An Idiot Abroad - In Scandinavia: Pt. 1

On one of the first days in Scandanavia we spent the day touring around Copenhagen on a tour bus. 

I have to say that Denmark is one my new favorite countries. 

Other than the U.S. of Dadgum A, of course, and maybe Finland. 

Here are some reasons why Denmark is so awesome.  In no particular order:

 It’s beautiful.  And I mean really beautiful.  It’s like visiting EPCOT or something.  Seriously, the biggest city in Denmark was clean, vibrant, beautifully maintained, full of polite, happy Danish people, and pretty much just awesome.  Even the graffiti was neat. 
Everyone speaks English---at least a little.  And they’re not snobby about the fact that you can’t speak Danish, which is hard to understand and doesn’t sound anything like it reads.
People leave their bikes unlocked.  I got the feeling they didn’t lock their doors either.  Even the Queen travels without a lot security.  The Crown Prince bicycles his kids to school every day.  Oh, and by the way... the Danish people actually like the royal family of Denmark
They have universal everything, and that includes education, job training, health care, opportunities and the quality of life index for Danish people is through the roof.  They have been polled as the happiest citizens in pretty much any country in the world.
The Danish don’t pick quarrels with people.  We were told that one of the reasons why they don’t fight with their neighbors is because they are so busy having lunch, traveling to lunch or sitting around talking and having coffee after lunch.  They like lunch.

Which leads me to one of the main reasons why I probably wouldn’t make a very good Dane:  Pickled fish. 

As part of our tour we ate a traditional Danish lunch at a small village inn.  Our guide told us that if we wanted to start lunch like a Dane we had to take slice of some very grainy rye bread, cover it in pickled herring and chow down. 

When I use the word  “grainy” to describe the rye bread we ate, I don’t think it really does it justice.  It was like eating actual grains that had been glued together---husks and all. 

I don’t typically have issues of regularity----if you know what I mean.  But I can tell you that after eating that bread I have been a little TOO regular---if you know what I mean. 

And I think you do.

Oh, and pickled herring is rough.  Imagine huge chunks of fish with the skin still on them in a slimy sauce and topped with onions.  Mmmmmmm.  You see, what you are imagining right now is what I slathered on top of my piece of grainy bread and took a huge bite that I can still taste as I write this.  First, the pickling sauce hits you, and you think, “Well, that’s not so bad,” and then the taste of the fish and the realization that you are chewing a large skin-covered hunk of it washes over you in a wave of nausea. 

There was Carlsberg beer, though to wash it down.  That was a bonus.

Speaking of Carlsberg beer...  A great deal of the profits from Carlsberg goes to the Danish government to fund education, health care and the like.  These were the wishes of the founder of the company from way back when.  Can you imagine if the Anheuser-Busch people had done the same?  I bet we could solve a lot of problems if a huge chunk of the profits from American beer companies went to fund education and health care in the U.S.  But that would mean that the original owners and founders of those companies would have had to have a real sense of the greater good, which they apparently didn’t.

Sure, there are plenty of wealthy Americans who donate from their private profits---Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Oprah, come to mind.

But that’s different than straight up funds coming from corporate profits to give the nation a helping hand at the behest of the people that own the company. 

I’ll blog a bit more about this, but I wanted to mention the tax rates in Denmark.  They’re like 30-40%, depending upon your income--it’s very nearly a flat tax.  However, there is a VAT (value added tax) on a lot of products: food and medicine are taxed less, but things like cars, beer and other sorts of stuff can get as high as 200%. 

So, you have to think twice before you buy something.  Or find a bargain. 

And here’s something else.  There’s no real class warfare in Denmark.  Everyone pays their fair share. 

President Obama keeps talking about the “wealthiest Americans” not being asked to pay their fair share---something that he seems to think will solve all the U.S.’s problems.  Unfortunately, his definition of “wealthiest” includes people who really aren’t that wealthy.  He also doesn’t seem to expect those who aren’t in the “wealthiest” category to pay anything.  

Or do anything.

In Denmark, everyone is expected to contribute. 

And they seem to want to. 

Which makes them a whole lot different than millions of Americans who seem to think that the government owes them a living just because. 

Denmark’s educational system, health care, opportunities, quality of life and national pride are a whole lot better than ours. 

I wish their system could work in the U.S., but I don’t think it can---at least as long as we suffer from the kind of divisions, class warfare, sense of entitlement, state sponsored indigence, materialism and consumerism and overall apathy that exists in our culture. 

But at least we don’t have to eat pickled herring. 

That stuff is nasty.

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