Our next talk was by the Danish Ambassador to Singapore, Mr Ole Lisborg, and began with a short description of Denmark’s geography and history. Few are aware that Denmark used to be a colonial power, with colonies in Europe, Asia and Africa. These colonies are, of course, a thing of the past. But they provide an insight into the history of Denmark, though they tend to be overshadowed by the conquests of their neighbors, the British and Dutch Empires.
Modern Denmark is a constitutional monarchy, with a stable multi-party system in place. Voter turnout is very high, as the people firmly believe that they have a say in the parliamentary proceedings, dating back to the original Danish Constitution signed in 1849. Denmark is also a welfare state, where personal income taxes are high, using a progressive scale, but where the government pays for the medical, educational and other miscellaneous costs of the people. This is similar to the systems in the other Scandinavian countries, namely Sweden and Norway.
Denmark values peace, development and environmental preservation, and this is reflected in its business practices and governmental policies. Another building block in the Danish society is the Hygge, which refers to spending quality time with family and close friends, usually while savoring good food and wine. In line with keeping healthy while preserving the environment, many Danes are active cyclist, with an average of 36% of the people commuting to their various activities via bicycle. The Danish city of Odense was also named “Bicycle City of the year” because of the large numbers of bicycle lanes within the city itself.
The Danish culture also advocates the independence of teens from their parents, and the government, which gives students a small monthly allowance if they are studying in a tertiary institution, supports this. With free healthcare, education, and even a small monthly allowance, it becomes easy and almost appropriate for teenagers not to depend on their parents, unlike Asian cultures which prefer for children to remain with their parents until the child gets married.
As we learn more and more about Denmark, we probably can’t help but compare its culture and system to Singapore’s. With the upcoming election, this talk had certainly induced some questions for us to ponder upon and decide on which direction our country should go in near future.
– Ho Bao Yuan, Tan Ying Da