Thursday, June 22, 2017

Princess Marie of Denmark: "My husband is a real Viking"

Photo: David Atlan
While Denmark is often cited as an example for its social model and the well-being of its inhabitants, the wife of Prince Joachim welcomed us to the royal palace of Amalienborg to speak with enthusiasm and passion of her adoptive country.

For years, Denmark has been considered "the country of happiness". How do you explain it?
There are many factors. The social model, education and even the weather! The rigor of the climate justifies the Danes being so robust and courageous: no storm will stop them. Long winters also make them like to spend time at home, it is the famous "Hygge", this pleasure to stay together with the family, to share simple joys. We do that a lot too. Being at home, lighting candles everywhere for more cheerfulness, sitting by the fire, hearing the children playing inside, reading a good book, what could be more enjoyable? In general, Danes have a balanced relationship between work and family life.

How does this happen?
Here we do not work until 8 pm. My fellow citizens are effective, they avoid the loss of time and start their day early. Besides, as a Frenchwoman, I had rather Latin schedules. This required some rehabilitation to be fully productive at 6 in the morning! But I made it ... And with the children, anyway, we have to get up early. Another form of wisdom, the Danes are gifted enough to leave their laptops when they get home. It's difficult. For my part, I tend to want to respond quickly to the mails I receive.

But you still have a "Danish" daily life?
We live a simple life. I have a point of honor to take care of my children. They are all for me, and it is important that they are not brought up by people other than my husband and myself. Of course, we are fortunate enough to have some help in getting our job done, but I want to take on the job. If my daughter needs something, she calls me. Same for my son. Even if I tell them sometimes that I do not have time! (Laughter). We have the same existence as our fellow citizens, with the difference that when we work, the press is present.

Is this exposition complex to manage?
It depends on the personalities. It should be noted that, despite all good will, unfortunately we can not please everyone. In any case, I would not be able to play a role, not to be myself. This is how. I am doing my best. The human being has always been critical, perhaps today with the social networks that is more understood, but I know how to concentrate on what is important.

Photo: David Atlan
If you were to describe in three adjectives the Danish spirit...
First in everything, positive, without hesitation.

It looks like you!
I may look very cheerful, but you know, I can also be quite French ... (laughs). Otherwise the other two adjectives that immediately come to me are: peaceful and honest. You can really count on the Danes.

Your fellow citizens are so honest that we find at the entrance to restaurants and shops strollers with sleeping children in without relatives in the immediate vicinity...
It's actually great. This shows that the Danes feel good, they are not afraid, they trust. It is a safe country, where society works harmoniously. This does not mean that the model is exportable all over the world.

Is this harmony linked to the small size of the country?
The size probably plays, because the territory is homogeneous. But we must also take into account our very ancient history. We have the oldest monarchy in Europe and are deeply attached to our traditions. At the same time, the country is very modern. Education also plays a great role.

In which way?
In Denmark, it is taught not to compare each other. The idea is to be happy with what you are, with what you have. This avoids jealousy and competition. At school, there are no notes, for example, until very late. Everyone is on the same level. Children do not feel devalued. They do not doubt of themselves. You can always find negative aspects, but it seems to me that on the whole, it is fundamentally positive. Particularly because children like to learn. My son cries if he can't go to school! He is overjoyed to go there in the morning.

What are the keys to learning?
The creativity of children is very encouraged. They are taught to be themselves, not to be stressed. In France, we had, from toddlers, satchels filled with very heavy books. Here, children enter school only at the age of 6. It is considered that before they need to play. I have adopted this idea for one of my children, the other will start a little before 6 years because I feel it is the right time. Each personality is different.
Another Danish feature is that there are less classes per day here. My son starts for example at 8 am and finishes at 1 pm. Then the afternoon is devoted to extra-curricular activities such as sports, art, music or excursions. This afternoon, my son leaves to the forest to go and watch animals. They are outdoors as often as possible, and the connection with nature is fundamental. From birth, babies sleep a lot on the outside.

Even in extreme cold?
Be careful when the temperature falls below 0°C. (Laughter). The first time my husband showed me this method, I was ... quite surprised! I was frankly frightened, but I was quickly converted. Children sleep visibly very well ...

Do you have any education what's coming from your family?
I am very riding on the fundamentals. Politeness of course, good manners at the table ... For example, children do not have to interrupt adults who are talking. They have to look carefully at the person they say hello. I am very strict on these points, and I find that it does not prevent a child from being free, having fun and feeling loved. Respect for adults is very important. We must be able to live together. There are moments of adults and moments of children.

