One of my biggest culture shocks in America: A toilet.
You can learn a lot about a culture when looking at their plumbing. In my college dorm we had a unique toilet, and I was surprised that my American roommates didn’t understand its true function.
The throne in question was a “dual flush toilet.” This means that there are two flush options: one that releases half the amount of water for number ones, and a second that uses a full tank for number two’s. It’s a simple water conservation technique that, on the grand scale, makes a big environmental impact. The reason it was a big culture shock for me was when I came to learn that my American roommates had no idea what the dual function meant. One even said they would just hold down both buttons simultaneously—and why not? When you have gone your whole life using a certain system, it’s completely rational to continue your routine. For me, the “dual flush” procedure had been present my whole life. Almost all toilets here in Denmark have the options, so for me it was habitual to make a choice after finishing my business.
This conversation kick started an internal investigation to think about how the Danish culture had, I wouldn’t say brainwashed, culturally manipulated me to live a greener lifestyle. Along with simple things like the aforementioned toilet, Danish recycling systems are top notch. In many US states, you pay a deposit on canned or bottled drinks. But, we tend to discard the empties as A) it’s not convenient, and B) it’s financially not worth it. In Denmark, both of these scenarios are answered for. For one, every supermarket has a bottle/can deposit machine that gives you a cash voucher that you can use on your groceries. Secondly thanks to taxes, as you may have heard, even the basic necessities, such as beer, are quite expensive. This price is significantly reduced when you return your empties.
From windmills, the bicycle culture, indoor heating and cooling etc., the list continued to grow in my head about how green living was natural for a Danish lifestyle.
I assure you, I am by no means a Saint of Conservation. While living in Boston, I myself would dump all of my empties in the trash, and hope that down the line someone would pick it up and reap the nickel of profit. But still, when presented with the “dual flush” option, I knew which button to push.
It seems that the Danes have realized that most people are inherently lazy, and will not go out of their way to conserve energy unless the options are in place. From this realization, it’s been easy to cultivate a “Green” culture. Even here at Pine Tribe, we focus on publishing e-books, as an alternative to using paper. Although we offer paper options, our focus on digital publishing would, in another culture, have been enough to consider us a “Green” company. But no, with a Danish mentality our founders have said, “we sell books, therefore we should replenish the forests.” With every book we sell, we offer our customers the option to plant their own trees, to help make up for those who have been sacrificed to printing. Some might say that it’s marketing play, but when you get to know the culture, you realize that it is just a typically Scandinavian natural instinct to want to conserve that’s been embedded into the culture here.
Image from: here