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05-02-2018

My Denmark in Four Objects - Genny




It is said that the human mind is able to process an image 60,000 times faster than a concept described with words. Theoretically, therefore, my task to let you closer to Denmark and its beauties (as well as its oddities) should have ended at the time that I published this picture. We know, on the other hand, that the human soul loves to celebrate itself and certainly I will not be the exception to the rule. Forgive me, therefore, if for personal pleasure I will talk in length about what is considered one of the happiest countries in the world.
 
The objects you see in this photo are the columns on which my Denmark is based. First of all, I chose a geographical map in order to admit my ignorance. Before moving to Scandinavia, I had always identified Denmark with that tongue of land connected to Germany, Jutland. Imagine, then, if I could ever imagine that Copenhagen could be on an island, even reachable with a Flixbus. The truth is that Denmark has more than 400 islands, of which about 70 are inhabited. Among these the largest are connected to the mainland through roads built on futuristic bridges. So if, like me, you dreamed romantic crossings by sea with the wind in your hair, you will have to preserve this experience for a cruise through the fjords.
It would be useful at this point to let you know that the Fær Øer, another attempt by Danes to scare foreigners with unpronounceable names, and Greenland are also part of the Danish area. The latter is almost 3000 km from Jutland. The question therefore is: "Why is Greenland not an independent state?". The answer I was able to give me after two months is that Denmark is very small and adding a few extra zeros to its 42,924 km2 must have seemed like a way to increase national pride.
On the other hand, it is always difficult to understand the extent of a country through a number and, as I know that believing me when I say that Denmark is small might be very difficult, give me a comparison: Italy, my country, has an extension of 301,338 km2, which means that it is approximately seven times larger than Denmark. Seven times. Well, this is an information that maybe I should have not shared with you because if you realize it you will start experience my own state of exaltation when, looking at a map, I found out that with an hour's journey I could reach any place. And trust me, this feeling will allow you to turn into megalomaniacs who, proud of a rediscovered and unlikely Viking blood in their veins, begin to organize trips anywhere, at the expense of your bank account.
 
Let's move on then to a second object of my image. Like any amateur photographer, that is, like any photographer who quantifies his success based on the number of likes he gets on Instagram, I have included a bunch of flowers in the frame to please my audience. But be careful. If at the sight of the daffodils you had already let yourself go to a smug smile thinking that the beautiful season has no geographical limits, you should know that you are on the wrong path. In fact, the flowers in question are the symbol of the eternal Danish illusion: the arrival of spring. The spring in Denmark, in fact, begins late and every appearance in March is just a joke of Baldr, the Viking god of hope, who wants to test how much hope you are able to cultivate during your life.
 
 

 
 
Trust me when I say that the Danish climate will lead you to reconsider your principles and rethink with regret at all the times you have made fun of tourists from Northern Europe who, on holiday in Southern Europe, were already wandering in short sleeved t-shirts in spring and were looking with a faint expression at a lukewarm sun. And this is because here you will be the first to do so. It does not matter what you're doing. If ever a ray of sunlight touches your face, you will abandon everything and you will rush out thinking back to the happy moments when you were splashing in the warm Mediterranean currents. But then, just as in those moments, when at the apex of ecstasy, you were reached by the reassuring maternal words "If you do not come out of the water I come there and I drown you", here in the North you will be greeted by a similar emotion when the cold will enter your soul making you doubt your ability to survive.
Yet, the Danes are clever deceivers of the human mind. You will understand it as soon as you realize the number of candles lit around you as a sign of challenge to perennial darkness. So do not be surprised if at the stroke of midnight on March 21st the houses will start to look like tropical greenhouses with bright spring flowers everywhere.
 
So let's move on to the book. The book published by the "Center of Happiness Research" in Copenhagen (and this is not a joke, it really exists) allows me to face a pillar of Danish culture: "hygge". No, I did not say "ighe". No, not even "ughe" ... Oh well, it does not matter. The hardest part is not to pronounce this word, but to understand what there is behind it. "Hygge" can be translated into other languages ​​with "coziness", "koselig", "hominess", "gezeligheid" or "Gemütlichkeit", but if you dare to propose these comparisons to a Dane you will have to deal with an indignant face and a dry answer: "Hygge is much more than that".
So, what is "hygge"? This question has haunted me during my early days here. If it was such an extraordinary thing, I absolutely wanted to try it on my skin, at least to give hope to my unconquerable soul that would be able to be unhappy even in the happiest country in the world. So I started to question anyone who came to me and here is the result of my inquiry: you try "hygge" drinking a cup of hot tea in front of the fireplace with your boyfriend, watching the rain falling with a blanket on your lap and candles around, spending Christmas together with your family, singing in front of a bonfire in the summer and my favourite ... drinking a beer after the soccer game. In short, "hygge" is everywhere as long as you are looking for the pleasure of small things and I am sure that each of you could recognise himself in at least one of these situations.
 

 

As last object-symbol I chose my worst enemies: the coins. Denmark does not belong to the Eurozone and uses the Danish krone. The krone was introduced in the country in 1873 following the creation of the Scandinavian monetary union together with Norway and Sweden. After the First World War, however, the union dissolved and each state adopted an independent currency, that means the Danish krone in Denmark.
Here it is rare to pay cash and it is often possible to pay only with a credit card. If, however, like me, you are still fighting against bureaucracy and you still have difficulties opening a bank account and you do not use your national credit card to avoid high commissions, you will have to know the new currency and recognize its coins. I must admit that living in a country with a low level of delinquency has many advantages and one of these is to entrust the wallet to the cashier every time I go to the supermarket.
Yet, I cannot be angry with the Danish krone. Not only because going shopping with a currency other than the one you are used to, allows you not to realize how much you are spending (and trust me, in a country with a very high cost of living, this is very good for your conscience), but also because the coins of 1, 2 and 5 crowns are irresistible with their hole in the middle. As to why they are so, I have heard many theories: for the way in which the coins were once tied on a string, to be recognizable to the blind, not to cause death by suffocation to a child that swallow them (... ), to have a value equivalent to the metal used. Whatever the truth, for me they are the reason why I do not hate the Danish krone even though my life would have been much simpler if Denmark had adopted the euro, especially when I go to the bar and while paying cash the waiter wonders if I also still use a carriage with horses.
 


 
Living abroad has taught me that stereotypes are often just common places and that each of us can find a country in some objects. It is a very personal pursuit and I like to think that actually objects are the ones that choose us and not vice versa. I invite all of you, while you are living here in Denmark or the next time you are abroad, to look for those objects that you link with the country. I promise you that you will not regret it because when you come back home they will make you experience the same perfumes and the same emotions again and through them you will have a story to tell. As far as I am concerned, I will no longer be able to look at a Danish geographical map, some daffodils, a book on "hygge" and coins without smiling.
 
By Cabas Genny

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