I want to share this article from Ana with you! We had a very interesting culture club yesterday about the current situation in Europe for youth
You are abroad and your plane just landed, the first person you see wears a huge cooking pot on his head like a hat. You may think “mmh that’s the custom, I should probably do that to fit in culturally”.So you go the first store, get a pot and here you are, ready to embrace this foreign culture.
What if the person was part of strange sect, or maybe lost a bet. He could also simply be crazy. He isn’t the majority, he is one of them but he isn’t all of them. The line between individual differences and cultural differences is blurred when you are abroad because you don’t know the custom, therefore you could think that if someone seem rude to you it might be cultural whereas they could simply be a jerk :), to what extend culture affect one’s behaviour, and to what extend is it his own personality? That’s a question I would love to answer someday.
Therefore if you want to integrate to what extend should you strectch your values and change? To the point when they break and you aren’t even yourself anymore, too scared to be put aside?
Well the good news are that as a foreigner :
- You are weird anyway for everybody else. They will pobably blame it on your culture, therefore don’t worry too much about any social faux pas, some use alcohol as an excuse (a quite bad excuse if you want my opinion) , be creative use your nationality!
- If you are a great person, people will like you. If they don’t want to make the extra effort to be friend with a foreigner, they may not be worth your extra effort to be friend with them (they are foreigners to you aren’t they?). It’s great to be curious and want to know different people, but friendship goes both ways. So be true to yourself, don’t try too hard to fit in because you won’t and they are tons of different individuals in a country, the one you met, that could be careless aren’t the majority, they are a part of it, a part you can put aside, to spend your time with the one that matter, the one that prefer that you don’t become danish :)
We are all different no matter where we come from still we usually want the same things: connecting with others, feeling we belong somewhere.
While trying to be culturally aware and sensitive when we travel it’s good to keep in mind that nobody likes to be seen as walking cliché. We are all individuals and especially in western society we like to emphasize how unique we are, how different we think from our neighbour therefore, therefore don’t jump into conclusion when you meet a foreign person (or background it can apply to any situation) , they might be like that because of their cultural background, or because it’s their personality…probably a mix of both but at the end what matters is how open you are to the communication between the two of you.
Travelling is suffering?
I was visiting one of my Danish friend I met in the kibbutz and we talked about travelling one of our common passion. He had read somewhere that somehow, travelling is suffering. It’s not easy, it will change you.Maybe not a week of holiday in Hawai (but who knows?) but that’s not what we were thinking of…
Hitch hiking is the prime example, it takes time, you don’t know when you will get to your destination, you have to rely on others and you have to be patient and flexible. It’s really much like my EVS experience.
When I started it we could say I was on the side of the road ready to catch a ride to get to my destination. But I wasn’t alone I had this partner I had never met before, Helena this really awesome woman from Spain. I had just finished another hitch hiking trip in Israel so I was seeing everything behind this israeli glasses that I had forgot to remove. I was making the same sign as in Israel to stop a car but in Europe you use your thumb….We were like Jon Snow,we know nothing!
When we were trying to get a car I had something in mind for our direction. I had read in my description I would do something with students, like activities or workshops. However that description was outdated but I still wanted to go there. My friend Helena kept telling me I should try another way but I woudn’t listen, so it was very difficult to get a ride it’s like going to a closed road…not gonna work!
Nobody cares for hitchikers here? So what!
So people would not stop, I felt nobody cares here, why they don’t talk to me why is it so hard to socialise, what is wrong with THEM?
But finally after a month of struggle and not understanding anything on my side of the road some help came up. I had this EVS training in october and the two amazing trainers I met there, Anja and Tobias, gave us a good hand, driving us much further down our way and helping me to understand that the road down there was closed so I could try something else.
I agreed with Helena it was better to be a bit flexible but still all these people were terrible to socialise with. I wasn’t so good myself anymore. Imagine a hitch hiker sitting down on the road that can’t even stand up to get a ride, nobody will stop!
