The death of a handshake

Updated: Apr 16



Photographs: iStock

Text: Narcis George Matache


How a virus proved to be stronger than the “symbolpolitik


Patience in obtaining the much-desired Danish citizenship has turned to dust due to an unfortunate combination between a pandemic and over-regulation from the state. After making it to the finish line, where a state-regulated handshake was waiting, the applicants now must wait until it is safe to exchange germs from one citizen to another.


“It reminds me of the Nazi heil,” said the mayor of Aabenraa, which hails from the same party as the infamous Inger Støjberg (the former Liberal minister of integration); “We should not regulate how we greet each other,” said the mayor of Frederikshavn, Birgit S. Hansen (from the Social Democrat Party). Their opinions reflect the general mood of the mayors from around the country. They are not extremely happy with the legislation that entered into force on 1st January 2019, which requires a representative of the municipality to shake the hand of a person that desires to become a Danish citizen.

Just like with the other infamous law, in which the police had to confiscate all objects of value from the refugees and yet found ways not to do so, the mayors have been in a race on who finds the most creative way of not validating with their presence this practice. Some of them, have left it entirely to the employees of the municipality to perform the ceremony, others, to be mindful to the freedom of religion, have offered a gendered-based choice of a handshake.


However, the process of validating the years-long process of becoming citizens of Denmark has now come to a complete halt. Why might you wonder? The emergence of Covid-19 pandemic (novel coronavirus as previously known) which prevents handshakes. Well, why not wear gloves? As absurd, as it might sound, the law specifies that it has to be without gloves. You need to firmly touch the skin of a current Danish citizen so that you can transform into one as well.


I mean, if that is the case, then why not reduce the entire process to that one action. Remove all the efforts to learn the language, the history, the culture and society, while looking for a full-time job. That is not important to the legislators. What is important is the magical transformation that happens when you touch the skin of a Danish citizen.


Don’t get me wrong. It is nice to have a ceremony to mark the importance of such an event, as obtaining Danish citizenship. However, it should not be an over-regulated mandatory event. It should be a celebration and a validation of all the efforts one undertook to reach that point. One should go to such a ceremony with tears of joy in his eyes, knowing that they can finally join other citizens as one of the best societies in the world.


"The process of validating the years-long process of becoming citizens of Denmark has now come to a complete halt."

One has to wait nine long years before you can obtain the full rights of Danish citizenship.

Of course, because the integration process is so “egalitarian” in mind (irony), some can skip the waiting line due to various reasons:


1. Citizens of other Nordic countries have to wait only two years.

2. People who have a 3-year Danish education have to wait only five years.

3. The wife/husband of a Danish citizen between 6 and 8 years.

4. Children that arrived in Denmark before the age of 15 and got a Danish education receive citizenship when they turn 18.

5. Refugees/stateless people receive it after eight years.


You also need to reach the following criteria:

1. You have to be a model citizen and owe no debt to the state.

2. Be full-time employed for the past two years.

3. Speak more than medium Danish and pass a test to prove this.

4. Have an understanding of the Danish culture, history, society, and pass a citizen test.

The process takes around two years from the date of applying until your arrival at a handshake ceremony, given there is no pandemic around.


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