Friday, May 14, 2010

Peace or Freedom?

In last night's episode of Supernatural (an awesome show btw), this question was posed to one of the main characters: "What would you rather have, peace or freedom?" This question has been preying on my mind since.

Peace, to me, would be the absence of worry, of sadness, of the need to think for oneself. Peace would be having someone to take care of everything so that I would not need to be concerned with anything at all. Everything and everyone would be the same, following the same rules, living the same lives, even decorating their homes the same way . . . very peaceful.

Freedom, on the other hand, would be to have the ability to choose for yourself how you wish to live - whether it be in a peaceful state or one filled with both joy and pain. You are free to think for yourself, free to believe the way you want, free to live how you please without fear of repercussions or censure. You might want to live a life spent tending rose gardens around your house while your neighbor enjoys using rusty auto parts to make lawn sculptures in his yard. While there might be certain rules that everyone as a society agrees upon (murder and thievery is generally bad, while rusty lawn sculptures are negotiable), you both have the right to choose how you wish to live.

In my opinion, I've now experienced both. I was born and raised in the US where freedom is practically a religion. I've also spent the last decade in Denmark, where peace is the lay of the land. It has been a learning experience and has shown me exactly which one I prefer. While a peaceful existence is exactly that, for me it's stifling and lethargic. There is no need to think, to care, to exert oneself. The natives have lived a peaceful existence their entire lives and it shows in the lack of creativity and expressiveness, as well as a fear of anything that is different. A free life, while there could be pain and unexpected side paths, is a life filled with exhilaration and energy. For myself, I choose freedom.

What would you choose?

Friday, April 16, 2010


Just one word that can evoke the whole range of human emotion - love, hate, peace, conflict, happiness, despair. For many of us, we came to Denmark, along with our new Danish spouses, filled with the hope that this could become our new home, the place where we felt safe and secure and accepted. We came with thoughts of a future where we could find personal fulfillment in our chosen careers and in raising a family. Denmark was the place that would enable us to fulfill these dreams, according to our Danish spouses. We did some research online and in libraries - what we found seem to support this. Denmark was a good place to raise families, find peace and acceptance.

We came here and slowly the bubble burst and reality set in . . .

Denmark was not very accepting of those who are different. Even many of us from 'western' countries found the natives as cold as a Danish winter. Okay, we thought - it will take a little time for them to warm up to us, once we've showed them we don't bite then acceptance would follow. We tried to follow all their customs, tried to learn the unwritten rules in both work and social situations, tried to learn their language (which can be compared to trying to speak while having a mouth full of mashed potatoes and sore throat). Our efforts were met with rudeness, racism and disgust. We couldn't speak danish without an accent, we put the wrong things on our rugbrød, we didn't drink ourselves to insensibility while having 4-hour marathon dinners, some of us even had the wrong hair color. In addition, the government kept making more and more laws restricting immigrant access to the country while the media pointed out that immigrants were the basis of all that was evil. But with an extremely high tax rate and the high cost of living, there's not much left of a salary (if you're lucky enough to find a job) for moving a family back home or even to another country.

So we learn to avoid contact when possible with the natives. Many keep to the expat community for a social life and acceptance. It can be a lonely life but unless one is willing to give up their individuality and to accept the racism and fear prevalent throughout Danish society, it's a way of surviving while one lives in Denmark.

However, one feels sorry for the people of Denmark as to how much they are missing by their non-acceptance of differences. All the different ideas and cultures that could help enrich their lives and country are feared and dismissed. This attitude, more than anything else, will keep Denmark as a provincial backcountry.

And will keep most of us from thinking of this place as home . . .

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

An Example of Danish Common Sense

A Danish child is put into a government institution at 6 months and is basically kept there as they grow up. Danes believe this is a good thing and think it's normal.

However, I'm not Danish and believe it's the parents' job to raise their children, not the government's. So when the opportunity came to work from home, I took it so I didn't have to keep our son in an institution. I enjoy spending time with the little rascal, it limits his exposure to Danish brainwashing and this also gives him a chance to deal with homework before spending the rest of the day playing. So a few months ago, we withdrew him from the SFO program at his school (SFO is the afterschool institution). This left the Danes at the school very confused. So confused that when we arrived at school this morning, as we do every morning, his locker had been completely cleared out and his name removed.

Evidently, if you don't belong to the government institution at your school, you no longer exist at that school - even if you still go to classes every day and are enrolled in that school.

They got a taste of an American going extremely grumpy this morning and have promised to fix it . . . that's if they can overcome the handicap of having their heads completely devoid of anything resembling common sense and even, heaven forbid, an original thought.

I'm still grumpy . . .

Friday, November 6, 2009

Grumpy Rules!

A study has shown that being grumpy is actually good for you.

