Larissa's Reviews > Americans in Denmark: Comparisons of the Two Cultures by Writers, Artists, and Teachers

Americans in Denmark by F. Richard Thomas
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's review
Aug 17, 2007

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bookshelves: non-fiction, vicarious-travel, 2007, danish, english-usa
Read in August, 2007

Given that the premise of this 'study' is that the author and his wife were debating the pros and cons of moving to Denmark permanently after spending three non-consecutive, Fulbright-aided years there--I can hardly claim that this is an exhaustive, academically rigorous study of Danish life or Expat culture in Dejlige Lille Land ("The Nice Little Country.") However, given that all of my knowledge of the country has thus far been accumulated through tour guides, travel brochures, and novels, any first-hand accounts (especially from a similar cultural perspective) are useful.

Most of the authors, artists, and teachers that the author interviews are individuals that came to Denmark in the 60s and 70s, either as a result of 'falling in love with a Dane' (this is a major theme for many of my Danish-language classmates, actually), never leaving after a brief period of study, or for some (although less than you might expect) because of political restiveness with the Good Ole' U S of A. As a rule, they point out the more 'humane' system of health care and overall societal compassion in Denmark, as well as the less media-stimulated, less violent, and generally more 'secure' Danish environment. They also note a lack of 'vitality' and energy, and a sense that all must conform in order to maintain a societal balance. According to these folks, the Danes don't appreciate boat-rockers.

Despite the relative homogeneity of the answers, I did particularly enjoy certain tidbits:

1) Children help pick out their own curriculum each year.

2) Birthday parties, dinner parties, holiday celebrations, and social of events of pretty much any stripe tend to follow the same agenda. The same foods are eaten, the same games are played, and generally, this happens in the same order.

3) A 'typical' Dane would rather walk around the block a few times rather than show up to a place too early.

4) Foreign university degrees don't mean a whole lot in Denmark, unless you've also been educated in one of their own universities.

5) Danish Parliament has twelve different parties represented in it.

Anyway, there are more neat little things, but lest I start horribly generalizing (too late! some of you say) I'll leave it at that.

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