..) Norwegians - insecure and all - love the Danes for loving us, and admire their European flair. Although we'd never admit to it...
We laugh openly at them when they flock to our mountains to learn skiing, but we secretly love them for choosing our country to spend time in... (They also provide a steady income for doctors working extra over Easter, as they tend to fall down and break something while learning...) Photo: Example of Norwegian mountain, Norway's highest - Galdhøpiggen, 2469 metres (8100 feet) above sea level.

Ok, Denmark did rule Norway for about 400 years. We call it the 400 year-long night. And they did more or less thrust their language upon us, even though we pronounce it very differently - but the ancient Norse was lost during those 400 years. But then - after 91 years in union with Sweden, Denmark seemed like a real charmer, and our first modern king (Haakon VII*, 1905) was in fact the Danish prince Carl, we just adopted him...

A funny thing - the kids didn't understand any Danish when we were there, and the Danish kids we met didn't understand any Norwegian - even though to me, they're the same, just different. And watch out for compliments.. "Nice / sweet" in Danish means "funny / strange" in Norwegian [rar], and the word for "happy, cheerful person" in Danish, means "sourpuss" in Norwegian [grinebiter]... You wouldn't want them mixed up on a date!

Example of Danish mountain, Denmark's highest "mountain" - Himmelbjerget, 147 metres (482 feet) above sea level...

Norwegians tend to say that Danish is like our language, except the Danes talk with a potato stuck down their throat. To me, the sound of the Danish language feels like a hug! I could listen to it forever.

(* He was the first modern king of Norway, but took the name Haakon - a name used by six kings in the viking era - so he added a VII (7) and was immediately embraced as one of us.)

1 comment:

kimananda said...

The Danish language is a hug...too bad it's such a tight hug that breathing can get a bit difficult at times. As far as I can tell, the Danes like the Norwegians because they see the Norwegians as cool and laid-back, unlike those uptight Swedes who are always prohibiting everything (which leads to the liquor problem, as expressed by the Danish proverb, 'Do a good deed. Help a drunk Swede back to the ferry home.') As far as I can tell, it's all true, but then I'm a gullible American at heart, really, so of course I'd believe what those overly-direct Danes tell me, wouldn't I?

On the other hand, all I really know about Norway from the Danes is the infamous 'Norwegian lunch' story in all it's variations. Have you heard it? You might have a similar story about the Swedes, or even the Danes. I may have to write a post about this one....