I moved to Denmark in early 2017. I left Philadelphia and set out to Copenhagen with my partner. We were nervous. We didn’t know anyone in Copenhagen. Moving took us away from family, friends and the familiarity of everyday life.
It was an adjustment. There were ups and downs, but Denmark is our home now. We had the opportunity to leave just this month but we turned it down. Our time here in Denmark is open-ended and so are our hearts – we love it here.
We miss our friends and family but look forward to their visits and we get to show them this beautiful country. We have found our niche in Denmark with new friends – both Danish and international. The once-confusing everyday life has now become familiar. Life is good! However, this week, as President Trump has picked a fight with our adopted home, it’s been tough.
I don’t care much for Trump normally
I’m no fan of the president’s. Never was. I campaigned for Obama and Clinton and I’ve only grown more progressive since living in Denmark. Still, it somehow felt reassuring that the president was visiting Denmark this month. I may despise his policies and I find him to be a terrible person, but I love my country. I know how to separate the two.
While most of the last 2.5 years have felt turbulent and unstable, there was a nice normalcy about this visit. I was glad the American president was making a state visit to the country I now live in. While I wish it was President Clinton and her husband, I was still excited. I was excited that America and Denmark were meeting. I felt like the two countries I love were coming together. That made me happy, especially to have American media focusing on Denmark.
Dealing with the political reality of Trump while living abroad
I know that we are very fortunate to be living in Europe and in a wonderful country like Denmark. Unfortunately, the long dark shadow of Washington DC and Trump’s presidency is always looming over our heads.
Wherever we go, in Copenhagen or traveling, we are facing the disgrace of this man. I’m sure many Americans traveling the world have experienced this too. For us it’s every day – we don’t get to go back to an American-bubble.
We are constantly being asked about what he did, what twitter feud he is in or what nation he disrespected. We’re asked how he got elected acting that way in the first place. We have to explain the antiquated American election system and why members of his party don’t expect more from him.
We answer to everything that man does in the good name of our country. A country we love. Every time it happens, we have to reassure them that America is the country they’ve always known us to be. Sometimes, like this week, it feels like we’re trying to convince ourselves.
Most people we encounter can separate their feelings towards America and their feelings towards Donald Trump. Some cannot. Either way, it’s exhausting and embarrassing and this week it was brought to a new level. It was brought to a very personal level. This week his drama is about a country we love and a people that took us in and it’s inescapable.
Trump doesn’t fit in with the culture in Denmark
Like me, most Danes despise Donald Trump. This should be no surprise. He has alienated traditional allies like Denmark for the extent of his presidency. The Danish ethos also doesn’t match his style. He would not fit in here.
His bluster, fury and confrontational manner would be immediately at odds with the calm, rational and direct nature of Danes.
The Danish people pride themselves on tolerance. Trump does the opposite.
Donald Trump divides people to gain power. The Danes may disagree internally on matters of politics, but they are a collectivist people.
The Danish manner of behavior is to fit in and not to be too proud. Donald Trump can’t stand not being in the spotlight. He is overly-proud if anything. The man takes credit for anything he can (an economy that has been growing for 10 years) and shirks responsibility for all else.
This is also makes the week’s events tough to watch. My Danish language abilities are lacking, but my understanding of the culture is pretty good.
His fight with the Prime Minister is already terrible. Offering to “buy Greenland” is just un-American. Making things worse, he’s missed so many cultural cues that it’s even more of a circus.
The Greenland bit was worse than Americans realize
Trump’s stunt with Greenland was embarrassing for most Americans. It was something more for Danes.
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen called it absurd. Trump said she was being “nasty.” She was being nice.
The colonial past between Denmark and Greenland is a touchy subject. It’s a bit like slavery or the genocide of Native Americans in the US. Except Danes still talk about it and try to rectify the past through government aid and actions. The queen’s annual New Years Eve address always mentions the people of Greenland and the Royal Family makes a high profile visit there every year.
Donald Trump thinks that Greenland is a burden and to be bought. What Americans may not understand is that Greenland is autonomous. It’s still part of the Danish Kingdom because it requires subsidization. That may be out of pride, collectivism, guilt or a combination, but it’s not out of greed or strategy. Whatever the reason, it’s not an American president’s concern.
Greenland is a sensitive subject for the Danish people. American media isn’t covering that. The fact that the president swiped at a wound that is still healing was probably no accident. He did it out of nowhere but doubtfully for no reason.
