Saturday, May 28, 2011

How I See Denmark

After yesterday's blog about Discrimination, I have been doing a lot of thinking about how I, Kelli Nørgaard, see Denmark. And why it is that some people have such a hard time believing that what I see is REAL... that what I see is not part of some "Honeymoon Phase filled with Windmills and Rainbows".  

Although I don't deny that I love looking at the windmills that spot the landscape in Jylland....

Yes, some of the decisions made by the Danish government make me SICK to my stomach, but because I am not a citizen, I cannot vote and try to make changes through the democratic system.  (So I have 2 choices-- complain because I am not able to vote and change what I hate..... or find another way in....)

So I choose to go in from a different angle. I work to change the way that the Danish government and the Danish society SEE THE IMMIGRANT. Everything I do in my life (personally, professionally and as a volunteer) are about leaving my world better than how I found it. 

That is not some new age philosophy I took up when I moved to Denmark. It is the way I live my life. It is not some systematic plot to make other immigrants look bad. It is just who I am and what I do.

If I, as an immigrant, can do something in my local community of Herning, Denmark to leave this place a little better each day for all of us, then that is how I, PERSONALLY, CAN WORK TO UNDO some of the damage done by those things in the Danish government that make my stomach turn.

 Some of these things are BIG...some of these things are small and seemingly inconsequential, but all of them are things that PUT ME IN the community in which I live. 

I get out of my house. 
I talk to people. 
I look them in the eye. 
I smile at them. 
I work FOR them and WITH them. 
I talk to them about who I am as a Cajun and as a Texan. 
I feed them foods that are from my culture. 
I bake them desserts to say thank you for something they have done. 
I write them notes of appreciation. 
I ask them questions about their families and their children. 
I bless them when they sneeze.
And I stop and pet their dogs as Albert stops to say hello....

And you know sometimes I receive NOTHING IN RETURN.
No smiles back.
No eye contact returned.
No interest in who I am or where I come from. 
No acknowledgement of the note received.
Only quizzical looks when I say "bless you".
And sometimes I get no real answers when I ask questions about their personal lives because they find it a bit odd that I am asking.

But you see, I don't do those things to GET SOMETHING BACK. 
I do them because that is WHO I am and HOW I am as a girl raised in the southern United States. And I do them because THAT is how I see myself IN Denmark....being a part of the daily life.

And when I leave my house and INSERT MYSELF into the society, I am working inch by inch (or centimeter by centimeter) to change the perception so many of them have about foreigners. I am FIGHTING AGAINST the image that the Søren Pinds and Pia Ks of the world are creating for them. 

So THAT is how I see Denmark-- I see it with ME IN IT. And if I can see it that way, maybe someday all the anti-udlændinger folks will start to see it that way too. But IT STARTS WITH ME and MY ATTITUDE.
June 18, 2008. The day I moved into my new home in Herning, Denmark. 


Angel said...

And this is why I wish we lived closer. You warm my heart and I love that we share a lot of the same vision for ourselves and our lives in this country. Now we just need to crack open a Carls, dig into some Rotel dip and go find us some rainbows to stare after <3

nettielouise said...

I think that is a pretty great way to live as anyone living anywhere. are a remarkable woman and as someone who knows you personally, not just through a blog, I know that is how you live your life EVERYWHERE. I was always amazed at how as principal of our school in Texas, you knew every single student by name and personally greeted them at the door and asked them about they were doing,etc everyday...all 1200 of them. I remember how you always supported all my crazy ideas as a teacher with a positive "go for it". I think some of the people who criticize you do so because it is hard for them to believe that there is anyone out there really like you. You are one in a million...and I know that because I've seen you in your happiest times and your lowest of times...and you always shine. Remember, the opinion of those who know you best count the most. If others consider you fake, I feel sorry for them for not really knowing someone as amazing as you.

Kingkeld said...

What a great post, Kelli. A lot of both Danes and Ex-Pats could learn a lot from you. :)

Unknown said...

I'm an American girl raised in the Midwest, and have the same kind of personal ethics and manners that you described, here in Norway too...even if MOST of the time I get puzzled, non-reciprocal responses!

Dad said...

I think Nettie said it better than I could. Love ya!

Unknown said...

Great post! Your attitude is inspirational. Reading your blog has helped think more positively about my life as a foreigner on those days when I feel negative, and wonder how I am going to achieve a successful life here (not because it is Denmark, but because it is a new country, with new challenges, and new a sense, starting from the bottom again, and working my way up). You are so right when you say 'it starts with me and my attitude'

Not a Cajun/Texan said...

Most people get out of their houses, unless they are detained in a prison..
Most people talk to people.
Most people look others in the eye...when they are communicating.
Most people smile (at some time or another)
Most people are not Cajun/Texan, but something else; same applies.
Don't know about the food bit...
Most people reciprocate a kind gesture (even if not through a pudding)
Most civilised people make acknowledgements of thanks.
Most people make small talk about other peoples kids.
Quite a lot of cultures use the 'bless you' remark.
Not everyone pats other peoples dogs, for fear of being bitten.

MoMo 2.0 said...

Dear Cajun/Texan--
Glad to see we are on the same page.
The point was to show that I don't do anything special to insert myself into the Danish world.
Glad to see that you agree with me...
it does not take much effort to become a part.