It didn’t take long for Peter Steiner-Johnsen to acclimate to his new surroundings in Rome and on campus at Berry College.
However, the young man from Denmark, a Georgia Rotary Student Program participant, told Rome civic leaders last week that he is looking forward to a visit from his family in February.
Steiner-Johnsen offered members of the Rome Rotary Club a lesson on Denmark during a presentation Thursday. He said that most Danes are proficient in English because they start learning the language in primary school.
The tiny nation, about the size of Maryland, has a royal line that goes back about a thousand years. However, Steiner-Johnsen said that since Denmark owns Greenland, it is the 12th largest country in the world, but only has a population of 5.8 million.
At one time, Denmark controlled virtually all of modern-day Scandinavia but hasn’t been terribly proficient at fighting wars. In spite of that, Steiner-Johnsen said the country may have the oldest flag still in use. It can be traced back as far as 1219.
The Danish constitution dates back to 1849 and the country has eight significant parties which after most elections results in a minority party having to create a compromise government. “We are not actually a socialist country,” Steiner-Johnsen said. “We are a capitalist country but we have a socialist ideology.”
Taxes are high in Denmark, at 46 percent, according to Steiner-Johnsen who said the top 10 percent of wage earners pay even higher rates. He said the high taxes help assure everyone has free health care and an opportunity for free education.
“We have a word that is very special, it’s flexicurity. You might have guessed it is a mix of flexibility and security, a social safety net,” Steiner-Johnsen said. He said that results in a lot of turnover in the workforce because companies are able to fire people to bring on people who are perceived as better workers, with knowledge that the state will take care of those who may lose their jobs.
The country gets 40 percent of its energy from wind. “We aim to be 100 percent supported by the wind,” Steiner-Johnsen said.
He explained that more than 80 percent of the country’s population supports the Danish Lutheran Church. People are enrolled in the church but have to actually opt out if they want to worship in a different way.
In doing some research for his presentation, Steiner-Johnsen said he was surprised to learn that darts is the official sport of Denmark.
“If you ask any Dane they will say soccer, but now you can correct them,” Steiner-Johnsen said. The 21-year-old said there are more bikes than cars in Denmark.
He was supposed to have been a GRSP participant in 2017 but was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, which set him back a full year.
Steiner-Johnsen lives in the Ford Complex at Berry and has been studying psychology, physics and chemistry this fall.
“So far my experience has been really great,” Steiner-Johnsen said.
Steiner-Johnsen has been active off-campus, assisting his host Thomas Kislat with coaching a soccer team and volunteering with the One Community United program. He said that being a waiter at the One Table event on the Chief John Ross Memorial Bridge this fall as a great experience.
Steiner-Johnsen’s year in Rome is sponsored jointly by the Rome, Seven Hills and Cartersville Rotary Clubs.