Q&A: I don’t really hate Danes

Just doing some housecleaning today – I don’t want this to be a long post, but I do want to clarify a few things.

Q. Do you really hate Danes?  A. No, I don’t hate Danes.   I’ll admit that I’m extremely angry at how things turned out at the end of my stay in Denmark, how the whole relocation was handled and what I perceive as a lot of untruths that were told to me.  That has significantly coloured my perception of my experience in Denmark, but no, I don’t hate Danes.

Because the lawyers are still arguing over the legality of how things unfolded, I haven’t given specifics, and won’t until it’s settled.  And those of you who think you know what happened… well, you haven’t heard all sides of the story because I haven’t told anyone.  Patience – it will likely all come out eventually.

Q. Do I think all Danes are unfriendly?  A. No, Danes are actually very friendly, and there were a few people I met in Denmark whom I would otherwise have wanted to keep as friends.  I’m sure those people know who they were, as they were mainly the ones who made an effort to speak in English when I was in the room, or even to start a conversation with me.

On the other hand, I can’t tell you how many times people would bump into you while walking or jogging, despite trying to move out of the way, or the thousands of other little things that are probably normal in Danish society that frustrated the hell out of me.  Certainly if someone bumps into you on the street in Denmark, you shouldn’t expect them to acknowledge it, let alone apologize.  It is perfectly possible to be a friendly person, and yet still, as a culture, be unwelcoming.

Q. Do I think Danes are unwelcoming? A. Well, Yes – but as I’ve said, not individually.  As a society, they’ve geared things to be very smooth for people who are citizens and know the system, but to be a little more jagged for foreigners. I won’t tell other people’s stories, but I met perfectly decent people who’ve been in Denmark nearly all their lives (20+ years) and are still waiting to become citizens or are fighting with the paperwork.  Danes’ views on foreigners are clearly dependent on where they come from, and interacting with the bureaucracy can be challenging for someone who doesn’t know what to expect.  I understand that Germans find it relatively easy to navigate, while those of us from further away find it more challenging.  No surprise there – relocation is always smoothest when you have a local guide.

Thus, How you approach that transition and the resources available to you to help you adjust sets the tone of how you progress through the learning curve that follows.

Q. Isn’t there anything good about Denmark?  A. Sure.  I miss cheap cell phone plans, ubiquitous SCANPAN products and the fact that prices on the shelf include taxes.  I also think they have some great ideas about design and ergonomics (half of my furniture was Danish before moving to Denmark) that would be good here.  I even enjoyed watching Australian shows that we don’t get in North America (ie. Masterchef Australia is a very good show!)  I wouldn’t move there for those items.

Q. But you’ve acknowledged your social skill suck.  A. Actually, What I was really referring to is just that I’m more of an introvert, but living in Denmark really compounded the problem.  In hind sight, there are steps you go through when adapting to a new culture.  See wikipedia’s culture shock page.  Perhaps I didn’t give it long enough, but I can recognize that the honeymoon phase ended within days, and the negotiation phase never really stopped.  As soon as I felt like I was getting the hang of things, something else would catch me off guard – and often was accompanied by a serious financial penalty.

You do lose your sense of self when you’re trying to find your way in a new culture, and that can be pretty hard on an introvert when trying to find a new balance in a new country.

Q. But people tried to help, didn’t they? A.  Yes!  Some people helped tremendously, some people went really far out of their way to help, and some people were actually antagonising the situation (probably without realizing it).  And sometimes a person was in more than one category.  I have eternal gratitude to those who tried to help – and wish that I’d followed up on two offers to help that I didn’t, early on. (One from a complete stranger who found my blog, by the way, but lived over an hour away!)

I will also always be ready to jump to help the Dane who stepped in to help us get to the airport on our way out.  Truly, he went out of his way to help us out when things were darkest for us.  Alas, he’s since moved out of Denmark, citing some of the exact same reasons that were factors in our departure from Denmark.

Q. So what now? A. I’m done with this.  The lawyers will decide who’s at fault, eventually.  I can guess some of what was said about me in Denmark – and you know what, I just don’t care anymore.  When the whole story comes out, people will be free to make up their minds then.  In the meantime, I don’t care what you think you know – I want to get on with my life.  If you want to call me names based on what you think you know… well, that’s up to you.

Now, there’s science blogging to be done, code to be written and those in Denmark can decide to ignore me or not.  This is a blog – and you can always chose not to read it.

5 thoughts on “Q&A: I don’t really hate Danes

  1. It hurts to read about the painful experience you’ve had. Glad to see that you are back ‘home’ and left the troubles behind. Changing to a new country is indeed hard, for me it was the US instead of Sweden for a few years. I am back home now as well, and tremendously happy to be. But even though my experience was not pleasant, it seems like you had a much worse time. I have no idea what happend to you, besides the little pieces of info here. Good luck with the fresh start!

  2. Seems you got to see the worst of Danes in a fairly short amount of time. It would be a lot easier if you were just yourself. You chose the time to relocate when you could use the most of the help. At least your wife had a successful delivery. I have heard very bad stories with the danish medical system. But anyway, my very best wishes for your life back in CA.

    • Not sure what you mean by “It would be a lot easier if you were just yourself.”, but otherwise I agree… we were generally lucky in our encounters with the Danish health system, and in hindsight, I think we would have done a lot of things differently had we known what we were getting ourselves into. Still, I think we’re very happy, now that we’re back in Canada, and are doing our best to put this behind us.

  3. So any news on the what happened with the dispute over the position? Is it settled now? Hope you were able to spare yourself from any more difficult experiences. Btw – If you were not employed the full year, you might look into doing a tax return for Denmark. I left Austria to change jobs and to my surprise, I got 3k euros back from the system, since I only worked 8/12 months in 2012. Maybe the Danish tax system is similar? Worth a try.

    • Hi GermanL,

      Unfortunately, no, nothing has been resolved. As best as I can tell, my former employer has decided that they’re just going to ignore my lawyer’s requests to back up their claims, which makes sense on some level. Any action on their part will either cost them money to pay their lawyer, or require them to admit they have no grounds to withhold all of the money they took from my salary and vacation pay. Any action on their part is going to cost them something, so they’re likely to refuse to acknowledge my complaint until I officially file a lawsuit – which I was hoping to avoid because the only people who win in a lawsuit are the lawyers.

      With respect to painful experiences, they are probably yet to come, as the Danish legal system will likely require I travel back to a Danish court to present my case to a judge.

      As it happens, I did get a little bit of money back from the Danish Tax system, though not nearly 3k Euros. That must have been a nice surprise!

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