You get rude people everywhere

True. You get rude people everywhere. People are dickheads, yo.

I have a question to open up to the group. I think collectively, my readership has probably travelled to and even lived in most countries in the world.

In any of those countries, is is socially acceptable to try to shove past a blind person or their assistance dog?

Because I saw two people trying to do that yesterday on the train. There were two blind people with an assistance dog. They were getting off the train at 21.30, the dog was going last and was waiting for the people to get down. See, the fucking DOG knew to give them some space and time to get down, what with the steps being tall and the gap to the platform being wide.

Honestly, they were not taking an obscene amount of time about it. Like, maybe an extra 5 seconds on how long a sighted person might take.

But the woman in front of me grew tired of this and tried to shove past the dog. And the man behind me, grew tired of me giving them space and tried to shove past me to get out.

Let me repeat, it was 21.30. Where could they have needed to go in such a hurry? And how much difference does five seconds really make to a journey? And why is it socially acceptable to even DO THAT?

Are there any other countries where it is socially acceptable to shove a blind person?


NOTE TO READER: Notice the difference between ‘socially acceptable to shove a blind person’ and ‘everyone in a particular country shoves blind people if they get a chance’. It’s subtle but it’s there.

A question of perception

I got into a discussion at work about what I would like to do next year. I do not really know what I will do next year. I would like to move to a big city and have a nice teaching job. Though which city, which teaching job… that is all up in the air.

I made the point that I would need to find a really good job to justify staying in Denmark and went on to elaborate that I “hate it here”*, so having a horrible job on top of that would be too much.

Obviously, this led us down the alley of “Why do you hate it here?” but before this was established, he said
“If you hate it, you should leave.”

I replied that I would like to, in fact, I made plans to do so two years ago but getting with a Danish boyfriend spoiled it. He asked me what had kept me in the country if I did not like it. And I said that I really liked my job and I wanted to be with my boyfriend.

Then he wanted some concrete examples of what I did not like about Denmark but I must point out, that he was looking defensive and angry *at this stage*.

I gave him a quick précis, Disgruntled Foreigner 101. Discourtesy in shops/the street, rudeness from Danes in one-to-one situations, racism, being “invisible” in social situations and my social life effectively ending when I got here. I stressed it was not all Danes but these bad interactions are random and unpredictable which makes it difficult to relax.

First he asked me “what do YOU do when Danes are not speaking to you?” I told him that I do speak to them but they go on ignoring me and reminded him of the Knitting Club Incident of 2009. “Have you got any Danish friends?” I told him that I have three. (I actually have four if you count my boyfriend.) I told him that I went on holiday for a month and made that many friends, in other foreign countries.

Secondly, he tried to tell me that the rudeness and racism I was experiencing was not rudeness or racism. He tried to tell me I had interpreted it all wrong. I told him that I gave the rude Danish people the benefit of the doubt for 18 months and then realised that the rude ones are in fact rude. I told him that I refused to dismiss The Danes as savages and say that they cannot help it, that being racist/rude is somehow cultural and excusable. Plus, even in the case where racism affects me but it was not meant as an attack, it was just a clumsy ignorant person acting on their base instincts:- it still affects me! I guess I forgive them their trespasses but it still impinges on my quality of life, even if I find some way to rationalise how they behaved.

I said that that sort of “doubt your own perception of events” was another part of the problem, that foreigners are often told they are wrong, they have seen rudeness where none exists. And that this was not very helpful. I know what is going on. I admitted that more than occasionally, it is hard to confirm:- was that person a dick generally (and to everyone), or did I get “special” treatment. But against that backdrop, if you are getting treated like shit semi-regularly, does it matter if it was “personal” or not? It still feels shitty, right?

I reminded him of the mercury spill at work that is only now, two years later, being dealt with. I told him how that made me feel like I was not safe. That since work and my doctor had not been concerned with a major chemical spill, that my physical safety was in jeopardy.

He told me that I should leave if I felt that way, again. I said that I wanted to but I have a boyfriend here who would like to finish his education.

He asked in a very frustrated manner “Is there ANYTHING you like about Denmark?”

I answered, “I suppose the beaches are nice?” Shit man, like, sure there are good things about Denmark but they are not *specific* to Denmark. I could find many of the advantages of Denmark in Sweden, France, Germany, the UK (etc etc) and a completely different set of disadvantages.

He said “I think you are generalising.”

And I drew closer and I said really softly.

“Listen to me. I am not. I am really really not. I am saying a minority of Danes are like that and it is ENOUGH to make me want to leave. A minority are like that. The majority are probably ok. But of course, I notice the bad ones more because they are up in my business.”

“You are generalising about that minority.”

“Uh. Ok. I am quite happy to generalise about the minority that I have met who have treated me badly… I am categorically not saying all Danes. Some Danes. Enough Danes.”

Then he said “I think you are being very direct and very honest about your feelings.”

“Yeah, I’ve really integrated.”

He did not laugh even though I did. And then he said,

“I think you need to persuade your boyfriend to leave, if you hate here and go. You shouldn’t stay here if you do not like it.”

I replied that he should take it up with my boyfriend.

I told a couple of Danish colleagues about the conversation. One said “WHO THE FUCK DOES HE THINK HE IS? How DARE he tell you what to do!” Another said “How can he say YOUR EXPERIENCE is wrong? I mean, shit, I might move to the UK and think ‘What a terrible country!’ for exactly the same reasons and it doesn’t make the UK a *bad place*, it’s just my experience of it. It’s YOUR experience! He can’t tell you that you are wrong about something like that.” I said that I know foreigners who like it here, so obviously it is not all Danes. “Yeah, of course it isn’t. But that doesn’t invalidate your experience.”

