Are Danes afraid of getting to close to each other? Not at Roskilde Festival, a Brazilian first timer finds.
As soon as I moved to Copenhagen two years ago, I was advised not to break the golden rule that every self-respecting Dane makes a point on to preserve: Do not surpass the limit of intimacy. In other words, do not touch a Dane. At most, you can get a handshake, but be careful not to squeeze too much. The Danes has another notion of socializing that highly differs from our Latin one. No touching, and no invading their intimate line.
Break old patterns
But at Roskilde Festival 2014 I ran into a project that contradicts all the codes of conduct I learned back home in Copenhagen. Of course, it had to be at this festival; a space that allows you to break old patterns and create new ones. A group of volunteers makes up Krammeholdet, the Hugging Team, who’s offering free hugs to other volunteers, as a reward and incentive for the good work done. You can be hugged in the street or get a hug on demand. By email, a colleague can book a hug to another or to an entire team.
To better understand the process of all this, I decided to follow Mette and Louise, two lovely Danish volunteer huggers who are also cousins. Friendly and carefully, the two volunteers approach their fellow volunteers, offering them a hug. At first people are shocked, then they surrender. And at this point I confess: I was touched by seeing the natural capacity of human beings to give in to the healing touch provided by intimate contact called “hug”, even when their social code says no.
“You thought of me!”
I asked some of the freshly hugged volunteers how they felt about it. “At first I was startled, then suspicious, but ultimately I was grateful,” a young volunteer gatekeeper of the handicap camping says. “I liked it. It was weird at first, but then enjoyable”, another one says, while checking volunteers wristbands.
Louise, a 45 year-old woman, who is volunteering for the first time as a “professional” hugger at Roskilde Festival 2014, tells me that the great thing about her job is seeing people asking to be hugged. “It’s like they’re getting a Christmas gift. When we hug volunteers working in isolated areas such as the fence keepers, they say “that’s good, you thought of me!”
Seeing Mette and Louise so comfortable in this role, which to my foreign eyes would be something quite hard to see – a Danish hugging and being hugged by a stranger – I was forced to revise my opinion. Social codes may impose limits for the intimate barrier, but nobody can resist to the healing power of a warm hug.