I met a bunch of people socially a few weeks ago. It was some sort of foreigner meetup but we were all strangers so it was like a 10-way first date. More fun than that sounds. Anyway, the event planner knows me from this very organ and we had a chat about blogging. Then some of the guys said “You’re not going to *blog* this, are you?” and I was like “Well, no. Probably not. No. Not like you think.”
A lot of bloggers do a blow-by-blow or a retelling of things of interest. I am not above a bit of that. But, no, I’m not going to blog everything that happened. However. There was something interesting that happened and you need the context of “a bunch of international strangers, having a chat in Denmark.”
I started wittering on about my downstairs neighbour (who you may recall was a drunk drug dealing scumbag), and I made the “joke” about him having a Dutch name, which made him, what, fifth generation immigrant. And then said “You know, you really have to watch those guys. Those fifth or sixth generation immigrants.”
Jesus, it is a wonder I am not booked for parties. Imagine seeing my material live!
The guy looked kind of, well, you can probably imagine… Put off by a racist. Put off by someone who said something really fucking stupid about immigration. Confused that she thought it was funny. That face. The face of a nice man who is not amused by “jokes” about seventh generation Dutch immigrants in Denmark all being drug dealers.
Then later I find out that he is seriously fresh off the boat. Maybe a week or something. Maybe less. I keep bumping into people who have just arrived. Like those Estonian au pairs I met who had arrived that day.
Obviously, this information came as somewhat of a relief. It wasn’t my joke that was weak, he just had no context in which to find it funny.
What everyone needs to remember is, is that Denmark is like Britain in the 80s. They’re just finishing with half day closing on a Saturday. You can sometimes get bagels. They have just realised that carbs are not the way to lose weight.
They are also disproportionately hung up on the idea of someone’s heritage. (Obvs there are individuals in Denmark who are so over that shit). Now, I am a curious woman. If I meet someone who seems to have a family background in another continent, I might ask them “Hey, where’s your family from?” but it’s very unlikely to be my first question. It probably won’t even be in the top ten. But I like to hear about people’s backgrounds. You know, eventually. It’s nice to get around to it.
However, I won’t then label this person as a 2nd, 3rd, 4th immigrant. If they were born in my country, they’re from my country. It’s really simple. And seriously, even if they identify more strongly with the place of their parents’ birth, that is fine too. But they’re still British. In my heart. (Where, obviously, it counts). I even count people who arrived in Britain as children and teens (and shit, even adults), as British if they’ve stuck it out longer than maybe five years.
In Denmark, this is not a thing. If you have a foreign background which shows up on your facial features or skin tone or accent, then you are ALWAYS an immigrant. Second. Third. Fourth. Descendants. They like to label them as “other”. They like to measure their criminality. Their achievement at school. Their integration. And if they are found lacking, well, that is widely publicised. And if they are not, they find another way to measure it until they are found lacking.
I read a (boring), article about children learning a second language as the main language of instruction in schools. What I took away from it was that Danish children who were considered “second gen” do much worse than their peers whose parents come from Denmark. In Britain, “second gen” have no difference in achievement. Whatever language they speak at home.
There is an irony here that I want to unpick. In my country, it’s a multiculture. You do your thing and as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, everyone’s okay with it. But if you were born in my country, you’re British. You just get to define what that means on your own terms. In Denmark, it is aggressively maintained as a monoculture. You are strongly “encouraged” to give up your cultural practices, your linguistic heritage, your identity, even which foods you like to eat at home. But even if you were born in Denmark AND do all that, you’re still not Danish. You’re a descendant or bilingual or different heritage or non-ethnic or ethnic. Depending on who does the describing. There are uglier words. Often, when ignorant people are talking, they simply say “Muslim”. Muslim! Whether the person is Muslim or not. As if “ethnic Danish” people can’t be Muslim too.
What this means is that the culture of Denmark is forcing children into an identity of foreigner, when this culture is all they have ever really known and are allowed to know. And then, when they fail, blames their heritage on their failure. What would they know about their heritage? They are strongly discouraged from having anything to do with it!
The reason why my joke was so very apt, was that there are masses of descendants who are considered “ethnic” Danish. And their families come from the Netherlands, France, Norway, Sweden and so on.
Now, a lot of people say that these cultures are the same, so they might as well be ethnic Danes. BOLLOCKS. The history of the Dutch settlers on Amager, the Huguenots in Fredericia, the other Scandys all over… they were very different people with different languages, foods, customs. Shit, the Dutch didn’t allow marriage with Danes for more than a hundred years when they lived on Amager. The Huguenots got chucked out of their country for being religious nutjobs.
I have heard of children from Korea being adopted, growing up, having children and then those children being taunted with “You’re not Danish, you should go home.” Don’t give me “cultural differences”, it’s just boring racism.
No one gives a shit if you are second generation British or third generation Swede only in the case that you are white. If you are a black British person settling in Denmark, you and your kids are going to operate under a completely different set of “rules” than I ever will. And we have more or less the same culture, certainly the same cultural values. So. BOLLOCKS.
I have to keep reminding myself that Denmark is my country but 30 years retarded. I have to keep saying it over and over. Because I REMEMBER in the 80s, shit like “Which team would you support if England played Jamaica” being vitally important to twats. I remember all this “African persuasion” shit. I remember it all. So, I just have to be patient and kind and occasionally kick some bottoms until they get it.