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Anda from poverty-stricken Romania is surprised just how stingy and mean Danes can be
Before I came to Denmark as an exchange student, all I knew was that I was going to a rich country. My friends and relatives were really impressed with my choice and kept telling me how different people here would be.
But they weren’t talking from experience, but rather from their wild imagination.
And what a wild imagination it turned out to be.
While the Danish government may be one of the most generous in the world in terms of benefits to its citizens, in their everyday life people here seem to be anything but generous. From the clothes they wear, the gifts they make, the things they say, you get the impression that scarcity, not abundance is around you.
Danes have other priorities: They would rather travel or save up money for their own apartment than show off expensive clothing and jewelry. But where is the line between spending money wisely and just being cheap?
An exchange student friend of mine Christina shared her experience of living in a dorm full of Danes with me.
»In my dorm we play this game that everyone should be somebody’s ‘nisse’, or, roughly translated, an ‘elf’. We should do nice things for another person and buy small gifts. The person doesn’t know who we are (we all picked a piece of paper with a name written on it from a jar). However, so far I have only got cheap candy that I couldn’t even eat. Of course we shouldn’t spend a fortune on this but what’s the point in giving somebody a really lousy gift?!«.
Another friend of mine, Alexandra, had the same type of experience:
»I invited my mentor for my birthday party and she gave me a present from the (10 kroner discount store…ed.) Tiger. Everything is cheap there, but this one also looked cheap. In contrast, my international friends were really sweet and planned nice surprises for me«.
Danes are not only uptight with their money when it comes to giving presents. Exchange student Anna, who prefers to be known only by her first name, has a story that will give you the shivers:
»I got the opportunity to spend my winter vacation as an au-pair, or babysitter, with a Danish family. It seemed like a great way to make extra pocket money and improve my language skills at the same time. I was supposed to work four hours a day taking care of children and doing light housekeeping. But the four hours turned into the whole day and the work was really hard. The family had dinners for friends and I had to cook, wash up and prepare everything for over ten people plus other chores; and this happened a few times.«
»In the end, my back was hurting so bad that I was wondering if I could get up and work the next day. They promised to pay me extra (DKK 100 a day). But they didn’t. My mom was shocked. She couldn’t believe something like this happens in Denmark. But I wasn’t shocked, I was just disappointed,« she says.
Ever since I can remember, my mom told me that money is not important and that it won’t make us better or wiser.
I didn’t understand this really until I came to Denmark. I keep hearing Danish students complaining that they don’t have enough money. They should try living in Eastern Europe for a few months.
I’m curious what they would say then!
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