Multiculturalism and Integration

My country has its flaws.

Anyway. The thing about multiculturalism (where new people integrate) as opposed to monoculturalism (where new people assimilate) is that it is better in every way.

When new people arrive in my country, they are not thought of as guests. Even the Poles. Some immigrant groups are rich and some immigrant groups are poor. In line with our general snobbishness, we “like” the rich groups and we “don’t like” the poor ones. But after a couple of generations when the poor ones have become rich, we cannot remember what it was we did not like about them in the first place.

The benefits of having immigrant groups that retain their culture are great. There are the obvious culinary benefits. Then there are the times you can have interesting discussions about “what makes a good person good?”. You can learn new swearwords. You can celebrate new festivals.

The drawbacks are when people get jealous, insular or resentful. From the very recently arrived, through to the “family in Britain for three generations” all the way to “can trace heritage to Doomsday book”.

Most “immigrant groups” adopt British culture but they are able to pick and choose the aspects they like. Often they leave out the stuff that British people do not even like about themselves (the self destructive drinking, the Tall Poppy Syndrome, the teenage pregnancies) and keep the good stuff.

The thing about “British values” is that they are

  • Get a job
  • Pay tax
  • Be polite and helpful
  • Set the world to rights

And therefore not particularly “British” as such and most cultures that come to Britain, they were doing that back home anyway. Plus other good things like being good to old people and having strong family ties.

I do not have any haughtiness about my culture. Take it or leave it. If you want to live in the UK and do things like in Poland, that is no business of mine. If my culture is attractive enough then it will get adopted but I do not need to take it personally if it is rejected. Face it, there is plenty about my culture that I do not like and reject myself.
Why get upset about someone with a different hat on doing the same thing as me? Guest, my arse.

(When was the last time you had a house guest, by the way, and you told them they had to do everything exactly like you or get a hotel?)

All this talk of integration in Denmark makes me feel really queasy. When people tell me to integrate, it is usually in the form of pressure to ride my bike, eat pig and cream, drink booze and speak fluent Danish. If I decide that some of that is not for me (or will take a little time to get used to), then I am chided.
I get it easy because most stranger-danes think I am Swedish so I get away with murder.

At no point does the discussion on the news or in the staffrooms extend to questioning whether I would even *want* the alternative. I mean, my journey (such as it is) has always been to explore how the education system varies in other countries. At no point did I even consider I would “convert” to Danishness.

I think the whole expectation that someone would do that quite silly. If being Danish was obviously a more attractive prospect than any of the alternatives, there would be no need for an integration ministry. And while the government has recognised that people need assistance, still all of the responsibility is pushed onto the newcomer. They are told over and over “you are guests!” and no concession is made to the idea that outsiders may have better ways of doing things or at least interesting viewpoints. They are told to shut up or get out.

If I think of the times I have been told to “learn Danish faster” without any promise of help or support, it makes me a bit tearful.

And that is why immigrants do not last very long in Denmark unless they marry in.


In the first of my occasional series of

Things Danes Have Said To Me With Shining Eyes

Could be talking about pudding, could be talking about bestiality, could be about freedom of religion
It's time to school a foreigner
  1. First, you get some rice pudding. Then you add sugar and mand…. almonds, thank you, almonds. Then you add in some cream and then some CHERRY sauce. It is very very nice. Very nice. It is lovely.
  2. But IN DENMARK, as long as you are not hurting the animal, it is legal to have sex with a cat.

Cover Up

Many people have said this before and I will say it again. The Danish society does not live up to the Danish hype.

I am valuable, my government has sunk thousands of pounds into my health, wellbeing and education. And here I am, highly educated and ready to use my skills… in another country. Paying their taxes.

You better believe the Danish state has been courting me to get me here.

So many things are hyped which are too good to be true. And when you find out, you slap your forehead and say “well, of course, it is just like anywhere else!”

Funny though, some more desired visitors are coming for the conference. Rich leaders and their media. It has to be one hell of a show. To attract tourists and to attract “free gift” immigrants like me.

In Denmark, we do not protest. Well. We can have police approved ones but if it gets a bit… free speechy, the police read the riot act and then get out the weapons which are banned in wars (water cannon, chemical weapons, big sticks, oh my) and beat the protesters up.