If you needed more “they’re not all like that” proof, I went to my doctor and he said

“You know there are loads of English speakers in this town, right? I don’t suppose it’s easy to make friends if you speak Danish as a second language. Would you like me to give them your number?” so giving “foreign in Denmark” as a symptom really paid off!

And, of course, there are my three Danish friends who are awesome, kind and friendly. On top of that, there are a few Danish acquaintances who are the same. So, I do get that they are not all like that. I do understand they are diverse. (Not only do I understand it but I said it repeatedly.)

However, that does not improve my feelings about meeting bad-danes who interfere with my natural good cheer. Knowing a few dozen nice Danes personally, it doesn’t help when someone is rude or tries racism on me.

I told my boyfriend over the phone about the conversation and he laughed. It is funny. Sort of. No, actually, it is all the way funny. That a general conversation about how a culture is not a good match for my temperament was taken so personally, that is laughable. That a conversation about how people in parties treat me could make someone (who has never treated me badly), feel angry at me for having my feelings hurt, that is funny.

A man tried to jump the queue in Føtex (maybe he didn’t see there was a queue but he sure as hell didn’t turn his head the 45˚ necessary to check) and I patted his arm and said, there’s a queue, I’m in it. And he said “Oh, it’s like THAT is it?” and I said “Yes. That’s right,” and smiled and that was the end of the discussion.

Which only goes to show how much I have levelled up in four years.


*I probably don’t “hate it here”, I probably mostly “dislike it here”. But yeah.  It varies from hate to very-mild-dissatisfaction.

One from the vaults: Limited Choice

Through my colourful couple of years in London, I have a good working knowledge of several counter-cultures. One such “community” (ugh, what a word), like nothing more than to get a partner to make day-to-day decisions and otherwise limit choice to a narrow range. They then write long (and often derivative) poetry about how “free” they feel in this lifestyle and it is always the same: “because I do not have any choice about little things, I feel a lot better about my life.”

Wow, right?

What strikes me about life in Denmark is that it is *just like that*. Even without “my own Viking” to subtly manipulate me into being one of his belongings by bringing me to a country where I rely on him to translate everything and do my speaking for me; my social life revolves around him, his family and his priorities and my home decor and belongings reflect his heritage alone.

(Quick aside: I use that as a rule of thumb… if a woman calls her Danish-husband “her Viking” then there is probably a power-play at work with an uneven dynamic in his favour. It’s their choice, I am not judging but that’s one of the signs I use. Maybe you will too!)

Even without a personal one-to-one relationship with a controlling/manipulative Dane, I feel the same dynamic in my day to day life.

For example, there is very little choice in the shops. If I want to be happy, I have to sharply lower my expectations and hopes. Once this is achieved, I feel “free” just like those women I used to read on the internet.

In the street, people are breathtakingly rude. Back home, people pay good money to be treated in such a way.

I *say* the street, I do in fact mean *everywhere*. At work, in the street, in bars and even in my own home if I invite Danes back.

For example, I entered a café and a woman ran from the back of the room to the bar to get there before me. For example, at work I had to sit around doing nothing for more than half an hour because a colleague acted selfishly. She had every opportunity to act selflessly, I and a colleague told her three times (and in Danish, for what it’s worth), so don’t give me the “language barrier”, “praps she was unaware of what she was doing” guff. She knew. She did it anyway. For example, I have had house-guests say rude things to me in an attempt to shame me into acting in a different (more Danish) way even though the way I am acting is acceptable (in that it does not hurt anyone).

In a way, this is also freeing. My daily acts are separated from the expectation that they will be greeted with pleasure or acknowledgement. I may even be “punished” for acting in goodwill. This makes me much more secure in my idea of what makes me a good person. Did I hold doors open in the UK because I was “good” or because I wanted the smile from the person I was helping? Now, here, it only occasionally makes people visibly happy so if I keep doing it, it is because I am “good” and nothing else.

There is a downside, I feel like this is an easy way out. If I lived in the UK, I might be unhappy because there were too many possibilities, too much choice and too much chance of me having to think for myself. Here, straitened by having little or no choice, I feel a sense of euphoria. I do not have to think for myself! I do not have to worry about what to have for dinner: it’s going to be pork and potato! I do not have to worry about “is daycare the right option for my child?” because OF COURSE IT IS! I do not have to think of others first, I can just think about me! (To think that I used to waste time thinking “what would I do if an elderly person, a person with physical disabilities AND a pregnant woman/person holding an infant all got on the bus at the same time? Who would I give my seat to????” !)

But it is cheap. A cheap and dirty hack of my mind’s circuitry. If the only thing that can give me “joy” is if I have Georg Jensen cutlery or that weird paper lampshade thing, then life is exceptionally easy as long as I save up my øre to afford them (by being tight with money).

In the past what would give me “joy” was complicated by having to think deeply about my priorities and my interests and then narrow the possibilities down by what I could afford and what I wanted to spend time on. Here, that is not only unnecessary but ill-advised.

For example, a hangover from my free-range life in London, I am growing food on my windowsill. It makes me happy, I see green things every day and my food is super fresh. They are growing really well and I might have to transplant them outside now the weather is improving. This excites me on a level I am not ready to blog about yet.

Apparently, I understand now this should not make me happy because it is “weird” to grow vegetables on your windowsill.

Thinking for myself may have made me *think* I was happy but I can see now, that I was wrong. I should have done what everyone else is doing and only then I would be truly happy. Why didn’t I understand that people are only happy if they grow flowers  (one plant pot), on their windowsill and maybe a plant pot next to the front door step?

If you will excuse me, I feel a long (and derivative) poem coming on about how free I feel now that Danes have manipulated me into self-doubt and dependency on Their Words.