Projekt Boble

Learning Danish to the level I have was a bad idea.

My radio alarm clock keeps telling me what the Danish People’s Party think of me (not much). My kitchen radio keeps saying “udlander” and “indvandrer” and how we are spoiling everything. With our Influenza A. And our crime. (You would think that if it were not for immigrants, there would be no crime… except the most common crime in my town is burglary and the burglars are half a dozen middle aged “ethnic Danes” if the ones they catch are representative)

Meanwhile, I read the news and I find out that an “anti” domestic violence group has made a  computer game where you can beat up your girlfriend for having fun during a night out. It is called ‘hit the bitch dot dk’ or something. The bit at the end (where it calls you an idiot) does not cancel out what is an arcade-isation of abuse.

Then I found out that my new town council hates young people and foreigners and my school and even though one guy got in with a quarter of the votes of several his fellow councillors, he gets a deciding vote for the election of the mayor.

Then I read a story about a man who threw an ex out of a third floor window and got six years.

“Anklager Line Steffensen havde på forhånd krævet den 40-årige idømt otte års fængsel efterfulgt af en permanent udvisning, men Retten på Frederiksberg mente, at mandens ukontrollerede anfald af jalousi var en formildende omstændighed.”

(They had wanted to give him 33% more time in prison *and* deport him but his uncontrollable fits of jealousy were seen as a mitigating circumstance… he got less time because the fucker SAYS he cannot control his temper)

The only way I am going to get through this is by reading only French and English news. Say what you like about the US, the UK and France; I won’t feel singled out for being an immigrant and a woman by reading their content.

Let the lack of interest in local affairs BEGIN.


What a joke. This post is “so August, darling” but I need to get it out in the open.

Let us be honest here. I LOVE LANGUAGES. I did French at school (as a default), then added German, did a two year course in five academic terms. Got an A (same as French). Did French at A level (got a C), did a university course in French (got a First or Two:one, if memory serves). Went to a language school in France to brush up (Intermediate B2). Learned Welsh informally and professionally (elementary). Learned a lot, most of it lost now. Learned Swahili and Japanese (both elementary) formally in evening school.

I LOVE LANGUAGES and I would know.

How then, has Danish managed to upset me so much?

Imagine. I was a newly baked immigrant, all fresh and ready. Wanting to get fluent as soon as so that I could order meals in restaurants, shoot the shit with colleagues, make friends outside of work and participate in culture.

I waited and waited for my bureaucratic hoops to go past and then I was permitted to join Danish class.

They taught me childcare Danish. The disappointment was delayed. There were about six weeks when I was unhappy but did not know why. Would not acknowledge it. Would claim I WAS HAPPY. But I was not. I was bitterly disappointed. My realisation came when I was doing my homework and I had to give my thoughts on my children’s childcare plan. And the book said “If you do not have children, what about your own experiences?” and I wrote “it was over twenty years ago, I have NO idea.”

The books we had to read were about rapes and murders. Imagine that. Now, let us not be too personal. But a lot of people, myself included, have been directly and indirectly involved in sexual violence (and not as perps, let me tell you) and it is not entertainment. It is not fun to do your homework and have to confront feelings around rape just to be able to complete a language assignment. It is not fun to be given the task in class to summarise a book and be very aware that the woman you are giving the précis to looks very uncomfortable for the exact same reasons you are uncomfortable.

