After a whole semester in Aalborg, here are some observations I made about Denmark, presented in a humorous way, through my Belgian eyes. These curious acknowledgements are written with all my fascination for the land of Vikings.
1) Christmas is an obsession for the average Dane. Obsession, not as in “Christmas is my favorite time of the year”, more like “let’s start preparing it on the 1st of November”. It all starts with J-dag, when the Christmas beer arrives in town, and ends after the “third day of Christmas”. That is right, the third day. As daylight decreases, the Danes fill their streets, shops, houses, with Christmas lights, decorations. A bit like where I come from, but times 5 in size. “julefrokost” is also not your typical Christmas dinner. It involves more warm wine, meat, schnaps than a normal human can take. It’s like having Thanksgiving dinner every week, with every social group you are part of.
2) Danish people could all be models. Alright, I know about the theory that people always look better abroad, but seriously Denmark, you make me feel like a hobo. Danish people can wear a bag, and still look stylish. But even under that, walking in the city center is like going through a 3D version of the last H&M magazine. A Danish friend told me it’s because the vikings abducted every pretty girl in Europe… Fair enough.
3) If the Dane is not racist, he is proud of his country. Danish people love their country, and they like to talk about how great they are, and put their “Dannebrog” (their flag that was given to them by God Himself, good job on the humility) everywhere, most of all on birthday cakes. Personal tip if you are coming to Denmark: When asked why you chose Denmark, don’t mention “free healthcare”. It will piss them off (by the way, healthcare is amazing here, no doubt about that!).
4) Bikes, bikes everywhere. The government being all keen on big taxes on cars, the average Dane has a bike. He also has papers for his bike, and an insurance on it, because bike theft looks like the highest felony in Viking land. You might only want to encourage this green and healthy behavior, until you have tried biking against Northern Jutland’s wind, always conveniently blowing against you. However, the locals have no difficulty keeping their style together when biking in the pouring rain, the cold winds and the snow, unlike the poor foreigners losing dignity as soon as the roads are wet. Stay classy, Aalborg!
5) Seriously, that expensive? It is no secret that Denmark and its Scandinavian neighbors are quite tough on the wallet. One could wonder how so many Danes can afford studying that long, when you have to pay as much for food, transportation, etc. But the Danish student is not broke, he gets paid by the state up to 650 euros a month to study. Yes, you read it well. Where my Erasmus scholarship is barely enough for me to pay 2 sandwiches and a beer, Danish citizens get paid to get educated. Where do I sign to become Danish?