People might be disgusted with that. So, the Danish police are trying to scare people away. You know, law abiding Danish people. They are trying to say the ONLY people who might get in trouble in the protests are “violent” and “anarchist”. They are dry humping free speech with their adverts for the uncomfortable prisons.
Who are we supposed to think they are aimed at? Anarchists are NOT going to see a photo of a cage and think “you know what, public consent for policing IS best”. Violent rent-a-mob types are NOT going to hear about forty days detention and think “next time I get drunk and go to a protest, I will try not to throw rocks at a window and headbutt a bystander”.
They are working on YOUR fears, YOUR anxieties, YOUR neuroses.

Then, if there is trouble, they can say “KUN FOREIGN TROUBLE MAKERS GIK AMOK” and not have to face articulate, law abiding Danes saying “Uh, I think you will find, that the police overreacted”

They are hoping they can keep the protest far away and small. The UN has said “no, it’s fine, let the protesters close to the conference, we’re legitimately democratic… it’s fine”
But the Danish state has said “protesters are welcome only in a far away protest zone”

The Danish state made prostitution legal (because it hates women??) and the world might think it seedy if the prostitutes had a high income from the conference delegates. So, the Danish state is leaving little postcards asking (begging), the hotels not to hook up delegates with women who work as prostitutes.

The conference is being attended by people who flew there. The conference is being lit and heated. The conference is going to have a concert, with bright lights and speakers. The conference is going to waste a lot of energy and put a lot of carbon dioxide in the air. The conference is going to be a lot of fun for some very rich and powerful people. And all they are going to decide is that rich people should be allowed to get much richer. That the poor people should be distracted by pretending that carbon trading is a thing. (Because we all know what a resounding success money trading has been.)

So, they say that they have thought of the colossal waste. The have paid some Bengalis NOT to have an international climate conference so that should be quite enough. Sådan.

It is a cover up. A white wash on top of a green wash on top of a stone wall.

When it all gets newsworthy, do you think the world’s media will pretend like they knew all along what Denmark is like or will the angle be more disappointed-shock at socialist paradise gone wrong?
Want to put money on it?

The Hardest Language

Another conversation with a Dane, a miniature one, that I had not met before. She was saying it was cute when I spoke Danish and of course, of COURSE, it got on to “say rød grød med fløde” and I swallowed hard (I can say it, but it is not the point) and I said

“Jeg kan ikke lide kogt bær og mejeri er ikke lige mig,” just like the podcast told me to.
And she and her friend looked at each other and pretended they did not understand, so I wrote it down and they claimed that “dairy” isn’t a word (but it IS), and so I gave them my iPod and let them listen to the podcast.

The introduction is quite sweet “Language Learner Enemy #1 is someone who tries to make you feel silly for trying to speak the language”. And they sunk in their seats and looked a bit abashed, just a bit… Like their minds had opened up a crack and how it feels to be foreign occurred to them for the first time.

And then the girl said “Danish the hardest language” and I said
“Yes, because of the Danes”

Let’s look at it from the outside. It has the same alphabet as my language, a lot of the same vocabulary, minimal grammar … all very user friendly. There are fewer words to learn and only a small proportion of possible words are actually spoken.

It should be a breeze. Easier than French (grammar is hard, lots of words), German (grammar is CRAZY), Dutch (pronunciation is tricky), Japanese (alphabet, grammar, voices for different situation, vocabulary), Swahili (all that new vocabulary), Welsh (pronunciation and grammar). All of those, that I felt like I had learned at one point or another.

But when I try, I am repelled. And at the sprogskole I am taught how to apply for a job as a cleaner or how great democracy is or how to talk to my non existent kids. So, anything I have learned to speak in my actual life, I have learned on my own and it is prone to mistakes. And I swear to God, I have been misunderstood simply saying “Tuborg”

The language is not so difficult but the mental problems a lot of people have here make it so. And if you are a Dane thinking “I do NOT make it hard for someone to speak Danish to me” then I will bet you have friends that you know for a fact do so. This stuff is commonplace enough to be called “culture”.

It is a nice cultural myth, though, that this language is The Hardest, must give a lovely rush of “I AM A CLEVER BOY/GIRL FOR LEARNING IT AS A BABY” when someone thinks it.

So, it is up to you. You want foreigners to speak Danish within four months of landing here (judging by when a lot of people switched over in my experience)? Then you listen respectfully when they speak to you and you TRY to understand.
In a few years, they will be perfect but in that time, they will mangle the vowels and smash the syntax. And if you want them to be perfect, you have to change how you listen.

How else do you think the 390.1 million people who speak English as a second or third (or more) language manage it?

Or you could keep on being obnoxious when someone makes the effort and keep the “Hardest Language” badge but realise that people will probably not learn it to a high level.

It’s your country, decide for yourselves.