The tasks got harder overnight. The teachers were barely competent, not to point too fine a point on it. The tasks were about “the community” and not at all about equipping me with the tools I needed to survive here. They assume I have a husband, I think. To guide me. Inlaws to ring the bank/immigration for me. They coached me in writing job application letters. And not for anything I was trained for. For entry level jobs. If only they had taught me teaching jargon. Can you imagine what a powerhouse I would be?
We are drilled on grammar for 90 minutes and then the teacher cannot understand why we will not talk for the last thirty. We are given “games” about Danish culture (what is the birthday of the Queen? Why do kids dress up as princesses on fastelaven). We are given tasks of prioritising possible childcare arrangements and justifying our decisions… before we are taught words like “therefore” or “someone” or “care”.(and we are not permitted to disagree with the ONE TRUE TRUTH of “Put kids in day care as soon as your vagina heals sufficiently for paid work”) We are told to argue against things like blood donation or volunteering but then attract disgusted looks from the teacher when we go out of the script of rubbish opposing views and deliver meaty rejoinders such as “well, volunteers tend to be mentally unstable women, don’t they?” (And on both occasions, I had to say “I DO BOTH BLOOD DONATION AND VOLUNTEERING. YOU SET ME THE TASK OF ARGUING AGAINST. YOU DID. YOU“)

From the beginning I have been coached for these arbitrary hoops. As a teacher, I have been repeatedly told that children learn worst if you teach to the test.

My Danish has improved but only because I buy so many magazines, listen to the radio, work with Danes, talk to children and so on. In fact, work did me a favour in having so many meetings this term, it showed me what I could do without school. (And as a European, I am fairly indifferent, they cannot deport me if I do not pass their stupid tests). Of course, I feel solidarity with my brothers and sisters who MUST pass this ridiculously hard and irrelevant test but this is something separate to my feelings of relief that I can learn on my own terms.

The children have started to say things like “you are good at Danish” and “that was much better than before” because I have been injecting world weariness to my accent. I have also decided to not give a shit if they can understand. If you give a shit, you put a question intonation at the end which transforms the word from understandable to incomprehensible. If you speak Danish loudly and as if you are both depressed and short of time, then Danes tend to understand. If you make a facial expression like “what are you special needs, then?” they tend to drop that they did not understand you. Also, I have been cultivating my Swedish/Norwegian accent. I can make the “r” sound from Norwegian (and do) and the hurdy-gurdy of the Swede (and do). (This is not to say that Swedes or Norwegians have any idea what I am saying, it is just to mask my English accent with something more prestigious)
Then there is the neurological fact that I have only been doing Danish on my terms so my brain sees it as an attractive language which is important to learn. If I force myself into badly taught and poorly politically steered lessons, then I am likely resent every Dane who ever speaks to me. And that is not healthy nor fair.


I have said it before and I will say it again.

I came here to learn how another education system worked, to see a place where feminism “has won”  and a place where “everyone is happy due to social policies”.

Denmark does not owe me a damn thing and I do not have to submit myself to its outrageous jingoistic whims.

I have said it before and I will say it again.

I am learning this language because I LIKE languages and not because

“Al den viden, vi skal bruge for at kunne leve og fungere i et samfund, bliver overført gennem sproget. Så hvis du vil være en del af et samfund, må du kunne dets sprog. “

Fuck the samfund. Why can’t I chitchat or get a haircut or eat out in a fancy restaurant yet?

The Heart of It All

We blog about minor annoyances. People who were rude to us about our accents, people who were rude to us in supermarkets, people who were rude to us at work; the main thing being that back home our cultures would have made rude people very self conscious and therefore selective about when to be rude.

We get all “Noble Savage” about it, don’t we? It’s JUST THEIR WAY. We cry to each other. Or we try to say that there are rude people everywhere and we do not get so upset back home, do we? And there are grains of truth running through it all.

The heart of the matter is not this minor stuff, though it is all connected like a spiderweb.

I blogged about how in 2005 the Agricultural Ministry made leaflets and advised on the writing of textbooks which had dangerously wrong diet advice. They have since changed their advice about what constitutes a healthy lifestyle but the worrying thing is that they are still allowed to. After misleading the population for so long (until 2005), they are still allowed to say what is healthy to eat.

I blogged about how as an outsider, my experiences are minimised or denied. That my right to free speech is compromised by a set of things that certain people say to shut me up.
(A quick run down:- why are you here, it must be the people you choose to hang around with, it is just your town, I have not experienced it… and now that several people have come out and said “no, it is my experience too!” we have ‘you are just blindly agreeing with other bloggers and do not seek the other side of it’)

I blogged about how disturbed I was that peaceful protest could be dealt with violently. I might have added “my country is no better” because it seems we have to wear that phrase around our necks like a crucifix. Except, in my country, when police go on the rampage THEY GET IN TROUBLE.