This is why Danish people of all political backgrounds were united when the Greenland comments were first made. Because thinking you can buy and sell people and countries is the opposite of today’s Danish values.
Who is Mette Frederiksen and why did she get to Trump?
I think there’s enough coverage of the fact that Trump doesn’t like strong women. At least he doesn’t like ones he isn’t related to. But the Danish Prime Minister seems to really have gotten him riled up. A few things about her could explain it.
She’s younger than him and ascended to political power much quicker in life. At 41, she’s a little more seasoned than some of the freshman Congresswomen he likes to chant at and pick twitter fights with. Still, she fits the mold.
The Prime Minister of Denmark also represents something politically that Trump is most frightened of – a political clap back. Mette Frederiksen took power earlier this year after a coalition of right-wing parties were swept out of office. Most notable was the Danish People’s Party. They’re an anti-immigrant party in Denmark who gained power in 2015 as Trump was using the same tactics in America. She may intimidate him politically because next year he is vulnerable to the same fate as his Danish political counterparts.
Most likely, he’s just looking for someone he can blame. His brand is victimhood, and now he can pin this incident on Mette Frederiksen. He always needs someone to target in order to make himself the victim of a situation he caused. We’ve all seen this episode; it’s like season 7 of Celebrity Apprentice.
Canceling a state visit is a major slap in the face
The Queen of Denmark was supposed to host Trump. That’s a big deal – so was canceling the visit. No sitting US President has made an official state visit since Bill Clinton in 1997.
Denmark is a small country but a staunch ally to the US and a founding member of NATO. American media is rightfully reporting that Denmark has supported US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Unlike Trump, soldiers from Denmark have served with our military.
No nation, including the US, has lost as many lives in Afghanistan per capita. Donald Trump thinks it’s not worth honoring that with a state visit if he doesn’t get his way in a fight he picked.
Why Trump may have wanted to get out of this visit
It was reported by the Washington Post that Donald Trump caused this incident to get out of back to back trips to Europe. With the G7 Summit and a state visit, it may have been too much flying or time off the golf course and campaign trail. Trump likes to be surrounded by bleachers of his supporters – he wouldn’t find that in Denmark or the G7 in France.
Always his obsession, Barack Obama may also be in the mix. The former president is set to visit Denmark in September and will no-doubt have a warm reception compared to the one planned for Trump. Protests were in the works, including the Trump Baby balloon that Londoners originated. Now that he caused an international incident, picked a fight with the Danish PM, he can avoid being upstaged by President Obama.
Perhaps the most obvious reason for Trump to pick a fight with Denmark is for a distraction. Just this week he made remarks considered anti-semitic, called himself the chosen one and caused these international issues. It all distracts people from his other looming issues. These include law suits against him and his business in the Southern District of NY, a looming impeachment inquiry over obstruction of justice, flip-flopping on firearm background checks after meeting with the NRA, the Jeffrey Epstein scandal and a slowing US economy.
This fight with Denmark gives Trump his two favorite things, victimhood and control of the narrative. You have to ask yourself, is he consistently bad with impulse control or is this premeditated ignorance? I think the latter, which is more sinister of the two.
What’s next for the American-Danish alliance?
Denmark has been a historical ally of the United States since 1783. We have bled together in World Wars and Denmark answered America’s call after 9/11. The people of Denmark are pro-American and consume American media, music and culture. But this incident is really testing our relationship.
What Trump did won’t soon be forgotten – Denmark is angry and hurt. Leaders from every political party of Denmark are on the same page about this. They’re rightfully upset about being dragged into Trump’s constant chaos. Denmark isn’t like that. And there is a potential breaking point where citizens of the world will have had enough of Trump, and therefore all of us.
While Trump tried to differentiate his ill-will towards the Prime Minister and not the Danish people, Danish culture doesn’t work that way. Denmark is a society where the people look out for one another. It’s beautiful. If you’re a Dane, you are Denmark. Look at the superior social safety net. It’s basically politically invincible. This is because Danes value taking care of each other, that’s where their patriotism comes from.
It’s not the bluster of an angry president or military strength. It isn’t how many soldiers they’ve lost for their country. You’ll never hear them talk about that. It’s pride in taking care of each other.
Goodwill towards America means goodwill towards Americans. That’s a good thing! I may not have a degree in foreign relations, but relationships with foreigners are critical to my everyday life. America’s reputation abroad may not matter to some Americans, especially Trump’s base – but it’s crucial to me. The world’s view of Americans impacts the way I’m treated every day. It follows me I go everywhere I go, just like Trump.