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Comment: A good ‘dan’splanation’ for everything

Denmark is number one at everything… Or not, writes this week's columnist

What I find the most interesting thing about living in another country is working out if something is a cultural difference or just the actions of a minority (or individual).

For example, there is a website which mocks hateful churches in the USA. It is pretty funny and very well researched.

They had a piece about why God hates Denmark.


What amused me the most, until tears of laughter rolled down my face, was the earnest attempts of Danish kids to engage with the trollery. ‘That’s the Finish(sic) flag!’ and ‘Pippi Longstockings was Swedish, idiot!’ and so forth. Then the trolls on the site would reply with scripture or wordplay or outright barefaced denial of the facts. (‘The flag looks fine to me’ was my favourite.)

Amongst my friends, we call this behaviour Dan-splaining where a friendly Dane tries to school the foreigner. ‘We just use the flags for celebrations!’ they patiently tell us, when we, sort of already kind of, knew that, we just thought it was, you know, weird…

You picking up what I am putting down?

Best at this, best at that

A similar and equally annoying blind spot is when a Dan-splainer tells me that Denmark is the best at something that they are not the best at.

For example, a Copenhagen restaurant won a fine dining award so now Dan-splainers tell me that Denmark has the best food in all the world. Or a study several years ago finds that Danes are ‘satisfied’, so I am told that Denmark is the current happiest country in the world.

Or they get it completely wrong and tell me that Denmark has the best schools (really: top 20), or best health care (really: top 40), or highest taxes (really: top 10), or hardest language (not even close, try ‘one of the easiest according to the CIA’).

Trusting superiority

Thing is, it is hard to blame them. The news often runs a ‘Denmark Number 1!’ story when it is true but rarely runs the ‘Oh, number 11 now, oops!’ story the next year. Could that be considered a form of ignorance? To blindly believe that your country is the best and not look for evidence to the contrary? (hint: yes).

Nowadays, I do not even bother to correct them at parties. Short of bringing a stack of bar charts to every social gathering I attend, all it would be is my word against theirs and that is not very convincing. Or convivial.

Though, I was thinking about it and maybe it is not even a ‘Danish’ cultural phenomenon. I see this because I am an outsider. No Dane would Dan-splain to another Dane, presumably. Similarly, if I were a Dane in Britain would I say the same thing about Britsplainers, trying to explain Britain to me and claiming their country invented EVERYTHING?

It is possible. However, I still think there is a bit of Danish cultural phenomena at play. There is a little bit of taking things at face value which comes from trusting too freely. There is also a bit of a superiority complex too, which comes from the way the news seems to highlight only the hype. How do you deal with Dan-splainers? Have you realised you have been guilty of a cheeky dan-splaination in your past?

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