I blogged about how worrying the Golden Fuck You money is and why. (Basically, because it is not to sweeten undesirable immigrants but designed to sweeten people who might oppose forceful repatriation in a few years time)

I have fallen out with people about these issues. There is something very far from a consensus in the outsider-international-expat community.

Go watch Denied and come back. I will be here.

The heart of the issue is that there is a huge problem in terms of misplaced trust here. This country is top three for crime in Europe and yet is boastful about the police.

This country boasts about its free health care and yet lags behind other countries (it is 34th in the world) who also offer free health care like mine(18th), France (1st), Norway(11th) , the Netherlands(17th). It is actually closer to countries that do not offer free health care like the USA (37th) in terms of quality. Tucked between Chile and Dominica in the table.

This country boasts about its education system and yet pressure groups are able to change teaching resources to fit their agenda and no one complains for years.

This country boasts about being tolerant and liberal and accepting and kind… and yet… people who have been here for ten years, learned the language and would like to stay for safety reasons, were forcefully removed from somewhere they were given sanctuary.

This country boasts about free speech and democracy but kids who are just sat still, bearing witness to something they think is wrong, are beaten and chemically attacked.
If I have free speech, why do I feel paranoid about posting this today?

It is tempting to say “well, this is not my country, I cannot get involved…” but then I remember that this is my species. And that has to count for something, right? These people *are* my people. We are not so different. Even if they do piss on people in concerts. They are the same as people everywhere, right?
I am also likely to stay here for a long time, I like it here, obviously not all aspects but a lot of it. I would go as far as saying “I love it here!” because I love my job, my flat, my friends, my colleagues, my quality of life.

But what I saw in that movie WAS WRONG. The laws have been applied but the laws ARE WRONG. The police had a right to move the protesters but how they did it WAS WRONG. The protesters had a right to be there because sending riot cops into a church to deny sanctuary WAS WRONG. Sending people back who are *good immigrants* because you do not like the colour of their skin IS WRONG. Denying it is about skin colour and trying to claim Iraq is safe now IS WRONG.

If you are one of my readers from outside Denmark and god knows there are a lot of you, please consider writing to your local Danish embassy about this matter. If you think I have given less information than you need to make up your mind then please try the Church Asylum FAQ

If you are a Dane and god knows there are lot of you too who read my blog (and you are very welcome because you know when I say things, I do not mean you personally and you are happy to read my free speech and did I tell you I loved you, today?) then can you do something democratic about this? Vote in the chaps who will be more like Sweden in these matters? Or say something to the cops about their behaviour? Or write a letter to a newspaper? You know, something democratic and free speechy.

If you are an outsider in Denmark, then what do we do? If we try to do anything we get repelled with “why don’t you go home?” or “it is not your country!” or “you can never understand our legal system, so do not try”.

I guess. If you are an outsider in Denmark, can you continue to tell the folks in the old countries what this place is like?

I mean, there are great things like the paint they use of the front of houses… but just something to counteract the “desirable immigrant attraction board’s” hype? Just so when the UN or Save the Children or Amnesty International the EU or whoever criticises Danish policy, people on the outside say “Oh they WOULD do something like that, in that Denmark…” and maybe the skilled immigrants will try Norway or Sweden if they want to try something more Nordic? Just until they live up to their hype.

This is a country with great potential.

The Maladapted Immigrant

I did some field research and asked some real life Danes what they thought the politicians meant by “cannot or will not integrate”. The three main planks we decided were

  • Has learned to speak the language within seven years
  • Has got a job
  • Can answer questions on the citizenship test

Which I think is pretty close to what the politicians are proposing. If you do not meet these criteria, I do not think there will be a lot of choice in whether you can stay if you are from certain parts of the world. There will be choice to start with, to sweeten the moderates and the expats who are safe from these proposals. If you ask someone to do you a small favour, they are more likely to agree to an outrageous one later.

