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Comment: Putting the world to rights

Our columnist Kelly Draper is not from the United States. Yet she is sick and tired of people comparing Denmark to it

In my country, we have a hobby. This hobby is called ‘Putting the world to rights’. As far as I knew, this was a universal hobby. A way to bond.

My first attempts in Denmark to ‘put the world to rights’ were thwarted by Danes and foreigners alike with the following phrase.

»It would be worse in the US,« or »It would be the same in the US«.

But, but, Americans like flags!

I have never been to the States, I only know about it from friends and the media. What I have learned about the US from Danes is the following:

Americans like their flag
Americans are fat
Americans eat junk food
Americans are dumb

Let us take these one at a time. Americans like their flag. From what I hear, people from the US indeed like their flag. At patriotic occasions. For example, during international sport events, wars, elections and times of national crisis. The people of Denmark like their flag during those times plus birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, sales in shops and poked into dog turds.

Blind spot

Americans are fat. There are 309 million people in the US. Some of them are very fat and some of them are very thin. Scarcely anyone working in their entertainment industry is ‘fat’. In fact, the percentage of self reported overweight people is very similar (around 34 per cent), it is only when you count obese people that the US starts to break away. But Denmark’s obese population is increasing all the time. Simply pointing to another country and saying: but-THEIR-Mummy-lets-them-do-it-! does not change anything.

Americans eat junk food. As I have said, I have never been the US, so I have no idea what people there eat. I did see that movie Supersize Me once, but I doubt it qualifies me to speak. I have lived in Denmark a while now, and the food that is NOT considered junk is worrying. Chocolate is bad, cheese is okay. Peanut butter is bad, liver pâté is okay. Burgers are bad, processed meatballs are okay.

I find this blind spot extraordinary.

Hard to find Denmark on map

Now to the last one: Americans are dumb. There are about a million videos of Americans being asked to point to Denmark on a map. Or to say a tongue twister in Danish. AND THEY CANNOT DO IT. The fans of this genre are absolutely certain that no non-Dane has any knowledge of Denmark and that this is both hilarious and tragic. They attribute this lack of knowledge to something called ‘ignorance’.

Yet, you do not see videos testing Danes on their geography. I cannot count the number of times that grown up Danes have let it slip that they think Africa is a country. I wonder if any random on the street could point to Lithuania on a map. Or Laos. Or French Guiana. And if they COULD, I would never upload it to Youtube.

I would expect that it is not ‘ignorance’ that drives this phenomena but rather ‘it is of no consequence to know this stuff’. That’s alright, isn’t it? It is a really small country with minimal influence in world affairs. It’s okay if people don’t know how to say red berry compote with cream in Danish, right?

Now we have got that out of the way, can we start putting the world to rights or what?

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