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Is it really about the Marmite? May 27, 2011

Posted by cmfry in Denmark, Politics.
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This week there was quite a furore kicked up by Denmark. This time, they did not blaspheme against any religion, or cause any bilateral dispute, they did something far more sinister (in the eyes of all those affected by the British Empire, that is!). They banned the sale of Marmite, sighting the added vitamins as a threat to public health, and therefore illegal under their 2004 legislation restricting these types of foods. (more on the topic can be found here.)

Now, normally, this would not be such an issue, as various brands get the same treatment in other areas of the world. But again, Denmark gets the international spotlight, and subsequent outcry by those of us who are Marmite fans. But, having lived in that country for a while, I can understand the reasoning behind the decision.

Demark, for one, is a highly structured, Social Democratic, Constitutional Monarchy State. And it works VERY well. The streets are clean, the social services are slick (Free, world class education, highly advanced, accessible healthcare and excellent care for the elderly) and the government works for the people. They are highly patriotic, and have a high regard for their monarchy, where Queen Margrethe II, now 71, is highly respected amongst the Danish people. And it is in this structure that many immigrants choose to travel (mostly from areas on the Eastern Mediterranean, Middle East, and parts of Africa. However, unlike most nations, to become a naturalized citizen takes a lot of hard work, including acquiring an acceptable command of the Danish language. This process can take up to 5 years. And as for being structured, try organizing a braai in Copenhagen with all your friends for next weekend. It’s impossible! And try disciplining your kid in the mall. You most likely will get a free ticket to court.

It does, however, create a very safe, free environment to live in. Most expats living there would agree that it would be very difficult to compare the living conditions in Copenhagen to those of their homeland (especially those from developing countries). Although the cost of living is astronomically high, it just feels so very safe and easy (24 hours, 7 days a week as well!) to live and prosper in Denmark.

Secondly, because they have such a deep sense of patriotism and national identity, Danes generally view anything un-Danish with skepticism. There are many things in Danish culture that cannot be assimilated easily into others (salted licorice, herring, shops being closed on Sundays), while they don’t readily allow foreign aspects into theirs (the scarcity of Western franchises present in the capital being a prime example). The exception, of course being American television, where most Danes get their English accents from. Hence, many of their laws are aimed at preserving the Danish culture and way of life. If you ever have the opportunity of living there for an extended period of time, you will notice this fairly early on in your stay.

So, while the ban on Marmite is certainly lamentable, once you live in Denmark, it would make sense as to why this has happened. Luckily, I left, so I can enjoy Sandwich with that spread in relative peace….and freedom.