As for Jamie, it seems he has two possible faces. He has a neutral, expressionless face, that he puts on, when he is somehow taken aback (which seems to take a lot). The other – which he puts on here – is this shrewd fox-like smile, which is saying something along the lines: “I know what you are trying to do, and I do have my own thoughts about it, but don’t you think I will reveal them to you. (Ha!)” The fact that the actor behind Jamie Lannister, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, is a Dane might shed some light this binary facial language.

jamie lannister with two interchangeable faces

It is no wonder newcomers to Denmark have such a hard time adjusting to the culture. One thing is the language itself. The phonetics are so complex, that the language is a hobby horse for many linguists around the world. Danish kids seem to learn the Danish words later than other kids growing up with other languages learn their words. In consequence, learning Danish as an adult is a major challenge. On top of that, as I was saying, we have this arbitrary relationship with non-verbal interaction, where we are cautious to let as little as possible slip through.

The Danish language use, the pragmatics of spoken and written language, can be really efficient, when it comes to collaborating, and getting things done. In Danish, we have a rather small vocabulary – maybe because of the work it takes to learn the words – and a single word usually has a very limited range of meanings. Her is here. Der is there. No mistakes. A culture of efficiency, of accountability and of getting things done.

When it comes to emotional content, to person-to-person interaction, it’s another story. It is as if we had a radio jammer implanted in our bodies, that will obstruct the appropriate coding of our inner states and bodily emotions, washing the other person over with a rain of non-verbal white noise.

Danes are experts in reformatting whatever happens inside them into something unrecognizable, when it reaches the outside world. This is a culture of irony, sarcasm, and non-verbal cacophonia.

No wonder that the Danes’ divorce rate is among the highest in the world.

One thought on “Non-verbal cacophonia in the North

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