Your father-in-law is of French descent, would you say your husband is a perfect Dane?
He resembles his mother very much, he inherited a great creativity. He is very talented in artistic fields even if nobody knows. From his father, he took elegance, a considerable culture and also a good living side. He's of an ultrapositive nature and very equanimous. I've never seen him in a bad mood! He will always see the bright side of things. He never complains. He's indeed a perfect Dane while being open to the world, since he has chosen a foreign woman.

And your children?
They are really a mixture of the two of us. With a little of my spirit of freedom. They have a formidable character and a great curiosity.

Photo: David Atlan
Since in Denmark we value simple pleasures, could you tell us what are your "little pleasures"?
Go and get my kids to school. I do not get enough of it. Being with my husband just before dinner. Drink a glass of wine together, talk about our days. And then the great walks in nature. I can walk for hours. As soon as I have the opportunity, I walk. On the other hand, I do not like running!

Is there a Danish proverb that strikes you at the corner of common sense?
"The word is silver and the silence is golden." It also exists in French, but it seems to me particularly adapted to the Danish spirit. My fellow citizens speak very little about themselves. They know how to listen, which sometimes makes them a little silent. I find this ability to be interested in others charming.

On the contrary, are there any clichés about Denmark that annoy you?
What for example?

That it is a country of Vikings.
It's also true. My husband is never sick. He never goes to the doctor. He's very tough. It's quite a Viking. They have very good genetics!

That all the Danes travel by bike ...
That is true! Even the ministers. You see even very sophisticated women, in stiletto heels, facing the rain and the wind, or mothers who use it to drop their children to school. I totally adopted this habit: I take my son, my daughter and my dog! Everyone does it.

The dog must be of reasonable size, then?
Yes, it's a curly bichon. It's called Apple. I had her before coming to Denmark.

How old is she?
12 years old and has an absolute obligation to stay fit. I want her to stay with us for a very long time.

Photo: David Atlan
Did some things surprise you when you arrived in Denmark?
People who bathe in the winter! It seems that this creates a real feeling of euphoria. I will try it because I am very curious and I do not want to die silly ...

Another important part of a culture: gastronomy...
The Nordic and Danish kitchens are now extremely popular and internationally renowned. Tourists from all countries come to discover this culinary school based on the naturalness of the products, the importance of organic, the creativity of the agreements. I am also a patron of the Copenhagen Cooking & Food Festival, which is a great pleasure for me because I am very glutton! And this commitment goes hand in hand with another mission that is dear to me, the fight against food waste. Denmark is a pioneer in this fight. We are taking more initiatives on this issue than any other European country.

Could you tell us a traditional dish that you particularly like?
I like to cook a lot and one of my favorite recipes is the fæskesteg, the "crispy pork", which is eaten almost like chips. It is eaten all over the country, however it is not very "dietetic". Another delicious thing: the bread of rye, there are two hundred different kinds. We do not have white bread here. I also cook French dishes of course...

If you were to introduce our readers to your country, where would you start?
When friends come to visit us, I like to show them the National Museum of Contemporary Art, the Louisiana Museum outside Copenhagen, but also the small galleries of the city. The Opera is worth a visit, as are the ballets at the Royal Theater: a must! Finally, the magnificent castles are truly the historical identity of the country. And what could be more enjoyable than a walk on the beautiful Nyhavn harbor with of course a mandatory passage to Tivoli for the children ... and the parents! Another thing to discover absolutely and that fascinates me: the design that has become one of our trademarks. It began in the 1950s and since this purified, ultra-modern trend, has not stopped developing.

Photo: David Atlan
Do you have any houses to recommend us?
A tour at llumsbolighus will give you a good idea of ​​the Danish style. There are some for all generations. The classics and the oldest such as Royal Copenhagen porcelain, furniture by Arne Jacobsen, Hans Wegner, Finn Juhl or Fritz Hansen, silver and jewelery by Georg Jensen ... You will also find new houses such as Hay , Very young and creative, Normann Copenhagen or Muuto. The architecture is really dynamic too. Today we have the chance to see the success of the young architect Bjarke Ingels. At just 42 years old, he creates exceptional places around the world. For example, he was selected to build the second tower of the World Trade Center and the Google campus in California, while in Copenhagen he is preparing to build a waste incinerator whose roof will be transformed into a... ski run. In France, he oversees the Europacity project, near Roissy.

Even in the country of happiness, there are things to improve, could you tell me about the causes for which you have committed yourself?
Wherever you are, you have to pay attention to the most vulnerable among us. I take care as much as possible of those with disabilities, such as autistic children or people with epilepsy. I also work with the foundation of the fight against AIDS. These moments are important to me. I love to spend time with these people, and I am proud to live in a country that takes care of its people.

Originally published by Point de Vue



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