Now the Danes aren’t the most open, outgoing or forward people in the world but compared to them I feel like an American in Asia (you know the type that continues to talk at the top of their voice whilst refusing to accept the fact that most people can’t even understand them).
Yes I am fairly outgoing even in NZ and I do enjoy talking to strangers…but in NZ this is common practice. Last night I was waiting for a bus around midnight and there was one other normal looking guy standing next to me. We were the only two people in a deserted bus station waiting for the same bus- now would you consider that weird to strike up a conversation?
I started with “so where are you headed” he says “home” so I say “have you been in Copenhagen” he says no. After a good three minutes of this headbanging stuff he realised that I wasn’t strange, I was just friendly and interested in passing time by taking to him.
Well next thing you know he’s offering me cigarettes and talking merrily about his future plans to get into the painting business. After ten mins he was dominating the conversation. I felt like I had cracked the ‘Jante Law’ code – an old Scandinavian small town ideal that encourages everyone to draw as little attention to themselves as possible for fear they may find themselves thinking they’re better than you.
Now this ‘Jante Law’ has been observed for centuries but it was only in 1933 when Norwegian/ Danish author Aksel Sandemose identified it as a series of rules. They are as follows.
- Don’t think that you are special.
- Don’t think that you are of the same standing as others.
- Don’t think that you are smarter than others.
- Don’t fancy yourself as being better than others.
- Don’t think that you know more than others.
- Don’t think that you are more important than others.
- Don’t think that you are good at anything.
- Don’t laugh at others.
- Don’t think that any one of us cares about you.
- Don’t think that you can teach others anything.
While these seem like historical and irrelevant truths (especially in this era of the self-esteem movement) these rules ARE observed and whether they’re aware of it or not every Dane embodies a piece of the Jante Law.
I feel I now have a social obligation as a free thinking Kiwi to liberate Danes from these laws. But I may face some trouble in doing so because according to Sandemose “those Janters who transgress this unwritten ‘law’ are regarded with suspicion and some hostility, as it goes against the communal desire in towns to preserve social stability and uniformity.”
While uniformity is on the cards for social interaction here, it’s another story when it comes to fashion. Now in New Zealand there is clearly a “uniform”- I think this may be due to the fact we have school uniforms and by the time it comes to leave school everyone freaks out that there’s no one telling them what to wear anymore…..they then go onto joining support groups that aim to help people come to conclusions about what brand of jeans they’ll ALL buy or what length necklace they’ll ALL wear.
In Denmark fashion pushes boundaries. It sits in the precipice of “can you really get away with that” but at the end of the day you ALWAYS can. I went out with a friend last Saturday night, I wore a dress and leggings-she wore jeans that were leather on one side and cotton on the other. Last week I rode on the train to town- I wore jeans (you know the blue skinny but not too tight ones that we ALL wear in NZ) and I sat next to a girl in baggy pants with a black jacket, pink scarf, suede shoes and brown belt. She was clearly pushing the boundaries and therefore she was ‘in’ and I was ‘out’.
But there’s a difference here between being “in” and looking good. Many stunning girls I see drape themselves like curtain hangers, hanging the heaviest loosest pieces of clothing on their slender frames all in the name of fashion. Wake up girls! You’re some of the prettiest looking girls in the world with some of the best bodies – you’re not doing your fellow men any favours here.
And the Bridget Jones moment of the month comes in the form of the Tivoli theme park. For those of you who haven’t been there Tivoli is regarded as this historic and picturesque theme park…which is it…most of the time.
Here I was thinking I could handle the rides that Tivoli threw at me – seriously how hard can it be to handle an historic roller coaster or the golden tower (a free fall from a huge height). Well after three rides I felt my stomach getting upset and by the fourth ride I was in the toilet throwing up- three times to be precise.
It was a ratio of 4 rides = 1 vomit. Now I was there with my Danish friends Ida and Thomas. They specifically commented that although I was perhaps a bit stupid for continuing to get on these stomach hurling rides, they admired that I took on the Kiwi “she’ll be right” attitude, and kept on riding until there was nothing left to come up!
Can I just say though that the golden tower is far scarier than bungee jumping! I would consider bungee jumping as good practice for the golden tower. You sit in this chair and it takes you up 63 meters, and just as you’re admire how pretty Sweden looks from this height it drops you in this free fall! I have never been so scared- but then again I did it another three times –“she be right” right?