Be More Danish, Part 2: Trust me, Baby

Relocating family life to Copenhagen

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Hello, Ducklings, and a very happy New Year to you! Can I still say that? This isn’t quite what I had in mind for my first post of 2018 – then again, I’m used to best-laid plans changing and having to think on my twinkly toes, you’ve got to get good at that when you’re a wedding coordinator.

So, rather than tell you about the embarrassing amounts of Gløgg and Danish delights we practically inhaled for our first Christmas in Denmark (all research into the habits of our new home country, obvs), I’ll get a smidgen more serious today. I know, how very unlike me.

Full disclosure, we are appallingly slow at learning Danish – and that excuse of it being the world’s 4th most difficult language to learn is wearing thin, I know. We do try to make up for it by ferociously reading every book we can lay our grubby mitts on to understand what it means to be a true Dane though.

Boy is there a lot to learn and nope, it’s not all just about how to wholly embrace a life more Hygge. Did you know that Danes use more candles per capita than any other nation in the world? Oh I so fit right in.

Cripes, I’m waffling. Does anybody else do this, where you talk about one thing and ten minutes later you’re somewhere entirely different with only the slightest hint of an idea how you got there? No? Just me? Attention span of a fairground fish, me.

I guess one of the most fascinating points we’ve discovered is how much of a societal cornerstone ‘Trust’ is for Danes. Such a small word, bearing such colossal importance.

Sweeping generalisations are always a slippery slope but it really does seem that the majority of Danes trust most people: their government, the welfare and educational systems, each other and even outsiders (aka people like the husband and I).

I’m a ‘Generation 75’ girl and count myself extraordinarily lucky to have grown up at a time when playing outside for hours was the norm rather than the exception. At the risk of going all Astrid Lindgren on you here, but oh the glorious summers spent roaming the neighbourhood on mini-adventures with your tribe, the only stipulation being to be home in time for dinner.

Mr Mac and I don’t have kids (other than the fur-kind) so bear with me if I vastly romanticise my childhood and possibly get this all-wrong. The irony is not lost on me that, although we have about a hundred and one ways of keeping track of each other now, there is so little trust in mankind that those days of kids running free are long gone.

Not in Denmark though. I haven’t seen so many children-minus-grown-ups out playing in years! We went trick or treating with friends’ kids for Halloween and there were just as many kids hopping from door-to-door on their own as there were those who had parents toddling along. Dogs are left outside supermarkets all the time so clearly, there’s no fear of them being dognapped while their owner pops in for a pint of mælk. We even have a mini-library down the road – it looks like an oversized birdhouse and everyone is welcome to take a book out as long as they also put one in. I’ve never seen it anything other than full to burst.

OK fine, so perhaps we’re lucky ducks who live in a pretty lovely area, just north of Copenhagen and (almost) by the coast, and things may be slightly different ‘Downtown’ (if that even exists) – I just can’t see it.

Even the high-techest prams are left outside houses, shops or cafés. I didn’t half feel like a distrusting Grinch when we went up the Rundetaarn, a beautiful 17th-century round tower in the middle of Copenhagen, with our godson last October. There’s me, oh so magnanimously offering to guard the buggy while everybody else climbed the last flight of stairs – only to be greeted by a veritable buggy-park once we got there, all ‘abandoned-in-trust’ while their owners enjoyed the spectacular view.

 – Images by Tarah Coonan

And one more example: we went to the National Aquarium over Christmas – appalling weather and a toddler to be entertained drove us inside on a distinctly grim day. I’m pretty sure we were the only ones who hired a locker for our collective coats. Everybody else didn’t seem to think twice about leaving theirs on racks in an unmanned cloakroom. And I’m not talking about the kind of great-aunt Edith’s moth-eaten garment, oh no. You could have made off with an armful of shiny expensive coats while their owners were busy feeding the sea otters.

Clearly, we have some way to go to shake off our skeptical attitudes and adopt the Danish way of having a little (or a lot) more faith.

The Danes’ ability to trust their fellow humans is claimed to be one of the many aspects and attitudes that make them such a happy nation. And I can see how that works. Life is just so much easier when you don’t spend a vast amount of time suspiciously doubting others and their capacity to do the right thing.

There’s a reason why the matter of trust has been on my mind though. Barley, our little old dawg lady, has been putting us through our paces over the last two weeks with a mystery autoimmune attack that’s left her very sick and us in tears on a daily basis. She’s eleven, and in Denmark, a dog of that age can’t be insured.

Luckily for us, vet fees here are nowhere near as atrocious as they are in the UK, so while all her tests and meds aren’t exactly cheap, they’re not quite forcing us to remortgage the house as they might elsewhere. We’ve only known our Danish vet for seven months, but we’ve never had any reason to doubt any of his suggestions or feel like they were intended to inflate the bill. We completely trust him and his team to only do what is necessary and right, not just for us but also, or more importantly, our dog. At a time like this when my main concern is what other delicious treats we can cook up to convince our skinny lady to eat, I don’t think I could bear it if I were lumbered with a suspicious mind on top. The stress! I’d be popping Xanax like Tic Tacs.

So while our trust levels may not quite be up to Danish standards yet, I think we’re definitely heading in the right direction. And if more trust leads to less stress and a happier life then I’m all in.

Now excuse me while I go and slow roast some revolting chicken livers for the Lady Barley.

I’ll be back in Feb, hopefully with a fattened-up dog and new levels of trustfulness.

Love, rockets and pogo sticks,

– Anna Mac

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  • Lovely read, Anna. It sounds a little like my own childhood in Ireland. There was always a sense of underlying trust with everyone around us. It’s still the same there now, I miss it a lot.

    • Hi Siobhan — I’m so glad you liked it. I can imagine Ireland being similar to here in terms of trust and faith in the general good-egg-ness of people. I guess we have to be thankful these kinds of places still exist.

  • Stop it. You are making me sooo envious of this super cool Danish lifestyle. I worked with the Baltic countries for several years and made some trips out there. Eagerly read ‘A year living Danishly’ and dream of living there but not going to work for us!

    • Oh Bunny — you just made me smile, a lot. It’s an epic book, right? I adore the way she writes and it pretty darn near hits the nail on the head. You never know, maybe one day there’ll be a magic move to make you Scandi after all. Life works in oh so mysterious ways.

  • dear anna, I love your observations of the Danes and being Danish, I am a Dane living in Scotland, and I spent a lot of time wondering what is different and why it is so. I am waiting for your next instalment in anticipation, Much love and Hygge to you, mettexx

    • Oh Mette — thank you for such kind words. They mean even more coming from a Danish girl! My stories will always be shaped by our experiences out here and I’d be mortified if ever misrepresented the Danes. Especially as we truly adore living here and are working hard on ‘Being More Danish’. If you ever hop over to Copenhagen, let me know and I’ll buy you a rabarber horn from Lagkagehuset!

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