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.

4 thoughts on “Multiculturalism and Integration

  1. and many of those who have married into the country loathe these expectations and want desperately to leave.

    I’m so sick of this monoculturalism and the petty insults!

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  2. Our values used to be mre or less the same as those “British values” you quote. I don’t know where all this f*cking “danske værdier”-bullshit came from all of a sudden.

    (Tho as a matter of fact I do know: the rise of Danish xenophobia was orchestrated by a very targeted campain led by a limited number (<= 100) of very active members of the extreme right wing – read abut it here, among other places: http://www.faklen.dk/faklen/11/hoejre2.php ).

    All things told, I think it would be fair to say that quite a fair number of immigrants actually HAVE lasted in Denmark (long enough for their kids to be Danish citizens), and seem in no hurry of leaving. Which is good :-).

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  3. Great post, apart from that.

    One funny thing:
    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….

    Well, these people are obviously talking through their hmmmm, posterior parts. Lots of Danes own cars and don’t use bikes, lots of Danes are vegetarian, lots of Danes do weight watching and stay away from cream, and there are even some Danes (like myself) who don’t drink booze. All of these things have fuck all to do with nationality or “integration”.

    As for speaking fluent Danish, what IS fluent Danish anyway? If you go far West, to Skive or Hanstholm, people most definitely don’t talk the way they do in Copenhagen. And in the “ghettos” new dialects are created by native speakers who mix the language with sounds and phrases from Arabic and Turkish (and lots of English). So people who chide people for not speaking fluent Danish when they’re not born here have too much time on their hands.

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  4. Good post … it’s a shame that we have to spend so much time and effort stating the obvious (but not obvious to many Danes). One of the few things that I like about Denmark is how much I’ve learned about xenophobia and racism in my years here, I don’t think I could have learned as much anywhere else.

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