So after complaining
going on strike and so one something we French really master, I stand up on my feet, I tried to smile and I also used my thumb to get a car and little by little we would get some ride down the road. When you hitch hike you have different cases, either nobody goes all the way to your place which is often therefore you will take a lot of small ride or you are lucky and someone take you almost all the way down. Our situation was more like the first one.
However we also got better, we were talking with our drivers, taking their advice about how to get further down. So we learnt. For example you don’t socialise the same way in Denmark than in France or in a kibbutz with a bunch of young volunteers. You need to adapt, to be open and really patient. It’s as if Danes are like ice cubes but they don’t melt in the sun, or very very slow. Therefore it will take you time to break the ice! Being too direct, something that could work in Israel quite well, will never do there.
I had never struggle making new relation abroad so I had to change a lot, it was good I realised all the annoying I would do (I observed how my mom was when she was mad, well I was doing the same :) ) and try to change but i wrote about that before…
Then I was still unhappy about this road close down there because it’s something I really wanted to do. However talking with colleagues I realised that some other way would be nice to explore. I was there so why not take a chance right? That’s how helena and I started the blog. I am really happy about it and Ana the new volunteer is keeping it going! It’s right here and it’s lovely!
We also decided to write a sign with some direction we would like to go. This way we started to help on the shows that the school was doing, with lights, recording, editing.I tried some ways I have never been before. I really improved my editing, I discovered color grading and had the chance to develop photography, that I really love now.
Then you become more daring. With Helena we thought we could try some different ways and meet further down. I started to do some more personal projects, especially related to photography.
Finally at the end we met again, we had learnt a lot on our journey together, through a lot of nice and friendly people among the crowd that woudln’t stop. They helped us, we had great time with them and all of them gave us something that we keep for our next trip. It was indeed difficult, it took time, sometimes we would stand under the rain for an hour and another would get a long ride under the sun with very nice Danes. We also learnt the social cues, to use our thumb, learn some Danish to not get lost, be flexible, not judge hastily especially if you don’t want to be judge.
When you hitch hike you do something very different, not some many do it or approve of it so you start with this difference. Well being in a foreign country is very much the same, I was different the day I step a foot in Denmark, but I had forgotten that in Israel because i was different together with 40 different people from abroad! The trick is to keep this difference and use it as a strength, not be scared ,go for it anyway.
Now Helena is in Spain, I am still on the Danish road. I don’t know where I am going but where I am right now is very nice, with really good people that are open and take the time to show me around. Maybe they will start to hitch hike themselves somedays and then I will have given something to them in return :)
The last post was quite a while ago. But the past 3 months I have been quite busy. First my EVS has finished then I went to Sweden and France but now I am in Denmark.
May was the last month we had with the students, so we were quite busy with work and feeling the end approaching. The summer was starting so that was really nice, I wasn’t expecting much but it’s pretty nice, a lot of sun a bit like France but not as hot, starting and finishing earlier I would say. With the beach, the lake and the little forest the school look like paradise so that was really nice to be there!
Then in June the students left. We were alone with Helena and some people from the staff the first week. It was quite strange, the school was so empty but we were working a lot and then enjoying, meeting with the neigbours, swimming…It was odd to walk in corridors remembering this year and all the people that came,
all the mess they did …
Finally I met with Hanna again! when I say the kibbutz is a life experience it’s not cheesy, I still can’t believe the friends I made there , how
weird awesome they are! So I went to Stockolm it was really nice and we had such a nice time at the summer house, swimming in the lake (even my iphone enjoyed the water!) and her family was so nice to me!
The landscape is quite diffeent, a lot of forest but most of all…. it’s not flat! hehe big change from Danmark the flatest country in the world! It’s really peaceful when you go in the nature as well. Otherwise a lot of blondes and people cycling, typical scandinavian country. We spent a whole day baking amazing cinnamon bun and chocolate balls, crêpes also, it was so delicious! We also made quite a show in the modern art museum, miming the paintings, I think the other visitors liked it!
