You’d think that for one of the happiest countries in Europe, Denmark would also be home to a people who are accustomed to polite and gentile practices.
Sadly this could not be further from the truth though in some cases, with the case of the role of the gentleman being one such situation. It is an observation made by nearly every gentleman who comes to visit this pleasant land, that good manners and chivalry have been abandoned by the native male population and are frowned upon by the women.
This situation though is hardly surprising, given that the equality of men and women in Denmark is very well balanced. I would go so far as to say, that it might even be a little in the favor of women, who have fought hard for equality and who still vigorously defend it against any challenger. It is not uncommon to see the lady of the house taking the steering role in all matters of life and dictating the decision without discussion.
So it is, that behavior of a gentlemanly fashion is not accepted when offered and in many cases will be returned with a look of annoyance and unacceptability. I believe it is a belief that accepting such a favor or gesture will undermining their status. One might offer the alternative opinion that this is in fact, “Cutting off your nose to spite your face”
An encounter this morning reminded me of this, having recently read a humorous article about a gentleman offering his seat to a lady on the Copenhagen metro, (Which nearly caused an international incident).
Should I have know better? Yes, but I should still have acted as I did. I will explain…
A young lady, who while stepping onto an escalator twisted her knee and was left in obvious discomfort with difficulty standing. Seeing she was in obvious discomfort and with concern that she would have difficulty alighting at the bottom of escalator I asked if she was alright and seeing obvious grimaces of pain as I spoke to her and as we were reaching the bottom, I offered my arm as extra support to assist her, so she might catch the train before it left and rest (we had a minute or so before we departed). I was quickly brushed away and told it was nothing and she would manage. She then hobbled away in pain, not dissimilar to Quasimodo and gasping each time she tried to put weight on the injured leg.
Rather than accept a simple gesture of support, she would rather hobble injured and in pain and possible miss her train.
It is after experiencing this kind of behavior and reading other such stories from foreigners who have visit or live in Denmark that I came to realize why the Danish men has abandoned the entire idea of being a gentleman. What point would it serve when your best intentions of help and polite manners are spurned and you are ridiculed for such actions.
I am unperturbed myself. I will continue to open doors and offer assistance to those who appear to need it, because I hope that slowly the Danes will realize a gesture of kindness and politeness is not an attempt to belittle or reduce their stature, but more an act of assistance out of kindness, respect for that stature and a nod to a tradition that really shouldn’t go out of fashion.
Equality doesn’t come from being equal, it comes from respecting each others value.
As a final note though I would say there are still some bastions of such old fashioned ideas. I have encountered many gentlemen in the senior ranks of Danish men and ladies willing to accept those gestures of the same years. Further to that, it appears that in some part these ideas have been passed on to their children thankfully, so maybe there really is hope yet for a little change for the better.