I’m from Denmark, but have lived in the UK for almost eight years. I’d love to stay. Fingers crossed. I call both countries home, but still find myself caught between the two because while there are Briticisms I have embraced, there are other things I can’t. For as long as there is an ocean between us, or two hours on a low-budget aeroplane, there will always be some fundamental differences between our two kingdoms. Here are my five biggest.
You don’t get to the point
The Danes are direct. If you want to send a professional email to someone, asking for some files, regardless of how little you know them, your email will read: “Hey, send the files.” That’s it. It took me a while to learn the British way of making every request sound as if you are asking a person for their first-born’s hand in marriage. “Dearest Cliff, I hope you are well. I do apologise for getting in touch on this godless Tuesday, but I hope you might consider even the slightest possibility of perhaps finding the time…” And so on. My emails now take 20 times longer to write. Often, I forget the pleasantries and simply send a Danish-style four-word message. Then I am filled with British shame. For this reason, I have considered adding an email signature that reads: “I’m not rude, I’m Danish.”
You are filthy as hell, but only secretly
Put on any Danish film and you will see genitals. I am not talking about porn (which Denmark was the first country in the world to legalise, in 1967). I’m talking regular prime-time television and mainstream movies. In the opening scene of Nattevagten, a 1994 thriller, we see Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s flaccid penis swinging back and forth as he gets out of bed. In the incredibly funny sitcom Ditte & Louise (2015-2016), a scene where Ditte is having wild sex up against a desk cuts with another in which Louise is masturbating furiously while drinking wine. Again, prime time. School sex education was fairly straightforward. Then again, everything in Danish schools seems more straightforward. We have mostly mixed-sex schools; we do not wear uniforms; and we call our teachers by their first names. Being taught about penises by our teacher, Tina, was great. I imagine being taught about penises by Miss Hansen when you are a creepy suit-wearing child is a lot scarier.
I worked in a sex shop in Denmark when I was 16, which sold porn. It was my job to pack the parcels and send them out. I can reveal that the most hardcore porn was ordered by people in the UK. You’re all filthy as hell, so start standing by it, OK?
You do not need a hygge blanket
While I’m here, I’d like to blow the whistle on hygge. You must have heard the word a million times, because I’ve seen it a million times in bookshops all over the UK: How To Hygge The Danish Way, Have A Hygge, and other horrible misuses of my language. Hygge is a common word in Denmark. Instead of “Take care!” we might say “Hygge!” Instead of “This is nice!”, we might say “This is hyggeligt”. Instead of “Ah, OK” we might say “Hyggeligt.” It covers almost anything, and means cosy or chill. It’s not a Danish activity. You guys hygge all the time. You go to the pub, you watch TV, you drink tea to an almost psychopathic degree. The difference is, in Denmark there aren’t £35 books on how to hygge. You cannot (and need not) buy a £50 hygge-blanket. We don’t have hygge-candles because hygge doesn’t have a smell. If Danes are more relaxed than Brits, it’s to do with our excellent infrastructure, our social security safety net, the fact that we are paid a salary to attend university and have 52 weeks of parental leave – all because we happily pay about 50% in taxes. Socialism is the real hygge. You heard it here first.
You do Christmas once a week
I miss Danish food on a daily basis. But I have discovered the British Sunday roast. In Denmark, we eat Christmas food once a year, but you people have cleverly decided to do it once a week. And don’t think I don’t know about those special high-end restaurants next to the motorway that do a roast buffet every single day. Yes, I’ve eaten three in one week. No, I am not ashamed – I am British now.
Our queen is better than your queen
I’ve bingewatched The Crown, and I like your queen. She seems nice. She does that cool thing where she wears a provocative brooch if she wants to send a hidden signal. But have you met the Danish queen? Margrethe II of Denmark, 79, is regularly seen chain-smoking and shoving food into her mouth in public. Every New Year’s Eve, she addresses the nation on live TV. Last year, she had a cold and we got to see the queen take a crumpled tissue from her drawer and blow her nose. Did I mention that our queen is also an artist? Her illustrations, sent to JRR Tolkien under a pseudonym in the 1970s, were used in Danish and English editions of The Lord of the Rings. When she was young, she went to the US and met Elvis, Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin. Afterwards the press asked her what she thought and she said, ‘Not impressed.’ She works part-time as a costume designer for the Danish Royal Ballet. What did your queen do? C’mon. Step it up.
One last thing, before my settled status is forcibly taken from me for blowing the whistle on hygge: you can’t pronounce it, no matter how hard you try. You can’t pronounce my name, either. I’m talking specifically to the British man who corrected my pronunciation of it. Don’t do that. Also, I love living here. Please let me stay.
• Sofie Hagen is touring the UK until July. Details at sofiehagen.com.