Posted by: ritagone | July 10, 2013

Funny, I Don’t Look Danish?!



Over the last month or so I’ve managed to watch three separate TV series from Denmark.

Up until this time, the state of Denmark to me just meant where something was rotten, according to Hamlet.

Now I have a new perspective.

I’m starting to see things the way the Danish see them.

Being so immersed in another culture for a short period of time – not actually being there, mind you, but even better, in a way: traveling around via the TV camera, listening to the dialogue of the characters of the TV shows, seeing the buildings and homes of people, the streets and the nightlife, just being a part of everyday life there – you really begin to capture what that culture is like.  It’s like a mini-tour from your living room chair.

It’s very different than the American culture, for sure.  Denmark is a very small country, a little bit bigger in physical size than West Virginia, with a population of five and a half million, smaller than most of our largest cities in the U.S.  You don’t hear a lot about Denmark; she’s not at the forefront of European politics or a country you would dream about going to if you were planning an itinerary that included, oh, Paris, London, Prague.  No, Denmark, with its capital of Copenhagen, claims Hans Christian Andersen as its greatest writer, a spinner of fairy tales and children’s stories.  Nothing flashy, fancy, or overwhelming.  Not much in the way of claims to fame, for sure.

Up until about three or four years ago, Danish TV was…well, unheard of.  Then, all of a sudden, there were a few hit shows that were popular in Denmark and then popular in the U.K. and the U.S.  Now, today, that popularity continues.  Which is why I have been watching them streaming on Netflix.  They’re worth watching.  They’re entertaining and well done.  I’ve gotten very used to the lilting accent that is Danish.  Every once in a while, they will lapse into English, because that’s the language people speak when they are from different countries in Europe and need a common language for conversation.  After all, more people speak English in this world than Danish!  So all of a sudden the subtitles disappear and I’ll realize that I can understand what they’re saying without reading the bottom of the screen.  It’s amazing.

But what’s even more amazing, when you think about it, is the ease with which the actors are able to move between Danish and English and sometimes French and Russian on these TV shows.  It puts us Americans to shame and makes me realize how insular we are, how egocentric about our language skills.  We assume everyone does and should speak English and so we don’t bother learning another language.  Shame on us.  In Europe, after all, proximity forces nations to fluidly move from Italian to French to German to English with ease.

And another thing I’ve begun to recognize as I’ve been watching these shows: there are other viewpoints about the world than the American ones.  It’s fascinating to see a political episode about terrorism, for example, but from the perspective of a small country like Denmark instead of the overpowering presence of the United States.  You can see how we look to these other countries, and it’s often not attractive.

Now don’t misunderstand me.  I love my country.  But it’s good every once in a while to step out of my American shoes and step into the shoes of another nation’s, to walk a mile in them, seeing how it feels to be small, often impotent, fighting for your place at the table, always in the second or third row at the conference pictures, obscure, insignificant.  While I’m watching these shows, I can be a part of the Danish community, seeing how they fellowship, share life together, make jokes, live, grieve, and it’s fascinating.  It’s not always the way we Americans do things, which is what makes it so interesting.  It’s as broadening as travel, but cheaper.  It has shown me how the Danes view terrorists, Communists, immigrants, healthcare, welfare, in short, all of the issues that we Americans talk about and struggle with.  Some answers and viewpoints are the same; some are not.  And that’s what makes watching these episodes so fascinating.  It’s a different way of seeing life, not my way or the American government’s way, viewpoints that come from a different place on the planet.

But to the Danes, they’re important.  And they should be.  Every country values itself.  And that’s the way it’s meant to be.  When a country loses respect for itself and its people, they are in big trouble.  National pride – as long as it’s not pushy and interfering with another nation’s rights – is a beautiful thing.

So keep the TV series coming, Danish producers and writers.  I’m with you in spirit, raising a glass to Victor Borge and Soren Kierkegaard and the previously mentioned Hans Christian Andersen, great Danes all!  Not to mention those big dogs!

If you’re interested, the TV series I’m referring to are: “Borgen” (which I’ve written about before, because it’s really, really good and very current), “The Eagle” (translated title), and “The Protectors.”  Good summer viewing if you’re looking for something to stream on Netflix.


  1. Glad to hear you like those… I’m Sout American and British, I consider myself both. Anyway, thats is not relevant, what is, is that i love watching international cinema/tv series too and as you, I see it as a way of getting to know other countries… I must say, it saddens me to see so many remakes (because people cant be bother to read subtitles) or what I think is worse! which is re-makes from United Kingdom programs so that they are aired in USA, because apparently someone decided that if originals are shown people will not get them. I find it silly.

    Anyway.. nice post! If you have not seen them: ‘Rita’, ‘The Bridge’. There is also a movie worth mentioning: ‘Headhunters’ (Hodejegerne)


  2. Try the one for your namesake “Rita.” I’m enjoying it.

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