I love being back here. I love my country – I love my city. So much beauty, so many things to offer. Open spaces, fresh and clean air and at the first rays of spring sun, people are out and about, soaking their vitamin D. But the development here, and probably in the rest of Europe, is scaring me.
It’s a small country. The average tourists often think of us as friendly, helpful, open-minded. I’d like to think, that’s how we are – but the truth might be slightly different. We may appear that way for tourists, who are only here for a week or two. But as soon people stay here longer – they will see a different side of the Danish hospitality.
We are excellent at donating to ex. Red Cross. We’ll gladly give them our old clothes, of we have so much. But, I’m sorry to say so – that is just to polish the halo and conscience. It’s a way of helping for sure – and it’s good. But it’s VERY Danish, helping without really making an effort. Not getting involved and keeping our distance.
At the current moment, every single politician is out there, saying that we should definitely help the poor refugees drowning in the Mediterranean – and most of these same people, will send them right back to where they tried to escape from. Because letting them in across the European borders… NO! We cannot (i.e. will not). Let’s help in the areas nearby instead. Fine idea – but a shame it’s based in the cold fact, that we don’t want these people here.
We will go to war to rescue the poor suppressed people from horrible dictators and inhumane regimes. And we’ll stay there a couple of years after, to help re-build a country in ruins in, but we often leave an even bigger mess behind, because we can’t make a Western model fit over a totally different way of living quickly – are we even supposed to? If even so… all changes on a large scale takes time.
I see a country ruled by the media. The media is creating even bigger distances between people, by playing the notes of fear. I see a country ruled by this fear of the unknown. I see a country that has more than enough in their own daily-life issues. I see a country that fails to integrate new people into our society. What kind of society have we become anyway? Who are we – do we even know?
I’m not advocating open borders and welcoming every single person in trouble. I know there’s a limit to how much one country can manage. But I am horrified by the lack of compassion, understanding and willingness to reach out to people in need.
I acknowledge that we have problems with some people with a different cultural background. But isn’t that our integration failing? Isn’t that our own damn cold attitude? Isn’t that an obvious sign, that we are to stuck-up on our own culture, that we are totally unwilling to even get to know other cultures and people from different backgrounds? And in that case – is the Danish culture really something to be that proud of? Maybe, just maybe, it would be easier for foreigners to adapt and feel less alienated, if they were met by a smile and a chat. If you are consitently met with suspicion, a cold shoulder or prejudices – then I guess that’s what you’ll adapt to.
I don’t believe that these people are fleeing from their country and everything they know, just to come to Europe to live on social welfare. It’s not exactly a cruise their going on, when they are jumping on a boat filled to more than 6 times the capacity.
I totally understand if people get caught up in their family life and 9-5 routine. But has friendliness and an open mind ever cost anything – no, not even time.
We are a rich country. We can always discuss whether the money is managed and distributed right. But in every way, in every scale and measure, we are one of the richest countries in the world. We have a unique welfare system paid by our high taxes. I’m a happy tax payer. I’m proud and happy to have my roots in a country that takes care of its people. Everybody can go to the doctor / hospital for free. Schools are free, from pre-school through university. And if we are studying after the age of 18, we get supported by the government. We can take a year of maternity leave. It’s so easy for us to take these privileges for granted. We even complain about the financial study support. But these exact examples are like miracles for people in other countries.
Now I said with this system we take care of each other. Yes, financially we all contribute. In the same way we’ll donate some money to the victims for earthquakes or civil war. But when was the last time you met a Romanian, Hungarian or Polak without suspecting they were burglars? When was the last time you passed a group of young 2nd or 3rd generation immigrants, without crossing to the opposite side of the street? Heck… when was the last time you invited the neighbor over for coffee?
Open the gates of the mind. Realize that not all Iranian students are here to study how to create weapons of mass destruction. Not everyone with a Muslim background is a bully or criminal. Not all eastern Europeans are thieves. Not all Africans are here to kick back, and live on the social welfare system. Do these people exist? Yes! But is it fair, or even reasonable, to generalize this to a whole group of people? Of course not! If you choose to judge a bunch by one rotten example, you are the fool.
Please don’t feed your fears. In general people are not evil, cruel or harboring bad intentions. Not even us. We just have to widen our perspective and horizon a bit. Find the compassion and humanity in us. It’s there – I know it. We cannot stubbornly hold on to a Danish culture in fear of welcoming other cultures. The more resistance you meet, the more you’ll hold on to what you know and are familiar with. Let’s base the Danish culture in open minds, smiles and a welcoming attitude. And let foreigners follow that example. Let them cook their curries, hummus and rice. Let people believe in whatever makes sense to them – after all, that’s what you do. But let it be based in respect.
What you will plant, will grow. It’s impossible to plant fear and unreasonable prejudice, and expect to grow and harvest respect for the strong, stone-cold Danish norm.
Kindly edited by the very kind Lisa Cosmillo