Where do you meet these people?

I have instituted a foreigner-bubble to protect me from the shit going on in the news. Fact is, I have enough on my plate with stuff that I cannot blog about.

Still, in terms of integration, things are going alright. Aarhus is way better than Fredericia in terms of opportunities to socialise and relax. I feel a bit more at home here than I did in Fredericia. At-homeness would peek in at the weekends when I went to the neighbour-baker and got some pastries. That was it though.

Some people have asked me how it was to integrate. What it was like to come here seven years ago and settle down. And I tell them about the high points and the low points. If they are Danish, they will make a comment on the low points. Where do I meet these people? How unlucky I was to meet such unkind people! How I must be focusing on a few outliers because they surely were not the norm.

But in Fredericia, it was about 50/50. Half of the time, the people I met were friendly and helpful and the other half, they would not have pissed on me were I on fire.

Of course, friendly kind people cannot imagine someone being so rude or so unwelcoming. It’s like when women talk about street harassment and regular men are incredulous and think she is exaggerating or making it up entirely.

What would be easy, now that things are fine, would be to gloss over the details and just focus on how good things are now. This would make my conversations less awkward. It would mean I wouldn’t have to defend myself against the implication that I did something to deserve it. But I don’t. I talk about it because this is a missing piece of the integration puzzle.

Every time the news or the politicians talk about the dirty foreigners who do not even speak Danish properly, they never talk to one of them to find out why. Why is easy: I tried to practice and people were hostile and so I limited my interactions to things I knew I could do. Having a conversation with me in Danish is possible but unpleasant because I had a difficult decision

Through Door One: I could have tried to socialise with Danish people I liked with my shitty Danish. But I liked them. I didn’t want to put them through it and I wanted them to enjoy my company.

Through Door Two: I could have tried to make more small talk with strangers to level up. But I was flipping a coin every time to see if they were total shits about my accent. I’m resilient but I’m not that resilient.

So I didn’t go through either door. Which meant that when I went to my union rep training last year all but about two people were total fucking pricks about my accent for the first three days. Let’s focus on the two, on the outliers: one was a foreigner and therefore easy going. The other was actually famous for some talent show and was just effortlessly cool and awesome. He talked to me like a human being. A few of them warmed up over the next few sessions but only because I had decided ‘fuck em’ and if they gave me any shit, I blocked them out. I brought a book for the coffee sessions in case they were ignoring me and I read chapters and chapters. I tried though, in the first 3 days. I broke down in tears after trying so hard.

Though, it’s not the ignoring that gets me. I am so used to it. Honestly, I have learned that the types of people who ignore people at their table who are nodding, giving eye contact and smiling because they assume that they don’t understand Danish because they heard a foreign accent usually have nothing of consequence to say. These people lack the critical thinking needed to realise I understand more than I can say and thusly lack the critical thinking necessary to contribute anything of note to the dialogue.

What gets me, is the vinegar face when they hear my accent. And the repeating back what I said with a singy-songy accent. And the discounting of ANYTHING I have to say unless a Dane repeats it.

So, why do so many foreigners like me have such bad accents? Well, it’s simple. A clear majority of people I have ever spoken more than transactional Danish with (as in “Can I have a sandwich?” “Where is the post office?”), are not able to listen without making me feel uncomfortable.

You want accentless-foreigners? You have to start talking to the ones with the thick accents in such a way that makes them want to keep talking.

5 thoughts on “Where do you meet these people?

  1. “I have instituted a foreigner-bubble to protect me from the shit going on in the news. Fact is, I have enough on my plate with stuff that I cannot blog about.”
    Been there, done that. :-/

    “How I must be focusing on a few outliers because they surely were not the norm.”
    Ha, ha! Right. Because Danes don’t do that.

    “It’s like when women talk about street harassment and regular men are incredulous and think she is exaggerating or making it up entirely.”
    Fuck that’s annoying. So, the only option to avoid facing such a condescending reaction is to shut up and keep our problems to ourselves, or be called a liar and a crazy person. :-/

    “But I don’t. I talk about it because this is a missing piece of the integration puzzle.”
    It takes courage, because it’s not easy.

