While the Dutch were busy celebrating King’s Day on April 27th, the biggest holiday of the year, partying on boats through the many canals and dressed exclusively in Orange, in Denmark things were different. If you keep reading, you will get the title pun.
It is late spring and it may not be festival season yet. Summery sunny days are still quite far, but just last week I had a small taste of summer when working at the SPOT festival in Aarhus as a journalist.
For the first time I found myself writing about music, a topic I never thought I’d be capable of writing about. Music has always been one of my biggest passions; when growing up in Rome I could never make up my mind on what musical instrument I would want to learn – so I spent my childhood attending drums, guitar, flute and singing lessons. Quite surprisingly, I never joined a festival before SPOT. And going from none to full-on festival season, this summer I will have the amazing chance to work as a barista (unpaid job but free entry) during Denmark’s biggest festivals – NorthSide in Aarhus, Tinderbox in Odense (probably the least heard of) and Roskilde close to Copenhagen as the cherry on top.
My first festival experience, which however included no camping, drunk partying or feeling gross for three days in a row, was very positive indeed. It was also yet another way to immerse myself in the Danish living while in Aarhus.
Because fashion plays a big part during festivals, with store windows now featuring “festival essentials” for the hippie wannabes, there is one thing you ought to know about the Danish dress code (or Scandinavian, to make it more generic). Once you go black you never go back and if you spot a Danish girl wearing a yellow dress with pink shoes, she is probably heading to a funeral. In this part of Europe, black, grey and white are dominant colours in everyone’s closet. If you want to fit in, wear black pants, a black jacket and Nike trainers and you’re set. Because of their culture, Scandinavians never tend to stand out, so conforming to a dress code is what they manage to do best. In Swedish, the word lagom, which has no direct translation to English but essentially means “not too much and not too little”, is at the heart of Scandinavian culture, where nobody feels like they’re better than anyone else and there is little to no attempt in society to try to show off with fancy cars or expensive brands.
This pattern of group behaviour within Denmark, Sweden and Norway has a name – Janteloven (Danish for “Law of Jante”), which negatively portrays the attitude towards individuality and success. My Danish language teacher explained that there are two sides of the same coin. While on one hand it is positive that nobody tries to feel better than others, on the other hand it draws people to never be fully happy about their achievements (maybe this was her personal opinion, but to be honest it makes perfect sense to me). So, taking it back to the Danish dress code, it is easy to understand group-belonging dynamics within the country.
During the SPOT Festival, which mainly included upcoming Nordic talents within Indie-Pop music, I reviewed concerts for a local Danish paper in English called Jutland Station (Jylland/Jutland is one of Denmark’s regions). I got the chance to discover great talents, starting from the amazing Norwegian singer Aurora. She writes all the music herself and had no idea her popularity would grow so quickly (she’s on tour in Europe now and will be heading to the US soon). You can read my review of her concert here. I also reviewed a great Danish band called Kill-J (quite different from Alt-J, in case you were wondering) and I have linked a SoundCloud link below so you can listen to their most popular song.
I am currently in the city of Galway in Western Ireland where I travelled to this morning from Dublin. The capital was great and I had a very good time discovering its hidden gems and different aspects of Irish culture.
As no surprise, the next post will be about my adventure in the land of green fields, leprechauns and Guinness.