Then, I went back to Denmark and after my last week there working, I finally went back home. But that was a short trip. I had planned already to stay in Denmark, so after a week during when I did absolutely nothing it was time to move to…Samsø.
if you haven’t heard about it , well most people haven’t either. It’s the heart chakra of Europe :). The island is exactly at the center of it yes it’s quite funny! There are maybe 3000 inhabitants, and of course more in summertime becuase it’s really beautiful and quite preserved. I have been living the past month and a half in a little house 2 minutes away from the beach, I have an amazing view of the sunset everyday from there. Because it’s an island it’s small but if you don’t have a car it takes a while to go to places so I have cycled a lot everyday to go to work. Overall it has been a nice summer. Plus I didn’t get one but TWO jobs there!
My next plan is to move to Copenhagen. if you haven’t heard it’s quite terrible to find a place to live there, but I will figure it out :) it’s in two weeks so that’s fine!
Look at Sweden it’s so nice :)
Cela fait maintenant un peu plus de 7 mois que je suis au Danemark. L’adaptation a été plus longue que je ne l’aurais imaginé mais je pense me sentir plutôt bien ici, en tout cas suffisamment pour rester quelques mois de plus après la fin de mon projet.
Alors je dis plutôt car il y a quelques chose qui revient sans cesse et qui m’empêche un petit peu de me sentir super bien comme je l’étais en Israël ou en Angleterre.
Ne pas avoir de vrais liens avec les locaux.J’ai déjà dû en parler ici, le Danois est une espèce un peu complexe à aborder. Du coup je me suis donner du temps, de la patience
La plupart des gens que je connais, s’ils savent où se situent le Danemark et ont quelques infos sur le pays, imaginent les habitants avec des casques de vikings, gros buveurs de bière, froids et réservés mais sympas dès qu’on leur paie une tournée. Bref pas spécialement handicapé socialement.Il y a certaines choses avec lesquelles je suis d’accord d’autres moins.
Déjà personnes ne portent de casques de vikings par contre il est vrai qu’une bière rend le Danois plus chaleureux.Chaleur qui retombe lorsque celui-ci a décuvé.J’ai été très surprise lorsque le lendemain de certaines soirées au pub, les étudiants ne m’adressaient pas même un regards dans les couloirs. Pourtant ils ne s’étaient pas donnés en spectacle et je ne pense pas avoir fait quoique ce soit d’impoli ou d’embarrassant pour que l’on m’évite, et puis ils le faisaient TOUS.
Mais je me suis dit qu’avec le temps cela allait s’améliorer. Je n’avais pas complètement tort. Quand j’ai commencé à travailler avec eux, on a pu se rapprocher un peu plus, à présent ils nous disaient bonjour dans les couloirs (après deux mois oui :). Parce qu’on leur posait des questions, sur ce qu’ils faisaient, on s’intéressait à eux.Mais cela s’arrêtait là. je pense que j’ai été très choqué. Non pas par leur timidité, mais par leur manque de curiosité. Je me rappelle avoir failli m’étouffer un jour lorsqu’une des filles m’a demandé ce que j’avais fait de ma journée. C’était la premère fois qu’on me posait la question en 6 mois.
Je parlais d’ailleurs avec un ami danois et il me disait que les français peuvent ignorer volontairement quelqu’un. C’est vrai que j’ai déjà fait comme si une personne n’existait pas car elle m’agaçait. Et je lui ai dit que les danois font pareil! Mais il m’a répondu que pour eux c’est presque inconscient tellement c’est dans leur culture. Ils seraient incapable de le faire volontairement.
