‘Denmark is no longer the country I loved’

If you complain, you will promptly be told that Denmark is the world’s happiest and best country. Despite its record for prescription pills and suicide.

'Denmark is no longer the country I loved'
The weather we have to accept but what about the current dreary state of affairs in Denmark? Photo: Colourbox
Competent immigrants are expelled while violent men like Gimi Levacovic get millions from the state. 
The elderly lie around in diapers in nursing homes because we can’t afford the needed staffing. But we have the money to spend billions each year to subsidize the media. 
There is a mass migration from south to north that we are powerless to do anything about. There is massive pressure – but no help – for the weakest people in areas most affected by the refugee crisis. 
The left-wing is mad about the prospect of families in rural areas maybe being able to afford a car large enough for the whole family
Growth in Denmark is dead as a doornail. We do everything in our power to destroy our own competitiveness yet still act amazed when we succeed. 
Some 100,000 eastern Europeans take care of tasks that the Danes can’t be bothered to do. At the same time, there are 800,000 Danes of working age between 18 and 65 that are dependent on public benefits. 
There are 800,000 employees in the public sector. The same number of people live off of the system. There are 1.2 million retirees. But there are only 1.6 million people in the private sector to pay for it all. 
Public job activation programmes cost somewhere between 15 and 30 billion kroner a year, but create no jobs. 
Doctors and nurses use up to half of their time recording and reporting information – that hardly gets used. In return, there are waiting lists for treatment and patients sleeping in the hallways.
The City of Copenhagen has a communications staff of several hundred, while there are waiting lists for daycare institutions and a shortage of teachers. 
The border with Sweden is closed and we are paying for the border controls. The border with Germany must also be checked, and we pay for that too. That heralded Danish business acumen is in full swing. 
We have just passed the most expensive budget of all time. It will be paid by the world’s highest tax burden. Still, we have to borrow 60 billion kroner from abroad and take from retirees’ pension in order to get the budget to work. 
If one complains, you will be immediately told that Denmark is the world’s happiest and best country. Even though 12 percent of the adult population pops prescription pills and the suicide rate is among the world’s highest. 
A nearly unanimous parliament adopts an “energy reform” that costs residents an additional eight billion kroner in taxes each year. It doesn’t create any real CO2 reduction, but all those windmills sure do look nice. 
The labour union 3F protects something or somebody (it’s a little unclear what or whom) by blockading businesses and restaurants with the result that jobs disappear abroad. Many praise their exemplary effort. 
Parliament approves a “freedom from information law” so residents can no longer have full insight into the political process. Agencies and ministries use the law to cover up their mistakes and blunders. 
Tax agency Skat wastes four billion kroner on an electronic collection system which is incredibly poorly-planned and purchased. A smart business man scams them for nine billion kroner with a bunch of photocopies. No one is held accountable and in the meantime, the agency goes after the self-employed and small businesses. 
Rail company DSB wastes countless millions on the IC4 train, the Rejsekort, operating in Sweden and more. Despite the massive government subsidies, it is more expensive to take the train than to fly. And the trains don’t even run on time. 
One man is fined for cleaning his gutter. Another because the rocks around his campfire aren’t facing the right direction. A third is made to tear down his shed because it is one square metre too big. 
Skat and the Danish Security and Intelligence Service (PET) admit at approximately the same time that they have illegally exchanged sensitive information for more than ten years. The justice minister refuses to do anything about it and uses the “freedom from information law” to sweep the whole mess under the rug. 
Property taxes have exploded. Skat admits that upwards of 85 percent of its property evaluations are illegally high and thus has charged way too much in tax. But it refuses to pay the money back. Parliament approves a special law so that property owners can neither complain nor take Skat to court for compensation. 
The Roskilde Festival succeeded in expropriating a local farmer’s land because festival-goers need it to camp. The man is given a compensation amounting to roughly one fourth of the land’s market value. 
Ekstra Bladet can tell us that Prince Henrik’s car was parked outside of a swinger’s club while he was at the movies, yet the Danish press waited five days to bring the story of the systematic rapes and assaults in Cologne
Police tell the media that they no longer bother investigating break-ins in which less than 10,000 kroner is stolen. That Denmark is the at the very top of the EU when it comes to burglaries doesn’t seem to worry them. 
Speeding cameras are systematically placed where they will give the best pay-out to the public purse instead of where they would best strengthen road safety. 
For nearly the tenth year running, Copenhagen is under construction and dug up from end to end. 
Violence and social control are a part of daily life in many immigrant communities. We talk about it. But we don’t do anything. 
Police say that they cannot respond to all reports but at the same time if you take matters into your own hands, then you will go to prison. 
Immigrant boys beat a young couple beyond recognition with bicycle chains. Their punishment of two months in jail was finished before the couple had healed and there was no compensation. 
A foreigner throws his girlfriend from a balcony and gets a job on TV with celebrity chef Claus Meyer. The girlfriend survives but is disfigured and has severe psychological trauma. She gets no help. 
And I could continue to go on and on and on. 
Why can’t we help each other to get things to work? 
I grieve. Denmark is no longer the country I loved when I was a young man. 
Søren Kenner is an entrepreneur and a contributor to Folkets Avis, where this was originally published. It has been translated and republished with the author's permission. You can follow the author on Twitter at @sorenkenner. 

