Archive for September, 2007|Monthly archive page

Operation Flustered Wren

In The Main Beef on 16/09/2007 at 14:38

Well, since I last sat and chatted with you, gentle readers, a bit has happened. So here’s to catching up… *downs a latte and waits for the caffeine to take hold*

On September 5th I started business school. Here in the grand land of Denmark, after being done with school for well over 20 years, I have decided to once again join the ranks of students, and work towards a bachelor’s degree. A 3-year programme, when I’m done I’ll have a Bachelor’s of Science – Business Administration and International Management. Why not? I’ve been hanging out in various areas of the business world ever since the fine folks at Eau Claire decided that it wasn’t my time to be in school, and tossed me out for being too… flighty. 😀 Since then I’ve worked in grocery stores, a stop and rob with gas, restaurants, a group home, a plastics factory, a synagogue, various international companies, and even a small start up that is still starting up. Or at least it was, last I knew.

Perhaps you wonder why… why now? Why school? Why business? Well, as I said a bit ago, why not? If I’m going to continue in my present career track, I need to know how things are done over in this section of the world. Everyone on the planet (or close, really) might speak English, but not everyone does business the way they do business in the States. There are two ways to get knowledge, study or work. For me, being a stranger in a strange land, studying will get me the knowledge I need, without the inevitable errors in communication that going to work in a company where people speak less English than I are bound to happen. As well, as I go through school, it will allow me to build up valuable networking contacts that will come in handy when it’s time for me to fly the nest. So to speak… It will also give me a chance to practice my danish in the relative safety of a group of folks who will also be practicing their English on me. I expect hilarity to follow.

So, I’ve jumped back into the pool, and now can be found lugging around an insanely heavy pack 5 days a week at the Aarhus School of Business. This year it seems to be all about math. Those who know me will find this amusing. Perhaps even more so because three of those math classes center around accounting. Then there’s the straight math class, calling on all sorts of formulas that I couldn’t even manage to remember in high school. However, I do get a bit of a break in my English Language and US Society class. It’s very enlightening to see how others think of Americans, good, bad and otherwise, and it gives me insight into at least one segment of the Danish population. I think, at least in that class, that I might be relatively popular when it comes to learning how Americans speak, and why, after all this time, we still believe in the American Dream.

Anyway, that’s how I’ve spent my time since last I wrote. If anyone’s got a good suggestion for remembering mathematical formulas, I sure could use it. I’ll keep you updated on how things go in the meantime.


An Observation…

In The Main Beef on 02/09/2007 at 20:23

I’ve been keeping up on an ongoing conversation in a forum I visit, and the direction it’s taken has been interesting, to say the least. It’s actually kind of miffed me, because the impression I’ve gotten from what some posters have said is that really, no matter what you do, if you are a foreigner in Denmark you might as well give it up because there’s no way to succeed. The Danes won’t accept you, you’ll never learn the language well enough to fit in, no one will ever hire you to do more than clean, you’re just stuck in a little country full of xenophobes who will deny you success at every turn. Is that possible? Is an entire country able to keep someone down, unable to succeed, unable to move ahead, because they might not be just like everyone else? And if so, what does that mean for other, larger countries? If Denmark can shut out their foreign immigrants, what could America do? I decided I needed to weigh in, even if it means nothing to anyone else but me. Below you can see what I wrote, then I’ll follow that with a few other choice thoughts.

From the Coconut Club Forum:
“No one should be treated as a second class citizen, no matter where they come from, how much of the native language they know, or by the color of their skin. At the same time, the best way to fit yourself into a place is by doing what the natives do. Learn the language, work, pay taxes, all that fun stuff. And doing that takes time, great effort, and no little amount of toughing out the things that one may have otherwise been used to where they came from. Is it supposed to be a struggle for the entire time one is in their newly adopted country? Well, that depends… is one actively being blocked from making their way, or is it that the effort being put forth isn’t quite as much as it could be because one thinks that they shouldn’t have to struggle quite so much? For me, I expect that it’s probably going to take at least a year to really get the language down, and build up enough of a network that finding the kind of work that I’m good at doing will be easier than it is at the moment. But that’s just me. I have a bit of a framework to help with support until that time, including a wonderful husband who stands beside me through thick or thin.

