Should ‘new Danes’ be like everybody else?

Danish union is currently running a campaign for integration of  ‘new Danes’ into the labour market. The campaign is, translated into English, called ‘Part of the Solution’.

The campaign caught my attention when I browsed the Internet, and came across a banner asking me: ‘Should ‘new Danes be like everybody else?’

In Danish we have gradually internalised the concept ‘new Danes’ in our Danish language (‘nydansker’ in Danish). The Danish Language Committee defines a ‘new Dane’ as a person whose family derives from another place than Denmark.

Part of the union’s campaign is an on-line survey here, where some of the questions are (freely translated):

‘Should there be a special room for prayer at work?’
‘Should ‘new Danes’ get used to the regular Friday beer?’
‘Is multiplicity an advantage for the work environment?’

I have worked in East Africa since June 2005, and I couldn’t help wondering about these questions in relation to my own context.

In Tanzania multipicity comes in abundance. Every day around 12.30 the loudspeaker from the muslim boy’s school right next to my office window goes: ‘Allāhu Akbaaaaaaaaaaar…’  In downtown Dar Es Salaam the old Indian families rule the textile, gold shops and restaurants. The poorest areas take you back in time to a past with an Arab touch.

In Tanzania, especially along the Swahili Coast,  the population is more or less split half half on Christianity and Islam, but also Hinduism and a few other religions are practised. Few think of the fact that President Nyerere, who was in charge of Tanzania for 24 years, was a Catholic, or that the present President Kikwete is a Muslim. For sure I never did, till I saw a picture in the newspaper of Kikwete dressed in traditional Muslim robes celebrating the Ramadhan last October.

girlsI don’t refer to high politics or the religious fanatics, but to the ordinary Tanzanian making daily life in Tanzania work. The girls at the photo above (from Picha na Ndege, a small town outside Dar es Salaam) is not a rare sight.

In Denmark it is.

Asking the questions if there should be a special room for prayer at work, if ‘new Danes’ should get used to the regular Friday beer, or if multiplicity is an advantage for the work environment? is somehow far out.

In Denmark we have turned multiplicity into complex politics on all levels, and we strive so hard to define ourselves towards one another, that we forget that multiplicity is a factual result of the globalised world we are living in.

Tanzania is far from a perfect nation, and I myself living here occasionally experience a bit of the same issues, which I assume the people who are labelled ‘new Danes’ in Denmark do.

I guess, no one should be like everybody else.

By Pernille Bærendtsen • June 30, 2009

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The Returnee

Pernille Bærendtsen

Passionate about Africa, open horizons, long-distance driving & loud music, photography, kelele, kahawa, kanga, African politicians, social media and activism.