International Society converged on downtown Herning last night, and of those 90+ attendees, about 90% of them were foreigners (AKA "non-Danes").
I could write about how many different nationalities we had represented last night (at least 26!); I could also write about the various reasons that these foreigners have all found themselves living around Herning, Denmark (working @ companies like Siemens or Vestas, studying at the Århus University campus in Herning, or like me, married to a Dane!); and I could also write about how much fun it was to watch all these nationalities interact with each other as we "crawled" from pub to pub throughout downtown Herning. But I want to write about something else.... something that I found to be a PLEASANT SURPRISE last night.....something that I think is THERE, we just have to look a little harder for it sometimes... and that is how the DANES (the non-members of our group...you know, just the regular Danish people out for their own fun time last night) reacted to us.
It was quite a sight to see as 90+ people made their way from pub to pub down the "gågade" (walking streets) in Herning, and as 90+ people all entered the same pub at the same time, I am sure that sight was REALLY interesting to see from "the outside", so of course, people stopped (some stared) and wondered what was going on! But I have to give the Danes credit because EVERY interaction I had with the "normal Danish community" last night was 100% positive as I (or people I was with) explained to them (usually in English) what the heck we were doing. I heard things like:
"Wow, I had no idea Herning had something for the foreigners here. That is amazing."
"Why didn't someone start something like this sooner? Looks like it is a great thing!"
"This came from a project at the Erhvervsrådet (Chamber of Commerce)? I had no idea they were doing things like this! Neat!"
"And you don't know each other before you meet at one of these events? What a cool thing to do; meeting all those new people like that."
"What are you guys doing next?!"
"And can Danes become a part of this?!"
We assume Danes don't like foreigners. We assume Danes don't want foreigners here. But that assumption is something the media teaches us. (Ok, there are some who feel this way, I know. But we cannot ASSUME that the entire country does just because a few outspoken buttheads are the ones grabbing the microphones the most often!!!!)
The Danes we interacted with last night, all throughout Herning, welcomed us. They liked seeing us come out of our homes and comfort zones and mix it up with people who, truthfully, are quite different from ourselves. So I think we accomplished 2 things last night--- well, actually 3--that were not even our purpose for the event:
Accomplishment #1) I (and we) discovered that the Danes DO accept us as part of their community!
Accomplishment #2) We showed the city of Herning that foreigners are actually not that different than they are. We, too, put on our pants one leg at a time, and we, too, like to let our hair down and have a good time with friends... and drink Carlsberg!
Accomplishment #3) The Danes were able to see that "mixing it up" with people who are so different from oneself can be a FUN and rewarding thing.... and now maybe some of them will try it in their own lives in the future. If that happens, we will have accomplished more than we could have ever hoped!