Saturday, October 14, 2006

North v South...

Back home today after the meeting in Copenhagen... The airlines managed to lose my luggage again so I had to go shopping in town to get stuff to wear (always fun - but at least I know where to go in CPH and what the money actually means...) which had me walking through the inner city suburbs about 10-11am, and I realised with a bit of a start that i was wandering through a public park where the school kids were playing, supervised by a few teachers. It took me a moment, cos school kids don't wear uniforms... and i bumped into again that if Australia was serious about the whole sustainable development of cities/suburbs and encouraging workplaces to be family friendly and for people to have more kids they should take a closer look at common things in the Danish way of life.

  • special spots on buses with lower entry for prams - tick
  • space to secure pram and the mum to sit down next to it on buses & trains - tick
  • all train stations with lifts or ramps - tick
  • tricycle and buggy style carts for lugging kids around with your bike - tick
  • bike lanes (real ones! safe enough for kids to ride in) - tick
  • teachers and child care workers respected and paid decently - tick
  • paid maternity leave = 1 year - tick
  • accessible childcare - tick
  • lots of parks and playgrounds, walking, cycling, picnicking etc - tick

It's quite a different way of life in many ways - catering to families as part of the package, not just as an afterthought. There are of course down sides (9yr olds wearing maek up to school) - but even a few of the small changes (eg the bus thing) would make it so much easier for young families to use public transport instead of the car...

Wouldn't trade it for the beach though!


worldpeace and a speedboat said...

what do you think has caused the good stuff, Fliss? forward-thinking Government or pressure from parents? we'll never in a million years get half of that lovely list.

fliss said...

Part of it is forward thinking vaguely lefty government faced with a seriosly declining population about 15 years ago... The bike type stuff (I think) came in due to post-war depression and inability to afford cars as well as natural geography - Denmark is FLAT (highest point is about 170m). I think pressure from parents has probably helped when considering individual issues - eg: bus design. There are some quirks of Scandinavian parenting that seem very odd to us antipodean perents - the pram row outside cafes for example. Because the bubs in the giant high old fashionedy prams are rugged to the eyeballs, the northern parents leave them outside with eagle-eyed parents watching through the window - so as not to de-rug and re-rug every 3 minutes disturbing the bubs.
Because the kids wear normal clothes to school, there is "brand" awareness from an early age and the pester power to get the "right" brands is huge, and a lot of the younger girls (9-10 yrs up) wear make-up which is just awful (to us). Mind you it also means that the range of clothes available is sooo much nicer than here - I always stock up when I'm over there...
Danish (and other Scandivian) lifestyle is very centred around the home and family - maybe because of the weather? Not sure... but the concept of a hygglit (rough translation = cosy, but not in a cutesy sort of way) home is very important. It's also very safe - in the way Sydney was when we were growing up. The kids are out riding and playing in the quiet streets, parks etc. People are generally more "unconsciously" active as part of their life (walking/cycling part of the norm) - so the hype we have about obesity running rampant over here is not evident...
It's just different - but i think we could certainly adopt some of the concepts without a heck of a lot of expense and bother.