My point was that a lot of Danes do not speak their language properly. Cannot spell, cannot use reflexive and non-reflexive pronouns, do not use the ‘correct’ grammar… A lot of Danes do not have a job and have never paid into the system. A lot of Danes would fail the citizenship test because the questions are not general knowledge.

So, if we are saying that someone who does not meet those criteria are only maladapted or un-integrated because they have a family origin outside of this country… then what is that? Pretty offensive.

Especially since they are proposing that they will apply this system to people who were born here and know no other culture. Not just immigrants but their children. They did not “come” here, they were born here! To somehow say that these people must be better than other people that were also born here or face the consequences… Doesn’t that split people up into arbitrary groups based on where their parents are from? Isn’t that called racism? Or xenophobia at the least?

I am all for learning the language. I think we can agree I love languages. I am all for getting a job. I am all for learning about a country’s history and heritage. (within reason though! I am not learning what year the political parties formed!)

The point is that the system is proposing that we treat people differently according to where their parents are from. That certain people should act differently from others. That certain people have permission to behave badly. And all based on something as crude as when their families got here.

Children constantly grow up, look around and start changing things. They see what they do not like about their culture and they act on it. To say that only some of those children are allowed to be part of that process, that the others are being ungrateful or un-integrated when they do the same thing as their counterparts… that is horrifying.

The money is a trick. It is not to trick the undesirables into leaving but rather to trick the desirables to not kick up a stink. My country offers money to *illegal* immigrants who would like to return home but there is no booby-trap subtext of “because you hate it here don’t you, why don’t you just fuck off you ungrateful BASTARD” which is not aimed at the immigrants but rather to solidify in the mind of the privileged majority that immigrants are ungrateful and a threat.

We need to have our wits about us when we consume the media. None of this is about Maladapted Immigrants or aimed at “them” either but rather a very intolerant and nasty political party making inroads on people who would oppose their plans on moral and ethical grounds.

Spot the Difference: For a Wider Audience

In Denmark, the biology textbooks are different from the rest of the world.
In the rest of the world, milk and dairy is a “sometimes food”, with the meat and fish.
But not in Denmark! It is something you can eat as much as you like. Just like starchy carbohydrates, it should form the biggest part of your diet.

I Danmark, de biologi bøger er forskellet fra de hele verden.
I de hele verden, mælke og mælkeprodukt er en “somme tidens mad” (med kød og fisk)
Men ikke i Danmark! Den er nogen man kan spise så meget hvis du vil gerne. Ligesom stivelsesholdige kulstoffer, den skal være de størrest dele af din kost.

En Dänemark, les livres biologique sont différents que reste du monde.
Dans le reste du monde, le lait et les produits laitiers est un “quelque fois nourriture”, avec la viane et le poisson.

Mais pas au Danemark! C’est quelque chose que on peut manger autant qu’on veut.
Tout comme les glucides, il faut constituer la plus grande portion de son alimentation.

I Danmark wa biology vitabu ni tofauti kutoka kwa mapumziko ya dunia.
Katika mapumziko ya dunia, maziwa na maziwa ni “chakula wakati mwingine”, pamoja na nyama na samaki.
Lakini si katika Denmark! Ni kitu ambacho unaweza kula hata kama wewe kama. Tu kama wanga, ni lazima fomu sehemu kubwa ya chakula

デンマークの学校は健全な食糧に関する真実を知らせない。 友人を言いなさい。

(Though, I got a Dane to check this for me and there is a Danish health movement trying to realign Denmark with scientific knowledge and away from the Dairy Board’s free publicity/lies so thank fuck for that. I was really embarrassed for Denmark to see such bollocks bandied about as science)

(Men, en danskere tjekket for mig og der er en danske sund – hold hvem prøver at justere Danmark med den anerkendte videnskabelige kendsgerninger og fra Hold Mælkeprodukts gratis reklame/løgne… hold da kæft sådan er jeg meget lettet. Det var meget pinligt for Danmark da jeg set sådan løgne som videnskab)

