Peculiar Danes: Flirting with Nationalism



Nationalism has been sneaking its way into the political agendas of countries across the globe, and Denmark is no exception. Depending on what side of the political spectrum you’re on, this trend can be either very good or very frightening.

While there’s nothing wrong with nationalism per se, unfortunately, it seems to go hand-in-hand with rendering xenophobic discourse more common and trivializing it to the extent that it has become increasingly acceptable. Suddenly, it has become okay to use foreigners as scapegoats for everything that goes wrong in our society.

“Oh, the state no longer finds it affordable to give students such high SU grants? It must be because all the international students are hogging our SU. Oh, there’s too much unemployment? It must be because all the refugees are stealing our jobs”…. You get the point.

Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of the current surge in nationalism. Nonetheless, I have been curious as to what Danes actually have to be so nationalistic about. I did some research and this is what I found:

The Country of Firsts


Denmark takes pride in being the trendsetter in regards to both legalizing and abolishing things. In 1803, Denmark became the first country to abolish the transatlantic slave trade (although slavery continued in Danish colonies up until 1848).

Denmark was also the first country to grant legal recognition to same-sex unions with its Registered Partnerships Act in 1989 (we however only legalized same-sex marriage in 2012, finally allowing same-sex couples to be married in churches and to adopt children).

And in 1969, Denmark became the first country in the world to legalize pornography. More recently, this year in fact, Denmark became the first country to no longer define being transgender as being a mental illness. What’s next you ask? Legalising weed seems to be on the political agenda!

The Danish flag


You’ve probably seen the Danish flag a million times by now. We pin miniature versions of it onto birthday cakes at any chance we get. We wave the flag fervently at the arrivals area at the airport, welcoming our fellow Danes back to the homeland. We decorate our households with products covered by the Danish flag… IT’S EVERYWHERE!

We call it Dannebrog. It’s the oldest flag in the world still in use by an independent nation. Story has it that it fell from the sky during a battle in the 13th century, which consequently led the Danish warriors to victory. We’ve been obsessed with Dannebrog ever since.

The Monarchy

Denmark has Europe’s oldest monarchy still to exist. The Danish monarchy was established in the 10th century and became a constitutional monarchy in 1849. The majority of Danes are in favour of the monarchy and there is only one political party (Enhedslisten) that wishes to do away with it.

Many Danes are big fans of our Queen Margrethe, a loveable character who smokes a lot of cigarettes and who, in the 1970’s, made some cool illustrations for the Lord of The Rings books under the pseudonym, Ingahild Grathmer.

Windmills and bicycles


Denmark is the leading country in terms of wind turbines, generating the highest amount of wind power per capita. It is also one of the few countries with more people riding bikes than driving cars. In keeping with our pride in being ahead of the game, we consider these facts to be a reflection of our flawless environmental track record, which we are often quite eager to boast about.

While there is no doubt that bicycles pollute less than cars, windmills are often overplayed in terms of their sustainability. In fact, they have to be replaced every 10 years, making them a questionable investment.

Being happy


Somehow, Denmark has continuously been ranked as the happiest country in the world. None of us really know exactly what it is that does it. Some say it’s our welfare state, others claim that it’s our hygge culture. It’s hard to say.

Either way, it’s probably good to keep in mind that we also rank among the top ten nations in terms of anti-depressant consumption per capita… (minor details, right?).

A Booming TV and Film Industry


Apparently, the rest of the world is really into our crime/drama series (The Killing, Borgen, The Bridge). And we even win Emmys for them; we love it! In a world where the entertainment industry is so strongly dominated by Hollywood productions, we find it exhilarating to know that shows and actors from our little Denmark have made it to wide screens and late night binge-watching sessions across the globe.

You’ll find that many Danes will be very happy to point out that Jaime Lannister from Game of Thrones is actually played by a Danish guy (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and hey, if you’re watching Doctor Strange, keep an eye out for Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen). Guess what? He’s Danish!

Concluding Remarks



Small countries like Denmark can easily become overshadowed by bigger, more powerful nations. Denmark however seems to be doing a good job at putting its name on the world map, breaking records and setting new standards in regards to everything from its film industry to its environmental sustainability.

So, Denmark definitely has a thing or two to be proud of. It’s totally justified for Danes to playfully flirt with nationalism, waving a Danish flag here and there while admiring the coolness of our Queen and looking forward to her annual New Year’s speech. None the less, many fear that we are approaching a dangerous state of nationalism. A Denmark with only Danes would be terribly boring, and it is perhaps why the following slogan has become a common site on the social media and on the streets of Copenhagen:

‘Foreigners, please don’t leave us alone with the Danes!’

What do you think?

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