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.