Why is Denmark a network of networks that you are not part of… yet?

Nordic exceptionalism

The more worldly notion of trust is typically associated with reliance on each other - and it is found everywhere but only in weaker forms and in decline -except in the Nordic countries. Sociologist Peter Gundelach explains that when social ties are created horizontally this creates social trust. This is further revealed in the European Sociological Review by J. Delhey and K. Newton in a comparative study when trying to analyze the general level of social trust in 60 countries. The researchers argue that the five Nordic countries show an exceptionally high level of social trust being characterized by ethnic homogeneity, protestant religious traditions, good government, wealth, and income equality.

K.E. Løgstrup

To trust is to exist

This is consistent with the reasons why the meaning and use of trust in Denmark take a much more profound and fundamental significance than anywhere else. To use the words of the Danish philosopher K. E. Løgstrup, who wrote extensively on trust: “Initially we believe one another’s word; we trust one another…Human life could hardly exist if it were otherwise. We would simply not be able to live”. So one’s very existence and well-being depend first of all on mutual trust.

Trust means a lot of influence

As a result, trust is both something you have and something you do. Thus, one normally maintains and gains trust through professional and social engagement, clubs, associations — and overall connection with others. Therefore, it is no surprise how much focus there is put on the ability to network, in Denmark. It is often through networking that one maintains trust, meaning influence.

Denmark is a network of networks which you are not part of… yet

If you are a newly-arrived expat in Denmark, life can be bitter without a network which can take years to build. Consequently, after sending out 200 job applications with top-notch degrees and work experience on the CV, one often hears expats not being able to land even an interview. In a homogeneous society where everyone knows everyone - but you - one tends to wonder what the actual “rules” are. Sociologist professor Peter Gundelach attests: “Denmark is a very close-knit society which is difficult to get access to - in particular immigrants have had a hard time doing that”.

“Extreme” trust in institutions

According to the OECD report: How is life? Denmark still stands out as Europe’s most trusting nation both in individuals but also in institutions. Here is an example.

Trust means less control

In 2018, Denmark was hit by a big scandal. It was found out that Britta Nielsen, a civil servant, has defrauded Danish government welfare agency with at least 111 million kroner. The fraud was possible because nobody thought of making any checks for the last 25 years. Even Nielsen herself, has recently revealed in court that the checks were a joke. Frauds are nothing new to the world but in many ways this is a typical Danish example where the culture of high trust creates little control within the system, in this case as a side-effect. A similar known case took place in 2007 with IT Factory and Stein Bagger who went undetected for years before it was found out that he defrauded Denmark with 831 million kroner.

Mistrust is an offence in Denmark

This again becomes obvious in K. E. Løgstrup’s writings, who hardly recognizes mistrust and only sees it as a variation of trust, where “one normally encounters one another with natural trust”. So unless proven otherwise there is no reason to mistrust someone. After all, you will often find yourself hearing that you are free to work within a framework. This in turn creates a culture of independent and unsupervised individuals who find tasks to be done by themselves, without being controlled or told what to do. So, if you really want to offend Danes - show mistrust and tell them what to do - these are guaranteed the worst offences in Denmark.

Trust means less taboos

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