It’s hard to be a teenager no matter who you are or where you live, but spare a thought for the two teenagers who are currently part of the Danish Royal Family.
Christian is just 16 years old, and he’s the future King Christian the Eleventh of Denmark. Danish kings alternate between two names, Christian or Frederik, and his father’s name is Frederick, so Christian’s name was in place before he was even conceived, before his parents even met. He was always going to be Christian the Eleventh.
His sister, Isabella, is 15, and she and her young twin siblings are the spares. They have all of the media attention and the responsibility for good behavior that their brother has, but with no royal job waiting for them when they get older. Sure, they may cut a ribbon here or there, but they will have no guaranteed income from the Danish taxpayers.
Christian and Isabella have been in the news this week because the boarding school that Christian attends, and that Isabella plans to attend, was the subject of a TV documentary on bullying. This a school for Denmark’s elites – and yes, there is an elite class in Denmark, although they generally stay very well hidden. And this is an old-fashioned boarding school that still begins each educational year with a bird shooting, using bows and arrows.
According to some former students, violence was a part of daily life in the school. New students were dragged out of bed in the middle of the night and assaulted by older students. Many of those students are now leaders in Danish government and business life.
Many Danes adore their Royal Family, and follow every twist and turn of their story in glossy magazines and now, a glossy Instagram feed.
In this approved Royal media, children are always well-dressed and smiling, marriages are always happy, and royal parents are always deeply royal proud of their offspring. Everybody trims the Christmas tree together, or goes for a healthy run together, or attends large galas in fancy dresses and glittering jewelry.
But there are also some Danes who dislike the monarchy and the roughly 100 million kroner they cost Danish taxpayers each year. These people call the royal family Denmark’s biggest welfare recipients.
August in Denmark brings the first signs of fall: a crisp chill in the air, the changing color of the leaves, the annual posters warning drivers to be aware of small children riding their bikes to school for the first time.
And foreign university students in the local 7-11, asking that their buns be warmed up.
I saw a newly-arrived young American student in my local 7-11 this morning, asking that her newly-purchased bun be warmed. The 7-11 clerk told her sorry, but there were no bun-warming services available at that branch.
She wasn’t too pleased, but it’s always a mistake to expect U.S., U.K., or Asian-level concepts of customer service in Denmark: in this egalitarian country, nobody serves anybody, and if they do they are frequently grumpy about it. You and the store clerk are equals, and nobody’s going to warm anybody’s buns unless it was agreed to in the original deal.
Denmark is a small country, and Danish people tend to think small things are good. Small cars. Small homes. Small ambitions when it comes to international team sports. But one thing in Denmark is never small – a baby carriage.
Danes seem to believe that a carriage (or pram) for a new baby should be roughly the size of a hotel room on wheels.
Inside, baby will be wrapped up warm with a fat feather blanket – even in the summer. There will also be room for pillows, books, toys, snacks, diapers and extra clothes in the giant baby carriage.
Danish babies are like rolling royalty. Everything they need is at their tiny fingertips.
Have you ever seen the movie The Wizard of Oz? It’s a classic. When Dorothy arrives in the land of Oz, the first thing she’s asked is – are you a good witch, or a bad witch?
I was having lunch with a friend this week. Over club sandwiches she said, its a shame there’s only one word for foreigner in Danish, when actually there are two types of foreigner here.
I got her point, even though I think there’s only one word for ‘foreigner’ in most languages. What she was really saying is, there’s no single way in Danish to say, Are you a good foreigner, or a bad foreigner?
There was no How to Live in Denmark podcast last week, and I apologize for that. I have been busy studying for my Danish citizenship exam. As some of you may know, Denmark is allowing double citizenship as of next year.
That means you’re are allowed to keep your passport from your home country – in my case, USA – while also becoming a Danish citizen. Personally, I’m a little concerned that this may be overturned if a right wing government takes power next year. Danske Folkeparti, which is now the biggest party in Denmark, is passionately opposed to double citizenship.
In general, Danes are not gossips, particularly about the sex lives of people they know.
It’s partly the Danish fetish for privacy, partly the basic acceptance of all things sexual, partly the lack of naughty excitement about all things sexual.
Danish politicians, for example, don’t have sex scandals. French politicians have sex scandals. American politicians have sex scandals. Danish politicians have tax scandals.
They could be bedding down every night with a chimpanzee and the Danish media wouldn’t touch it.