Friday, March 27, 2015

Living Abroad- "How to Be Danish" by Patrick Kingsley (Denmark)

Usually when I do a Living Abroad post, it's about someone who moves to a new country and their floundering around as they adjust to a place much different than their own. Slight change in the formula today! This book centers on what it is exactly to be Danish, or how to be Danish, as the title says. This is a complicated country, I tell you what. But it's also interesting because some of the struggles that they have are the same struggles a lot of European countries are having. So let's get in on it!

To be Danish you have to: ride a bike. And not just for exercise or as a Sunday jaunt through the country. Your bike is your car, especially in Copenhagen. According to the book 1/3 of Copenhagers cycle to work. There's even a blog called Copenhagen Cycle Chic which highlights how good these people can look and STILL  bike to work. (It helps that, square mileage wise, Copenhagen isn't large).

To be Danish you have to: pay a lot of taxes. Like, an incomprehensible amount, to this American. It can be up to 60% of your annual income (we will talk about what that get's you in a minute). "80% of Danes pay 1% to the Church" even if they aren't necessarily religious.There's also a 25% VAT tax, and "high levies on commodities like cars (180%! )". A 25% tax on food makes eating out a rare treat.

To be Danish you have: a government that subsidies a lot of things. Childcare, education, health care are all subsided to some degree. There is also a lot of help for people who need it through programs like welfare. However, there seems to be a cultural shift away from so much welfare support because of incidences of extreme abuse, and the fact there are more people pulling out of it than putting into it so there are questions of sustainability. So you're paying a lot in taxes but you're getting a good chunk of it back in different ways.

To be Danish you: might sometimes be at a loss to deal with your new immigrant population. (I'm sure there are a lot of Danes who personally welcome new diversity with wide open arms, but it seems like as a whole there is some growing pains, perhaps).Integration seems to be a hot topic but what about when people don't want to integrate? This is obviously not an exclusively Danish problem.

(OBVIOUSLY not all people from Denmark ride a bike, or follow any of these other rules. Just a little disclaimer)

So Denmark, it sounds really nice but also really expensive and I'm not a very good bike rider. I'm especially not a good bike rider in a skirt and heels, but I am super impressed by those that are! I wish there was a book like this for every country! Kind of a weirdly specific read, but if you love Denmark or really focused books this could be for you! 3 out of 5 stars!

Also, fun  cover!


  1. This sounds quite interesting. I love books that share different cultures. It would be fun to see how other countries differ.

    1. I learned so much! I like to read about different cultures too, especially things about everyday life for normal people like this!


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