(Mais, une Dänoise a vérifié pour moi et il y a une équipe de santé danois qui tente de réaligner le Danemark aux connaissances scientifiques admises et loin de la publicité gratuite/mensonges d’office des produits laitiers. Ouf! Je suis très soulagée parce qu’il est est très embarrassant pour le Danemark lorsque telles bêtises sont pris comme vérité)

(Lakini moja Kideni kontrollerade kwa ajili yangu na kuna timu ya Kideni afya akijaribu realign Denmark na accepteras kisayansi maarifa na mbali kutoka bure reklam / uongo ex mejeriprodukter. Phew, mimi yalitoa faraja sana kwa sababu ni aibu sana kwa takataka Denmark ambapo kama ni kuchukuliwa kama ukweli)

(によくトランスレーターを信頼するには話さない。 しかしそれは点検するには十分に気遣ったこと大きい。 私は私が愛するように今日言ったか。 基本的にはすべては学ばれたI私のジョブを言う方法をだった。私は先生です。)

Projekt Dejlig, how did that go?

So, I set myself a challenge to really throw myself into life here and see how that went.

The sorts of things I did included

  • Getting Danish books out of the library
  • Buying Danish books
  • Listening to Danish radio
  • Buying Danish magazines
  • Reading Danish news websites
  • Watching Danish comedies and films
  • Attending Danish social events
  • Replying in Danish to Danes who replied to me in English

And do you know what? It made me much more unhappy. There is research out there and I must track it down, that suggests that the unhappiest immigrants are the ones who “interface” with the Danish culture and get stuck in.

I would read the news and find out that a Dane had killed his “mentally ill” daughter with a spanner (~JUST LIKE DADS DO EVERYWHERE~ whatever) and then the police minimised his crime and said they were a normal Danish family.
I would listen to the radio and they would invite racist extremists to request tracks.
I would watch the tv and they would dance and sing with racist extremists as if they were real people deserving of such warmth.
I would watch tv and see the way that my experience as an immigrant would be cast in the most disgusting light.
I would overhear islamophobia and have it presented in the media as “free speech”.
I would talk to Danes and get such horrible disrespect back. Not every time. Did I say it was every time? No. It was “just” half of the time.

So, in fact, Projekt Dejlig should have been about NOT interfacing with the culture at all. More like Projekt Brus. Where I close my door and do not let any of this sick and wrong nastiness in. I close the door and keep this ugly jealousy for my linguistic heritage out. I close the door and can forget the “normal Danish families” beating the life out of their daughters. I close the door and can forget that refugees are being sent “home” where they cannot even reunite with their families for fear of putting them at risk. I can forget about the school budgets being slashed and the abuse of children and the neglect of old people. Just watch my English language boxsets and have food from home sent in care packages. Just catch a plane and go somewhere else every few weeks. Just take photos of the beach and ignore the homeless drunks outside Fakta.

Back home, when I saw problems; like people desperately ill with AIDS unable to cook for themselves or the Government wanting to introduce id cards or teenagers not being able to read… I DID SOMETHING ABOUT IT. I campaigned, I volunteered, I donated, I blogged, I worked hard.
That person has not died just because I am a newcomer.

There is so much that is … I was going to say nice but I guess I mean “quaint”… about this country but to be brutally honest (and I am amongst loving friends, right?) it isn’t enough to cancel out the nastiness. I have to invest a lot of time in creating my own culture here isolated and insulated.

Now I have opened myself up to the refrain of “IF YOU THINK IT IS HORRIBLE THEN YOU SHOULD LEAVE” and I am so bored of answering this and will instead tell you why you are thinking it so loudly in my direction.

It is because you think that thoughtful analyses are only designed to make people unhappy. You think that change cannot (or should not!) happen. You think that you cannot make anything better. You think that as an outsider I have no right to try to change things or point out injustice.

Shame on you.

