Almost Nearly Perfect

Since my last post, a few people have recommended The Almost Nearly Perfect People by Michael Booth as a more even-handed, less Evangelical insight into Danish life.

I’m enjoying the book very much (Booth’s writing style in particular) and I recommend it to anyone else who happens to be belatedly obsessed with the chilled-out, asethetically superior Scandinavian lifestyle. Strangely though, the evidence of downsides to Scandie living is not entirely persuasive. When a fact emerges about how things aren’t as peachy as a visitor might think, I’m left thinking, “well, it’s still better than here and certainly better than America.”

The biggest thing people have pointed out to me is that non-workers in Denmark are somewhat socially shunned as freeloaders, which is hardly compatible with our Escapological ideals, but the fact remains that as a nation they don’t actually work a whole lot. If one has a job, it is swiss-cheese porous with holidays and early finishes and workplace socials. The work-life balance seems to be in check. If work was pleasant and undemanding, one might not want to escape it so badly. And if one still wants out and is afraid of ostracisation, you could just tell everyone that you’re self-employed.

I am yet to find the “dark energy source” I mused about in that last post (unless of course it’s all the pork consumption) and while there are certainly downsides to living Danishly, my general positive impression of Copenhagen as an egalitarian, relatively classless, cosmopolitan society remains intact. I do, of course, treat that positive impression with a pinch of salt. As Booth puts it:

I can see, though, why foreign visitors might think Denmark is classless, particularly if their impressions are gathered from a long weekend in Copenhagen or a few episodes of Borgen, but travel more widely in the country, or spend some time learning the signifiers of Denmark’s social classes, and the strata become all too clear.

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Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at

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