In short, grumpy people are better at decision-making and more realistic than the happy people. Happy people tend to not look deeply into matters and just live on the surface - the grumpy ones think about things and are better communicators.

For once, being grumpy is making me happy . . . take that, happy people!

A Happy Memory

Another nod to K for the idea . . .

One happy memory that springs to mind is a day spent with my son and mom on our last trip back home. My parents live in southern Florida not far from the beach, so of course time would be spent there. We hit this wonderful beach with white sands and crystal blue water. The waves were light and as it was early in the day, it had not yet gotten too hot. Seashells were collected, sand castles built and destroyed - either by grandma, son or by a scurrying crab in a hurry to get back to its hole. Lots of water was splashed by all parties along with a lot of giggles every time a wave hit my son, who was 4 at the time. After a couple of hours when the beach started to get crowded and bare feet was not a good idea on the increasingly hot sand, we left for home. After getting cleaned up, we then went out 'treasure hunting'. In our family, that means hitting antique shops and secondhand stores looking for odds and bits that catch our interest. It's more the time spent together than for anything valuable. My son got into the spirit of it and actually found a couple of books that he liked.

My Best Possible Future

Nods to K for the idea :)

My best possible future would be one in which I live in a small cottage within sight, sound and smell of the mountains, forests and ocean (yes, Maine is one of my favorite places). I'm able to make a comfortable living from my writing - not necessarily millions, but enough to keep the roof over the head, food on the table, kibble in the cat dishes and books on the shelves. My son will grow up in a wholesome atmosphere and become a man who stands up for what's right and just, and not just accept the status quo but work to change those things that need to be changed. There will be time to work on hobbies, evenings spent with family and friends and quiet times spent listening to the waves hitting the shore. I must admit, I'm not one for travel - home is the best place on earth and with such a home as I hope to have some day, I can't imagine wanting to ever leave.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Danish Lessons

My language background consists of 5 years of French during elementary/high school and a year each of German and French as well as a semester of Japanese during college. I loved languages and learning them, especially French. So I looked forward to starting my Danish classes and learning the language of my new home.

Ha . . .

Instead of starting at the beginning with a bunch of other beginners at a set time, I was thrown into a class that had been going for months. There was Danish being thrown back and forth, and me sitting there going 'Huh?' Amazingly frustrating and the little I learned between April and July consisted of my numbers and saying 'Hvad?' I did have an excuse in that I was becoming increasingly pregnant and had morning, noon and night sickness so it was a little difficult to concentrate, but really . . . it was the most bizarre way to be introduced to a language that I've come across to date.

As I was due in August, I was able to take a break from lessons and concentrate on giving birth to a brand new Viking. Meanwhile, I did pick up quite a bit from reading subtitles on the tv and newspapers though my speaking was still very rough. According to the hubs, my American accent is extremely strong and rather funny-sounding *sigh*

So after several months, I was back. New class, new teacher, new experience? Nope, was thrown in and expected to pick up right away what was going on. Not only that, but this teacher loved to ask everyone the most personal questions (Describe your first date, in Danish please - 'Det var dejligt' *silence*) I'm a rather shy, private person (ok, stop snickering) and this just really drove me nuts. But went through a couple of months of that before I needed to stop once again. I had gotten permission to start at a business college to upgrade my skills in order to get a job here. As hubs at the time worked shift work and babysitters were highly expensive, I could now skip the lessons and focus on improving job skills for the next two years.

Skip ahead two years . . .

I can now read Danish enough to understand non-technical items and signs. I can also speak enough to get by when out and about. So it was time to go back to Danish lessons while the job search was underway. But this time, I was not looking forward to it at all. The classroom experiences were highly discouraging but nothing compared to the experiences on the streets of Denmark. Every time I spoke Danish to someone, there would be one of three reactions:

1. Answer back in English.
2. Look of disgust and walking away without saying anything.
3. Look of disgust coupled with a few swear words before walking away.

If I got the first one the majority of the time, then there would be no problem. But I got 2 and 3 most of the time. Well gee, Danish people, thank you for welcoming me to your country. I actually was thinking it was me - was I not smiling enough? was my accent really that bad? did I pronounce the words that badly? did I step on their toes? Though my husband witnessed some of it (and got angry), most of the time I was out and about on my own. Over time it became harder and harder to gather the initiative to learn more Danish. And as luck would have it, the Friday before I started up the lessons once again, I got a job in a company that had English as the corporate language. Yay, no more danish lessons! And considering the reactions I got from speaking it, hardly any incentive to continue learning on my own - why bother if they're going to be rude and swear at me? The French have the reputation of being mean if you speak their language wrong, but they have nothing on the behavior of many Danes. And before I get hate mail, notice I didn't say ALL Danes - there are a few who are actually helpful and have manners.

I wonder if they could clone these special people to repopulate the country . . .