I am not pointing these things out to be a bitch. I am not pointing these things out to bring you down. I am not even pointing these things out as particularly “Danish” problems although they certainly have occurred in Denmark… I am bringing them up as the first stage in working out how to live with them or how to make them better.

You cannot have the rose without the thorns but you most definitely take the barbs off. You do not say “IF YOU DO NOT LIKE THORNS, YOU SHOULD STICK TO DAISIES”. You *change* what you can.

I came here to see what a country with such high standards of living (advertised) did to make things so great. I found out it was mis-sold and over hyped. My bad. I did check out the blogs and they were all very light and fluffy.
“It’s just like everywhere else, I guess” they sighed at their most critical.

I read a book about this country and it basically had “OH MY GOD, IT IS AWFUL!” on every page, a Dane who had lived abroad (in Singapore I think??) and come back and experienced the worse culture shock. And I thought “no, that won’t be MY experience”, now I know it is just “cultural” I am prepared for it.

So, this blog has several purposes. To keep the folks back home informed, to keep in contact with friends I have made here, to talk about my experiences with strangers going through the same thing, to talk about my experiences with strangers who are thinking about coming here, and to have a record for myself about what I went through.

And watching a woman abandon her baby outside of a shop because it was in a stupid, not fit for purpose, old fashioned pram; I was so bitterly disappointed in Oprah in identifying child neglect as a positive aspect of life here.

Yes, my work life balance is better. Yes, my flat is wonderful. Yes, I have great friends. Yes, pace of life is relaxing and easy. Yes, I have opportunities to walk in such beautiful places. No, it is not okay to leave a baby unattended while you shop in Tiger.

Another successful interaction with a man

Vejle bus station smells of desperation and the poops. Everyone is downcast, waiting for a bus to take them anywhere. Out. Away.
At 3pm I had settled myself, standing out of the main walkway, waiting for the Billund bus. Listening to what the kids call “an mp3 machine”, listening to my Pop Music.

A man shoved me to one side to get to the bin and then went back to standing to the side of me. I clocked him, mid twenties, not very bright, eating a sausage and a bread roll (but not together, he was not French or anything). I sighed at the ill use of my personal space. I caught a little satisfied grin from him and turned my back, stepping backwards again out of the way.

Another shove, this time much harder because I had positioned myself much closer to the wall. He moved back to where he was again. I took out my ear phones and gave him A Look. I think they taught me this look in teacher training college. It means

He looked back, the same facial expression as the man who pissed on me in the Kanye West concert “What do you mean this does not pass for flirting?” his look said.
Amused excitement to know a woman was looking at him.

“Why are you shoving me?”

Confusion. I have used English on purpose. If he cannot or will not answer me in English, I already know that I will give him a hard time about it.

“I had to get to the…” gestures to the bin.

His expression is hurt now, hurt and confused.

“You could have gone in front of me.”

He walks behind me but I move so he does not need to push again.

“What’s the fucking problem?”

A gift. A gift from him to me, like when a chess player does the wrong thing with the pawns at the start and the game is over before it begins.

I keep my voice soft and deceptively sweet, my eyes are cold and hard.

“Why are you swearing at me?”

I clasp my hands to my chest. Oh you brute! I am saying with my body language. He does not know what has hit him. I widen my eyes in fake surprise at his oafishness. There is no sign from me that I am upset or excited, everything is taken inwards. Cold and flinty. People around us have no idea this is a row.

“At least I didn’t ROB you.”

He wants gratitude that he only assaulted me, wanted props for not going further. He wants me to acknowledge that he, Bjarne Big Balls, *could* have taken my purse by force if he had wanted.

“Oh. Are you *drunk*?” My voice is light and dismissive, like I have already forgotten him. You can go now. “Is THAT what this is? You’re *drunk* at 3pm?”

He looks at the floor. Either he did not understand me and had no comeback or is indeed drunk. He shambles off to the toilet, muttering.

A few minutes later, he shambles back but this time avoiding eye contact and pretending to be on his mobile telephone.