    About door number 1 and 2:
    Danes and their demands for hearing their language spoken without an accent! The ways we get punished socially for not being born here are too numerous and obscene to recount.

    I wish I could pretend I don’t understand Danish. Speaking English to Danes is much more enjoyable than trying to integrate. The lesson we should all learn from the Danes obnoxious behavior is that we shouldn’t even try to learn their language. They don’t deserve it, and we risk seeing our lives turn into a living hell as thanks for our efforts. They have a whole other personality when they speak English. It’s like they know they can only get away with being total pricks when they hide behind a language nobody (in their right mind) gives a shit about.

    They are not aloof and reserved (as the common excuse goes). They are actively shunning people like you and me to punish us for not being how they want us to be (not the right hair color, not the right ethnic facial features, and not the right accent). They are saying: “Stupid Brit/frog! You are not quite at the level I require yet, so I will make you feel bad in the hope you bend over backwards to please me.” (By the way, our cultures surpasses theirs in influence and greatness by a long shot, but I have met many Danes who talk to me with the nose in the air and pinched lips, and have the smugness to prentend the situation is reversed.) If this was a dating situation, they would be the guy who attacks a woman’s self-esteem in the hope that she will be so needy, that she’ll work hard to score him (in order to prove to herself that she is worthy/get his validation). Denmark: my self-esteem isn’t that low, I am onto you, and you can fuck yourselves. And no, I am not going to die my hair blond in the desperate hope to fit among Nazi sympathizers in either.

    “He talked to me like a human being. (…) I broke down in tears after trying so hard.”
    Now, that is the rare experience we need to remember and appreciate, otherwise it’s easy to forget Danes are not all virulent bigots with a penchant for rudeness/aloofness, harassment, backstabbing, and rape as tools to keep you in line.

    “You want accentless-foreigners? You have to start talking to the ones with the thick accents in such a way that makes them want to keep talking.”
    This country has no idea what integration means. You can’t integrate someone you despise and treat like crap. And we are both highly educated, Christian Westerners, so let’s face it: they are hypocrites who don’t like anybody, and they rest of the Western world should know that, instead of getting infected by the rampant bigotry veiled by well-worded excuses and myths of tolerance. The fact that all Western countries seem to be influencing each other, and devolving into a society without compassion, integrity or actual values (Christian or otherwise) is a MAJOR problem.

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  2. Thanks, Kel! You’ve frased it all so nicely that I want to print it out and carry copies in my purse for handing out. I wanted to add that this ‘language issue’ has made me so sensitive that I get a panic attack every time some Dane interrogates me about the length of my stay and my Danish skills.
    I’ve been feeling enormously guilty for not wanting to speak Danish anymore. Most of my attempts were met with the vinegar face and a loud “HVAD?” which I find very rude.

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    1. Just speak English, and don’t feel guilty about it. Some Danes will even admit that their compatriots have a whole other personality when they speak English, and it’s a much nicer one.
      My own Danish is still not good enough for Danes’ taste (it never will be; I speak like prince Henrik), but it’s too good to fake it and pretend I don’t understand. You sound like you can still get away with it, so do it.

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  3. It’s nice (well not nice, but I appreciate it) that other people have had experiences like me. The violent shift in my mood and confidence when people are mean or impatient with my Danish is crazy. It’s no wonder they think it’s a hard language – they mark it hard!
    I’ve started working in a cafe, because Danes won’t acknowledge that I’m an educated and experienced person worth giving a professional job, and the other employees almost don’t talk to me except to order me around. The other new people have pretty much fitted in and all seem to be making friends with everyone, but I’m just some random foreigner to be ignored. I have to speak Danish at work but when I don’t understand something they act like I’m an idiot rather than still learning their stupid language…

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    1. It’s good that you call yourself optimist. You are going to need it.
      It’s not just you. This is typical behavior.

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