Il y a très peu de différence entre un étranger et un fantôme ici. Il n’y a pas plus tard qu’aujourd’hui, je suis descendu dans la salle commune pour chercher un fruit. Un groupe de Danois discutaient. Lorsque d’autre Danois arrivaient ils les saluaient et discutaient lorsque c’était un étranger, non. Quand je suis arrivée personne n’a levé la tête. J’ai du me pousser pour laisser passer quelqu’un mais me dire bonjour ne lui ai pas venu à l’esprit. Pourtant il y a deux jours j’étais dans la chambre de cette personne en grande conversation. L’amie à qui elle parlait aujourd’hui me parle beaucoup aussi. Quand elle est seule. Du coup il est difficile de ne pas se sentir inférieur, lorsque un simple bonjour leur est impossible dès qu’ils sont plus de deux.
Et ça ça blesse. Parce qu’on se rend compte qu’on passera toujours après. Qu’on pourra avoir une conversation avec l’un d’entre eux s’il n’y a personne d’autres à qui parler.
Et pour cette raison je ne pense pas que je pourrais vivre dans ce pays. Certains pourraient me dire qu’il y a la barrière de la langue. J’ai pris des cours de danois puis arrêter devant les efforts inutiles que je faisais. Personnes ne veut se fatiguer ici à me parler en danois, trop d’effort, l’anglais c’est plus simple…
Today we had the weekly meeting we always have in the school on fridays. It was very nice actually, first we were sitting on the floor. I don’t mind chairs but I found it more cosy and relaxed. One of the students Aki, prepared a song for us in Japanese and that was quite incredible, she had a very nice voice! And it’s so different to the songs you are used to when it’s in Japanese. So Torben was in charge of the meeting. He is one of a kind. I always wonder when I see him what can be in his mind and it always makes me laugh. He is a very funny guy and full of ideas and energy.
So he talked to us about wellness and music, and we listened to a song he composed to fix our chakra on the solar plexus. So here we were, all lying on the floor and listening to this song. I thought people around me were falling asleep, it was very relaxing.
Then he talked about the program of the week end, I like this one part “running through the woods” because I pictures a bunch of people running like mad man in the forest and I found it amusing, but actully he meant it in a more normal way like, you have running shoes and run together….well I prefer my version.
And then the serious talk came on.
You see, we have a yoghurt crisis in the school since this week. It seems to be quite a big deal. It all started when the kitchen realised that we were swallowing twice more yoghurt as usual. Literally. And it has a price, so they decided from now on it will only be at breakfast and not for snack. (yes you see in Denmark they are much healthier when it comes to snack, it’s fruit and muesli and yoghurt but well muesli on it’s own?? dry right?).
And the international students were very annoyed because on week ends it’s usually their main dish. On week ends we have brunch. It’s not bad but it’s less food so usually you get hungry earlier.
Also some of them aren’t so keen or used to Danish food so I can understand that yoghurt is safe value for them. So we started to have this debate. Why we ate so much yoghurt, and what can we have instead. In a way it’s more than interesting than it seems because it’s a good example of cultural differences here.
Many of the international students eat very different food and it’s difficult to adjust. Of course the school cannot provide their food from home but well if there is most of the things you can’t eat, both have to compromise. One of them said he found the bread too hard so he has to dip it in the water. Well I am afraid that Denmark cannot change their bread and personally I think that at least it has taste not like this awful white bread that I found in the UK.
But we do have some alternative. Often the Nepalese cook for us amazing dinner on week ends and that’s terrific! so much spices and flavor yum yum!
It’s 2014 and I am still in Denmark, unbelievable. So I came back to the højskole in January on the 9th.
I had training just before in Copenhagen which was very nice and I didn’t really know what to expect from the Danish when I would go back because well they have very different social skills right but it was a good surprise because they were so nice and some literally jumped on me (weird, you have to be away 3 weeks and people love you! good to know).
I also noticed that a lot of them aren’t scared anymore and talk to us ( maybe they weren’t scared of us but now they acknowledge our existence, it feels odd! but good) and the one we “knew” before are more friendly so that’s cool.
But some people were missing.
The class of International students is completely new. 18 new faces from Ghana, Nepal, China , Latvia, Hungary, Lithuania, Turkey and Japan.
