Unfriendly or just oblivious?

An Aussie girl came into work today.

She has made the move to Denmark after meeting a Danish guy in London, where I think she was working as a lawyer.

She is going to do a short internship with us while she works out her career options.

Our project manager asked if I would have a quick chat with her and tell her a bit about my work as a copywriter. So I did.

We got onto the subject of making friends over here and, while I didn’t want to sound too negative, I couldn’t help myself.

“It’s difficult,” I warned.

She agreed, saying she’d already found it hard compared to London and back home in Oz.

The problem here, as I’ve probably already waffled on about, is that Danes just don’t seem to see the need for more friends than they already have.

They are happy to engage with you on a purely superficial level but the concept of a drinking buddy or even of a ‘mate’ does not exist. Not as far as I can tell anyway.

All social engagements are organised well in advance and there is a depressing lack of spontaneity.

I remember when I first came here, I kept hearing the word ‘network’ being banded around.

I dismissed it at first, thinking it was a common mistranslation. But actually it’s the best word to describe how Danes organise their social lives.

They’ll have dozens of acquaintances in their network, people who they meet through work, sports clubs or artistic projects that they are involved in.

These people are not quite in the friends bracket but they have uses.

Real friends also form part of the network but as kind of an elite subset.

The friends are the members of the inner sanctum, the people they have known since they were three.

Newcomers just don’t stand a chance of breaking into this priviliged clique!

So while I have never met an unfriendly Dane, I have never met a truly friendly one either, someone who I could turn to in a crisis, for instance.

But for all that, I still love it here. I never was a people person anyway.


1 Response to “Unfriendly or just oblivious?”

  1. 1 Mark March 1, 2007 at 4:16 pm


    Interesting post… I had to think a bit about it, and it’s almost true with the “network”-thing. I have a lot of acquaintances, some friends but only a couple of “mates”. That being said, I think there is a difference between Jylland (Jutland, even) and Copenhagen; people here (in Copenhagen) are more constrained when it comes to personal issues and are not likely to talk that much about it. I even have a friend who went to Iraq a month ago, but when we talk, we are still just friends – nothing more than that, even though he is in one of the worst places in the world (besides Nørrebro as of now, that is…).

    But hey – what are you doing, where do you hang out – wanna hang out? It can’t be that you don’t feel Danes are more than just polite! 🙂


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