Peculiar Danes: Jaywalking


Street by Siri

Jaywalking is the art of pedestrians crossing the road during a red light. Everyone does it. Your average Londoner wouldn’t go a day without jaywalking. For Parisians, jaywalking is the law of the street. Because who has time to wait until the light turns green? Apparently Danes do!

It appears that Danes didn’t get the memo about jaywalking. Even if there are no cars in sight, Danes will patiently wait until the light turns green before crossing the road. Surely, in a moment of thoughtlessness, some Danes may choose to jaywalk. This careless action will however be met with passive aggressive looks of disapproval.

Who do you think you are? Crossing the road while everyone else is waiting?’, the disgruntled Danes think to themselves as they eye down the jaywalker.

But why are Danes so negative about jaywalking?

Firstly, jaywalking is significantly more dangerous in Denmark than in many other countries. Simply because of bikes. In Denmark jaywalking is a double threat, as the pedestrian has to dodge both cars and bikes. Bikes can be unpredictable and menacing. They can come out of the blue and then BAM. One jaywalking pedestrian down.

The 700kr fine…

Secondly, there is a 700kr fine for jaywalking. Not everyone realizes this, as jaywalking is legal in many countries. But essentially, jaywalking means taking a conscious decision to risk becoming 700kr poorer.  Imagine how many beers you could have bought for 700kr? We Danes measure many things in beer.

My Danish-but-an-outsider-perspective

I suspect that the lack of jaywalking in Denmark may in fact be closely tied to the Danish fear of violating the Law of Jante. The unwritten but socially accepted Law of Jante dictates that all Danes are equal and consequently should not try to show off, brag or assume to be better than anyone else.

So for instance if I choose to jaywalk while everyone else is waiting patiently for the green light, this is sending an explicit signal that I feel my time is more worthy than their time… That I have somewhere important to be and they don’t? Now this is the kind of signal you don’t want to send in Denmark! At least if you want to conform to the social rules.

Final Advice

Maybe it’s a bit of a stretch. But maybe there’s something to it. Either way, beware of jaywalking in Denmark, dear newcomers! You will risk either

1) Being run down by a fast and furious bike

2) End up paying a 700kr fine

3) Upsetting the Law of Jante

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