Friday, March 14, 2008

danish service culture

ha! that's the most ironic title i've ever typed on this blog. because there is a complete and utter absence of service culture in denmark. and i've just had TWO run-ins with it inside of 20 minutes. why, after ten years am i surprised, you ask? good question. i'm not sure why i am either. but this one, especially the second instance, totally blind-sided me. and when the lack of common courtesy and even a modicum of service hits me in this country, it hits me hard. i suppose because no matter how long i live outside of the u.s., my inner american thinks that when i'm a customer somewhere i could expect service. and in these instances, i wasn't even asking for SPECIAL service, just normal, ordinary common courtesy kind of service. but did i get it? no, i did not.

instance 1: this morning, when i left the house for my painting lesson, i suspected that a package would be arriving today. so, i left a note on the door, asking said post person to leave the package by the door and take my note as signed permission to do so. when i got home, there was my pink posh yarn envelope by the door, so i thought it had worked. so, imagine my surprise when i opened the mailbox and found a slip to collect a package at the post office. (tomorrow, as i later found out.) what the X*#? how could that be when i left a clear note--even written in danish--on the door.

so, stupid me, not actually noticing that it was actually tomorrow i could pick it up, i go to the post office, thinking i could get it today. i handed the note to the woman behind the counter and she glances at it and righteously throws it back to me, telling me that it won't be there 'til tomorrow. i could have dealt with that, but she was so righteous and sort of "ha!" about it. so i said that i wondered how it could have happened when i left the note. she continued in her righteous tone to inform me that that's not allowed. i walked away, shaking my head and muttering something about there not being much service from the postal service...

that i could, in some sense accept. although she didn't need to be so righteous. why do danish women always have to be so righteous?

instance 2: at the cashier in kvickly. he says my total is 800-something. that sounded really, really high, tho' i was purchasing cider--both alcoholic and non-alcoholic and tonic and schweppes lemon and such things. still, it sounded high, so i had a look when i got my receipt. and there, on the receipt, i saw that i was charged for 39 packages of butter, rather than the 3 that i actually bought. i called it to the attention of the cashier, who otherwise seemed to be a nice young man. he, without even THINKING of apologizing, asked me to go over to customer service and have it fixed. i, reeling from the shock of NO APOLOGY(on top of my righteous-woman-at-the-post-office experience), i began muttering about it and got a small apology, but only after i had to ask for it. i went to the customer service counter. still reeling. and still muttering about the lack of apology, admitting that maybe my sensitivity about it was due to my being american. which the kid behind the counter confirmed...that american culture was totally different in that way. which was not all that helpful.

so, all told, i was left reeling and yes, seething, from the entire experience. what is it? why is it so difficult to be polite? my theory is that danes give so much in taxes that they think they don't owe other people recognition that they exist, no acts of human kindness. nothing. and at times, it's a hurtful and bewildering way to live. if you're not a dane.

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