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'You only eat beige food': What do Danes really think about the English?

Michael Barrett
Michael Barrett - [email protected]
'You only eat beige food': What do Danes really think about the English?
Danes' feeling towards the English hit a rare low after Euro 2020. File photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

Ahead of another high-profile clash between the Danish and English national football teams, The Local Denmark’s Michael Barrett reflects on the Nordic nation’s attitudes to the British.

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There’ll probably be a bit of tension in our house tonight when the Danish and English men’s national football teams renew their rivalries in the Euros.

Being sensitive to this, I asked my daughter this morning if she wanted to wear her red England jersey to kindergarten, where a lot of the other kids will be decked out in Denmark gear.

Demonstrating more maturity and diplomacy at the age of 4 than I seem to possess, she declined.

She does want to wear it for the match though, a decision sure to go down well with my Danish in-laws if they drop by.

READ ALSO: OPINION: Sometimes I wish my Danish in-laws would shut the f*ck up

Three years ago, the two countries played each other in the semi-final of the last edition of the tournament. It was probably the lowest point in English-Danish relations since the British Navy decided to aim its cannons at Copenhagen in 1807.

England won, assisted by a disputed extra-time penalty and without getting into any sporting intricacies, the Danes were not happy.

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Newspapers printed articles about the injustice Denmark had suffered for weeks, even after the bitter and angry snipes about the English had died down on Danish social media.

English fans – in England, not in Denmark – did themselves no favours meanwhile with disgraceful antisocial behaviour at the stadium and on social media as England subsequently lost against Italy on penalties in the final.

The way Denmark felt about England at that point was encapsulated by broadcaster DR’s headline after the final: “Wembley goes silent as football chooses a better home”.

DR's headline after England lost to Italy in the final of Euro 2020.

I'm not trying to poke at an old wound but to suggest it was an anomaly: in 17 years of living in Denmark as an Englishman, I’ve never seen anything like it before or since.

In fact, the only real jibes I’ve ever suffered from Danes for being English have come from one specific Dane: my wife.

“Why is it all English people are so bad at arranging their living rooms?”, she’ll casually remark while watching an indoor scene in anything from a crime drama to a reality show set in the UK.

“Can English people only digest beige food?”, she’ll observe when I do something as innocuous as eating a cheese sandwich (on white, not rye bread).

She has zero form for sporting ‘banter’, yet during the match in 2021 when Denmark went 1-0 up in the first half, she took the below photo and sent it to my parents and siblings on WhatsApp.

The author of the article during the early stages of the Euro 2020 semi final. Photo: private

The point is that if the only anti-English sentiment I ever experience is my wife’s low-grade mocking, I take that as anecdotal evidence there actually isn’t any anti-English sentiment in Denmark at all.

Even the introduction of the word Anglophobia to the Danish dictionary a couple of years ago was not accompanied by any ill feeling between the nations.

“You mustn’t take it personally,” the senior editor with the Society for Danish Language and Literature, Henrik Lorentzen told me at the time.

“It’s not included because there’s a particular hostility towards English people, or towards American or Anglo-Saxon culture,” he said.

Even the Danish footballers themselves don’t harbour any grudges.

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"I think England were a world class side when we met them (at Euro 2020), they got to the final of a major tournament," goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel said yesterday.

Schmeichel also said he is not seeking revenge.

"I'm not the kind of person to look back three years for motivation. The biggest motivation for myself is we are playing another Euros with Denmark. The biggest motivation is imagining celebrating a win for our fans after they have travelled all that way," he said.

Should England win the match and I send my child to kindergarten in the team kit tomorrow (I’m not actually going to do this), then the only nationality-related remark I’m likely to get will be the same one as usual.

This goes along the lines of “Wow, the British accent really sounds nice, good on you for passing it on to your children, that’s a real gift”.

That is sometimes followed by anecdotes about trips to London or holidays in Cornwall or the Scottish Highlands and how beautiful it was, and how polite people were there.

The stuff of rivalry, it really isn’t.

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Comments (1)

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Charles Lock 2024/06/20 20:31
Please let not the Local perpetuate and endorse the nonsense that Nelson was responsible for the bombardment of Copenhagen in 1807. Danes might choose to believe this but every Brit ought to know that Nelson died at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805.
  • Michael Barrett 2024/06/21 09:03
    Thank you for pointing out this historical inaccuracy! I take full responsibility for it and made it in haste. I've edited the article. Best wishes, Michael

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