Communicating is always a challenge,so imagine now! For instance we have 6 Chinese here. Some have a decent English you can have a conversation with them, some….well it’s complicated. It’s funny because we learn Danish together and sometimes they try to use it but we don’t get anything because we don’t speak Danish either.
But what is odd is the “group effect”. All of sudden they forget everything they know of English and stare at you with a blank face, like you are an Alien from another planet! And you do silly moves speak slower, louder, eventually they will nod but you will have given up before they really understood anyway.
So when you have crucial information you realise you talk to them like you would to simple minded people, and it makes you sound very rude! I literally said once to them “Asian!!! Go there now!” how awful!
There is this one Chinese guy I love to talk with, even though I don’t think he ever understood me. With the girl from Hungary we asked him “where were you?” and he said ” I am fine”…. but at least he answered!
This girl from Hungary is pretty cool, we realize that it’s easier to bond with Europeans because we are similar in so many ways. But something we can’t beat her at is drinking vodka! Once I saw her sipping it like water, and I had pretty good training at the kibbutz but now I suck.
So imagine this weird combination trying to mix with the Danes. My dear Danish that I still can’t figure out but at least I have one good friend now so I can ask her, she is a bit like my guide here. For instance I come to her when I have all this stupid question, like why do you guys don’t say hello all the time like we do? Why don’t you confront and argue all the time like French? Why the word please doesn’t exist in Danish?
So it was pretty funny to see how the Danish girls reacted to the guys from Ghana asking “hey , are you married?”. It reminded me of all the wedding proposal I had in Zambia, even though Ghana is pretty different. So their Danish teacher made them a Danish session about how to ask out girls in Danish. Not sure it worked but it’s just beginning.
We also have new Nepalese but they are the complete opposite of the one we new before: the first group was loud, noisy, crazy, drunk, troublemakers and the most lovely guys on earth.
This new group is much more chilled, sweet and …behaved!
It’s good to realise that you can’t generalise about a whole culture just knowing some of them, like the Nepalese, we expected to have crazy boys. They are all different. My Danish friend keep telling me that this school isn’t Denmark and I believe her, the students here are “special” (not in this way…) and that I need to get out and experience Denmark differently…
And now it’s snowing it’s awesome!!! I realised I had one talent, maybe I can’t sing or dance or act but I am pretty good at snowball fight!
While traveling I experienced a lot of things while discovering new culture and lifestyle. One of the most obvious is of course…language.
I think my interest for language grew while traveling. I always liked English and then love it when I started to learn more and moved to London. And then it became natural for me to use it, of course you can still tell I am French, but I am vok using it. And being abale to speak 2 languages is so amazing, it opens up your world. Because you will understand so much more of the culture and you have more means of expressing your self.
A nice experience I had was with this friend, half French, half English guy. He had grew up between France and the UK and could speak both perfectly . When we met (through couchsurfing) we started using…both. How nice it is to be able to switch language, that it adapts to what you want to communicate, because if you aren’t an interpret it’s not as easy to translate everything and some ideas will come more naturally in one language than the other. I really like that!
I have to say I was quite satisfied for a while just speaking 2 languages.
As you may have heard French have a bad rep when it comes to learning language and yes we suck. It might be the teaching, some say pride in our culture, I would also think that we may need English less than my Swedish friends for example, because it’s a language used worldwide. So being able to speak more than French was already good enough for me.
But this feeling changed, when I started travelling more. First I thought spanish would be great and useful. But I kind of hate the idea that you would learn a language because it has a use. Of course you can’t deny it and I think this is why so many of us learn English, but I think you need to be attracted to it.
I really liked Hebrew for example, and apart from Israel I don’t see where I could use it. Being there 3 months I only catches few words and expressions but if I have the opportunity I will learn it. I am also very interested in Portuguese.
