I've had some rather heated arguments with people about Denmark since I moved here. Not Danes, but Americans back home accusing me of painting it as a utopia. The best way I can describe it is that it's like someone living on an island with a coconut tree. They think they live on the best island in the world, that they are the greatest people because they have this island and, yeah, it has some problems, but no where has it better. Then someone swims across the ocean to another island. This island has coconut trees too. It also has banana trees, breadfruit trees and mangos. The person who has moved keeps talking about all the great trees and the person on coconut tree island gets enraged that the other person is making out their new home to be paradise, when clearly it can't be better than coconut island and the coconut islander has no conception that if they were on the mainland it'd be better still. The coconut islander's baseline for great is so low that anything better just seems fantastical. I'm not trying to brag about Denmark or say it's the best country on the planet, but it's amazing how fast you can start thinking of free health care as a right or get used to the idea of free higher education for all. Anyway, I'm not going to write about what's good about Denmark. I'm going to write today about what's bad, so people stop trying to accuse me of saying that Denmark is perfection incarnate.
To begin with, before I moved here a Swedish friend of mine said that Denmark was the backwater redneck portion of Scandinavia. Having lived here for over a year, I'm inclined to agree with her. Yes, Denmark is post sexism, but it's not like Sweden where they have nursery school initiatives to work on becoming post gender. Denmark may not have policemen shooting innocent black men minding their own business, but their no Norway, which is supposed to be truly post racism. I don't even know where to begin on the cool things i've heard about Iceland, so in short, by Scandinavian standards, Denmark is definitely no utopia.
Next, while the US papers seem to obsess over trivial things like free day care, there are genuine political issues to be troubled about. The Danske Folk Parti has gained a lot of clout in parliament recently. There are a lot of things I like about their philosophy, but at the end of the day, their racist. Seriously, they wanted to favor Westerners seeking citizenship over people from non European/European majority colonized countries and even set a cap on number of Muslims naturalized a year. They want to have double punishment for crimes committed in ghettos, lower the legal criminal age to 10 and, in general, just overly draconian in punishments.
How about the immigration minister? She's on the books for claiming that it was dangerous for practicing muslims to work during Ramadan and call for them all to stay home during the month. She's guilty of defying the EU and sending back asylum seekers who can't get life saving medical aid in their home countries. She's unapologetically ignorant, anti-Muslim and overly negatively zealous at her job.
I have never heard a Dane sing the praises of the current political system. Everyone says it's getting worse not better, everyone has concerns, be it immigration, elderly care, or taxes. The city we moved to, Næstved, has some issue with gangs. There were a couple fatal shootings in Copenhagen this year. Rape has happened. There's even a fabulous crime show, Rejseholdet (Unit One in English) based entirely on real crime in Denmark.
Denmark has compulsory military service and I know Danes who never even saw actual combat who are suffering lifelong PTSD from the experience.
Denmark certainly hasn't figured out how to solve the orphan conundrum, as my friend raised in the foster care system will be quick to tell you.
The system only functions if everyone works and pays their fair share of taxes, otherwise the entire welfare system would collapse
Denmark is no magical land of milk and honey with the streets paved with gold, but it's a good place to live and my family is happy here. Moreover, I think it does a lot of things right and I really believe that countries like the United States could learn so much from the Scandinavian region and bring great happiness and prosperity to their troubled home nations. Saying somewhere is good, does not mean it's perfect, but when you spend all your time trying to drag everyone else down into the mud with you, you miss out on an opportunity to instead rise up and enjoy living in the stars together.