Samfundssind [Disposition to Society]

People ask me: How is it to move back to your home country after 39 years away?

And I answer: Good. It feels good.

As a young whipper snapper in my twenties I left Denmark, my childhood home, moving across the big ocean divide to the west coast of America. I stayed there until now, in my sixties, having returned to the land of common sense. Here, we talk about samfundssind loosely translated to community spirit but actually containing a cultural meaning: We are not kidding when we practice the idea of looking out for one another.

When our prime minister tells us: Pas på hinanden (Take care of each other), in the time of covid-19, we take heed and comply. We stay at home, we wear masks, we keep our distance, and we do not see or socialize with people we haven’t been with for a while. The word samfundssind literally means society mind or society disposition, which brings forth a more serious tone than community spirit.

To have spirit – as in free spirit – is to rally around the good, even, to have fun. Spirit celebrates the individual who knows what’s best for one self but also, for others, and for one’s community. Here, the perspective is positive and uplifting, meaning we can do this.

To have samfundssind is to look out for everybody, no matter how difficult it is, and one self is part of this ‘everybody’. There is no difference between you, me, and everybody else. There is a consideration whether it is warranted or not; it is always there, covid or no covid. Part of this phenomenon is weaved into the upbringing of the young whether at home or in school. It’s been working for such a long time in Danish culture that it has become ingrained.

Following this more somber way of looking out for each other we find dark humor, heavy drinking, and crime stories exposing the rigid and lawful society. On that note, I do recommend watching the Danish movie DRUK https://youtu.be/jY7BptHCBYI that is up for an Oscar in the foreign film section. It has been translated to Another Round which doesn’t give the title justice. Druk means Drinking but the word Drunk would be better.

Perhaps, the Danish Samfundssind is developed from the threshold of pain, discomfort, or even sacrifice. It is no secret that to live in Denmark means living with much darkness for at least four months of the year. Sunrise at 8:30-9:00 and sunset at 3:30-4:00.

No wonder that the concept of Hygge https://www.visitdenmark.com/denmark/highlights/hygge/what-hygge was embraced: indoor living with family, friends around meals or just coffee by the light of candles or other fire sources.

I went to California and found the free spirit I was looking for. And I’ve come back to Denmark with that in my backpack; I do prefer a positive disposition and a light heart. But I’m also willing to hunker down feeling depressed when darkness sets in.

And then… the sun does come out, also in Denmark.

4 Comments »

  1. I echo your commenter Mike — samfundssind is in short supply in the USA, it seems. Denmark has long, dark winters to slog through, yet its residents seem to have a much firmer grip on societal sanity than we do here. Sigh.

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