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OPINION: If you can’t go home for Christmas, Denmark is a good place to be

After missing out on seeing his family for Christmas 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, The Local Denmark editor Michael Barrett got to try out Danish Christmas for the first time.

A Danish dining table on Christmas Eve.
A Danish dining table on Christmas Eve. File photo: Vibeke Toft/Ritzau Scanpix

We’d always planned to spend last Christmas in the UK. My daughter was born in March 2020, coinciding with the outset of the global coronavirus pandemic but, as worrying and uncertain as everything was at the time, we were sure it would have all settled down in nine months’ time. We started planning for her to spend her first Christmas with her grandparents, cousin and the rest of our extended family in England.

As we all know, this was far from how things turned out. The autumn and winter of last year saw spiralling Covid-19 cases across Europe and countries responding by introducing more and more restrictions, including on travel.

I’m not sure exactly when we conceded we’d have to cancel our plans to go to the UK for Christmas in 2020, but I do remember the look of resignation on my parents’ faces when I let them know. The writing had already been on the wall for a while by then.

Visiting my partner’s mother in December, I looked out of the window at the greying skies over Jutland, the dim lights of a distant Føtex store and the limp red and white pendants on flag poles as bare as the trees, and nothing felt familiar.

This was because, despite having lived in Denmark for almost a decade and a half, I’d never spent Christmas in the country. Every year I’d head home by the 22nd or 23rd, usually returning just before New Year to enjoy the rowdy firework displays in Aarhus or Copenhagen after a week of putting my feet up and savouring the familiarity and comfort of Christmas at home.

Denmark famously has its own Christmas traditions, comparable but certainly different to the British ones. I knew about them – I’ve exchanged information about national Christmas customs with many Danes over the years – but never witnessed them first-hand.

The big day came around quickly, not least because it all happens on the 24th, not the 25th.

Festivities did take a while to get going, though. Not until 4pm in fact, when ancient Disney Christmas special From All of Us to All of You, known in Danish as Disneys juleshow began on main TV broadcaster DR. Usually I’d have been watching an early-1980s David Bowie introducing The Snowman around now. A cup of warm gløgg (spiced red wine with raisins and almonds) was thrust into my hand, and I missed Bowie a little bit less.

After a couple more glasses of gløgg and wine, we sat down for Christmas dinner: roast duck, brown potatoes, boiled potatoes, gravy and red cabbage. It was of course already dark and a prolific number of candles were lit on the table and around the room, adding to the festive feeling of the star-topped tree, paper hearts and other decorations.

For dessert, we had risalamande, the popular cold rice sweet mixed with whipped cream, vanilla and chopped almonds and served with cherry sauce. By tradition, one whole almond is left in the dessert and whoever finds it wins a present, which is customarily a julegris, a chocolate pig with marzipan filling. This game is often fixed so that a child (or children) wins the prize, but the only child present was a nine-month-old and I ended up finding the almond in my bowl.

Then it was time to dance around the tree and exchange presents. Most of us had too much dessert, so it was a more sedate affair than I expected. After the little one was fast asleep we sat back on the sofas and had a couple more glasses of wine or maybe a few snacks.

It was all over before Santa traditionally lands his sleigh on rooftops and hops down British chimneys in the small hours of Christmas morning.

Danish families with young children often assign someone to dress up as Father Christmas and come round to deliver the presents to excited youngsters before dinner on Christmas Eve.

Maybe I’ll get the chance to audition for the role next year because our Danish-British family will be in Denmark every other Christmas for the foreseeable future – by choice, not restriction. I’m looking forward to it, because my first Danish Christmas gave me a better understanding of why this time of year is loved by so many Danes.

READ ALSO: My five favourite Danish childhood Christmas memories