Here is a story about life in Denmark, a story by Mark Anderson from South Africa.
To a great extent, I'm still in the rejection phase of my culture shock. Actually, I finished all 5 phases, but then decided to come back to the rejection phase and dwell here for a while. Why? Because there are some things here that make me hopping mad, and I can't just ignore them. Obviously, no one can change the way people think and do things. The Danes have been around for a long time and I've got no business coming here and rocking the boat. However, somewhere along the line the Danes will have to rethink the way they do things, and they might as well start doing it now. Every day some Dane somewhere falls in love with some hapless foreigner and drags him or her over here (according to current laws, an application for a residence permit is only considered if both parties are over 24 years old. This law is under revision and will be tightened somewhere in the not-so-distant future). The sad fact is that Danes are, in spite of their education, very xenophobic. They don't want foreigners here, and they're doing a mightily good job at keeping them out.
The foreigners who do manage to slip through the cracks usually end up in some dead-end job, in spite of their qualifications. The Danes' deep-rooted belief in their own superiority is the direct cause of highly educated foreigners ending up in menial jobs. Danish education is simply the best there is. I have seen suspicion and disdain in many a Dane's face when I told them that I have a university degree from South Africa. South Africa? Well, tally me banana. Somehow I've always felt that I'd had to prove my worth to them by doing something more convincing, like writing a bestseller or getting a Danish Ph.D. Even my cool Danish friends in South Africa never really respected the fact that I was a teacher. In Denmark, if you want to put a nail in a wall in order to hang up a picture, no one will trust you to do it if you don't have some sort of qualification. And if you have a Ph.D in it, well then, multiple orgasms all around!
So, as a teacher, what has my contribution to Danish society been? One of my first real jobs was to clean toilets. I used to scrub the toilets at the SAS Radisson hotel and mop up puke and shit after teenybopper concerts. On the night shift I worked with a guy who could only talk about one thing: Kalishnikov semi-automatic machine guns. He used to fantasise about pulling his Kalishnikov up from under his coat at some football match and start firing into the air. Then he'd say, "Mark, what do you think people will do if I did that?". I'd say, "Well, people will be afraid and start to panic". Then he'd laugh his head off. He taught me that a round fired from a Kalishnikov could go through 5 water-filled steel drums. Sometimes he alternated a bit with what he would do if he happened to find 2 garbage bags full of 100 pound notes. He talked about it ALL NIGHT. Then a fellow South African helped me get a job in a rubber factory, where I glued conveyor belts for about a year. After that I worked as a postman for almost another year.
During this time I was also doing a Master's and making this website. I thought that I was doing everyone a HUGE favour by making this website, that the Danish State would shower me with funds and accolades (well, at least some funds), but little did I know that I was working against the machine. I wrote to every single municipal language school in the country and even went to one of them personally in order to get them fired up on the notion of helping me develop the site. I thought it was a great and simple and obvious idea: Let's make a website for all those poor bastards who have to sit and wait for 6 months while twiddling their thumbs, so they can get a head start and actually know some Danish by the time they get their residence permits and are admitted into a language school. There are zillions of organisations in Denmark that work with immigrant affairs. Why hadn't anyone thought of doing it before? How many responses did I get? Zero. I phoned one language school, and my Danish must've sounded funny because the only response I got was a good laugh. I tried getting in with an NGO that works with getting foreigners integrated, but got shoved aside. I e-mailed all the refugee centres I could find on the internet. It slowly started dawning on me that no one really cares. These people who work with integration affairs and foreigners aren't really interested in getting people integrated and teaching them Danish as quickly as possible so they can get a job and get on with their lives. They're in it for their own sakes. Money and prestige, perhaps even to discourage foreigners from getting anywhere. I got an e-mail from a guy called Finn Skovgaard today that sums up my suspicions very eloquently. I'll quote part of it:
"So where does all the tax money go? You answered partially by highlighting all these useless commissions and administrations that soak up money but deliver no useful output. Denmark is over-administered. Producing something useful is not the real first priority for these people - it's getting some comfortable advantages.
Most Danes don't like foreigners in their own country - only to serve them on holiday destinations. That's why they don't do anything for the foreigners. And the administrations that deals with the foreigners actually do a very good job letting their clients know - indirectly of course - that they are not welcome".
Well, amen to that, Finn.