But first, Danish is where I will start . Denmark is very good when it comes to teaching language. As a foreigner I have 3 years of free Danish lessons. Started this week. I don’t know if I will make it but it’s worth trying and I am very curious. It would be very interesting to learn something that is so different to my mother tongue (ok chinese or japanese could also be a nice challenge). From a French perspective it sounds so …odd. A lot of the sounds are impossible to reproduce for me, but when you start reading Out of Africa, you just think of a new world that will open to you once you can speak the language!
Wish me luck!
That’s my expression when someone try to communicate in Danish with me…for now!
A view on the sea, a beautiful country, a new culture to discover how can you complain?
After all this is what we all want when we travel, new challenges, new encounters, friends, places…We need a change and we love this process of discovering everything. Still it’s not easy everyday and the new you were craving is the new you are hating sometimes.
I understand nothing, why people are so rude, why are they so mean. This habit is so stupid. Yes these thoughts could come to your mind if you are in a foreign environment and it’s …completely normal. This phase that I was going through has a name: Cultural shock.
As the name says it all it’s basically a shock, more or less long. I don’t think you have it every time you travel or maybe it’s not so strong so you don’t even realise it. I guess I had one when living in London but it wasn’t so important that it bothered me so much.
Here in Denmark it’s different. First because during all my previous travel I had the “honeymoon” phase you know when everything is pink, people are so cool, and the food, the culture is incredible. I think the best honey moon I had was in Israel. But I went to Denmark literally 5 days after leaving Israel. I left my honeymoon for a different place. Where I literally crashed.
The social life in Denmark is very different to everything I experienced before: in London it’s harder to connect on a deeper level with people, however they are very polite and nice so you can still have a social life even if you just arrived and there are plenty of foreigners in the same situation so you bond pretty quickly.
In Africa, everyone would say hello in the street so ultra social and curious, but I wasn’t staying and the cultural differences were quite important. However I still had friends and it was nice and easy to feel integrated.
In Israel it was just incredible, in no time I was feeling home and it was very quick to bond with other volunteers. Israelis are pretty blunt and straight forward but very warm and welcoming. I guess the bubble that the kibbutz is, is also a very special environment.
Danes on the other hand are very reserved comparing to those cultures. They value privacy and independence. They don’t want to bother you. The social standards are very different. I think that was the biggest shock for me. I realised the social aspect was incredibly important to be able to feel good in a new environment and here it is taking forever to make friends. However now I understand what is going on and why, so I guess it helps to get better and be more tolerant and open.
Plus now I have 17 new friends, in the same situation than me, thanks to EVS. Something I experienced everywhere I went: as foreigners you will bond in no time, whereas with locals it will always be a challenge.
Few weeks ago, I had a little surprise: Some students had an assignement: travel in Denmark for 2 days, with 200kr each, the goal being to meet people.
One of a the team had a free spot so I could join them and here we are, dropped in the middle of nowhere, the rain starting…The first people that stopped for us were a brother and his sister. He was driving her to the hospital because apparently she had trouble breathing, however they still turned back to pick us up! How nice :)
The things I learnt during those two days and a half of traveling:
- Raincoat can really save your life, thanks to the one someone lend me 5 minutes before I left!
- You will look weird if you dry your socks with the blowdryer in public toilets…this should be done in private
- How to ask a spoon in Danish. You never know when you need one! So go back to your lesson.
- Most Danes can speak very good English. It doesn’t mean they will speak it :) get over it
- Italian wine is very good. Especially when offered by a lovely Danish family that just open their door to you. And provide dinner. And a bed. And give you a ride to Graasten the next day after you sang a song with the children at the school!
- You can shoot a short film with a phone and random people in a park. Just ask nicely.
- Writing a sign when you hitchike is super effective (in 5 minutes we were on the way)
- If you can hitch hike instead or walk, hitch hike. My leg will thank you.
- Bread with ham and beans is a pretty good lunch. Cold the beans, of course…
- You can sleep in a strain station, in your sleeping bag no one will wake you up, because Danes are so in love with privacy.
- Not everyone knows where they are going even if they are the one driving.