In the States, I’ve dealt with stupid people all of my life. Just because I’m black, they seem to think that means that somehow I’m not quite like them. Some have even attempted to make me a second class citizen because of the glorious color of my skin. To which I have laughed, given them a look expressing disdain for their lack of intelligence, and ignored them as being either unwilling or unable to learn that people are pretty much the same, no matter the outward appearance. I intend to do that here as well, if I run into someone blatant enough to bring up my color as some kind of problem. I discovered that the place doesn’t matter, but the people do. I work accordingly within that. Again, that’s just me. My background has been fairly diversified from the get-go, so perhaps it colors how I view things.

Now, my views all may very well change after I’ve been here another few months, or years, but as of yet I haven’t seen any of the problems that I have seen in the States happen here. Maybe it’s a side effect of my new marriage and my whole-hearted acceptance that ‘when in Denmark, at least attempt to do as the Danes do, with a little American flare’ and maybe that will pass after the millionth time I’ve attempted to congratulate someone on their birthday and instead end up cursing them by my butchery of the middle Ds, Ås, and Øs liberally sprinkled throughout the language. Maybe I’ve been lucky so far, and if that’s the case then may that luck hold, and maybe I can spread it around a little. Because I too have thought about going back to the States, and wondered if this was such a good move because it’s such a little country, barely bigger than some cities I’ve spent time in. There are few people who look like me, can I find someone to cut my hair, or a shop with good skin care products? Can I deal with a country where everyone is either as pale as the paint on my walls, or fake-baked into golden color? Then I just remember where I come from and laugh at how much alike people are, no matter where you find them.

Are the people and institutions in Denmark any more racist or xenophobic than in the States or other countries? Obviously, for some, yes. For me, time will tell. I think, in the end, it will be here much like it is anywhere else… exactly what I make of it. Should be an interesting ride. I hope the Danes are ready…”

Having said all of that, what still bothers me about the trend of the recent forum posts, is that rather than people coming in and saying ‘I disagree’ (though there was one, which was greatly appreciated) or ‘well, this is how I dealt with issues’ I hear more about how people are wishing they could leave. That they would leave if… The impression I get from all of those posts is that somehow Denmark has managed to bottle and instill in its citizenry a desire to avoid immigration at all costs, to treat foreigners as less than acceptable, and to make sure that only Danes move ahead in this little corner of the world. So somehow, Denmark has managed to put into action all the things that numerous groups in America, Germany, Israel, Africa, and various other places around the globe have been attempting to do for decades. Denmark has cornered the market on xenophobic behavior, and managed to find a way to hold back anyone not danish from succeeding. I find this amazing, somehow impressive, and yet not totally believable. Of course, everyone deals with things in their own way, and many find ways to make lemonade out of the lemons they’re dealt. Sort of like me, though I don’t know how to make lemonade. Do make a mean cheesecake, though. 😀 So some, feeling the lemons here in Denmark won’t translate to a decent lemonade or even lemon meringue pie, or good lemon bars, decide to go for the lemons presented by countries that they are used to, lemons they have dealt with before. Which is absolutely fine. I just happen to disagree with how they are presenting things.

Maybe that’s because this Wren is inherently an optimist, believing that life will be what she makes of it, no matter what the outside world might try and throw at her. Because we all know that it definitely throws all sorts of things at us, each and every day. And we rise, or fall, based more on how we deal with the curves, than that we get tossed those curves in the first place. I guess I believe that I determine my destiny, rather than letting someone else do it. Ok, maybe that makes me an incurable optimist, and a bit more of a dreamer than a realist. Maybe, when the world wants to smack me down, I ought to know when to just accept it and fold. Or adjust my plans to accept it as just the way life goes. Guess I still have a bit to learn… Another day, maybe. I have a language to learn and a country to conquer.