This shadow of Emily, our bull terrier, reminds me of trying to understand Danes and the Danish culture: ever changing and elusive.
In planning my second trip to Denmark this September, this writer feels more grounded. More grounded than my first trip last September where I was traveling alone, had a few hick-ups along the way, but largely enjoyed the trip. Now I understand that like a good bottle of wine, Denmark and the Danes are to be savoured and enjoyed. Unlike a cheap bottle of beer (is there such a thing?).
Since 2010, I have been writing about Danish Canadians and Danish Americans in my corner of the world in the Pacific Northwest of the United States and Canada. My editor at Den Danske Pioneer allows me great latitude in coming up with different stories and features in my attempt to ‘cover’ the various Danish communities in British Columbia, Oregon, and Washington.
As a transplanted American who moved to Canada in 2006, I tried to get a handle in my head just what is a Canadian? And what are the marked differences between Canada and the U.S.? There are ever-so-subtle differences. Like the history of how each country was formed. The U.S. was born from a revolution against the colony form of government while in Canada no revolution was ever fought. Or to put it another way, the U.S. was the rebellious daughter of Mother England while Canada was the dutiful daughter.
I see great similarities between Danes and Canadians: nominally polite and considerate (and I work in an inner city hospital ER where not-so-kind and considerate patients challenge the nurses and doctors every day from the marginalized population we see) and above all else, and okay with the idea that they as Canadians don’t have to be the ‘top dog.’ A commentary people in the rest of the world make about the U.S. and sometimes Americans.
If one was going to stereotype a ‘typical’ Dane, what would that be? Does one have to be born in Denmark? Look or act a certain way? Believe in the deity in one way or another?
I was hoping the Danish historical movie, The Royal Affair, would win the Oscar for foreign film. Partly as an American of Danish heritage, partly to widen the understanding and education (even in the fictionalized Hollywood form) of Denmark and its history for movie goers. Unfortunately, it is now relegated the the dustbin of history. Untold millions never will see it. As opposed to millions more who would have if the golden statue was awarded to the movie’s film makers.
I will continue my quest in understanding the country my paternal grandfather left as an 12-year-old boy with his naturalized Uncle Jens. Denmark when he left in 1902 was so different than today: thousands of Danes were immigrating to Canada and the U.S. because of economic hard times. There was no welfare state. Today, people want to move to Denmark (I would jump at the chance to live in Denmark for six months or a year…) and along with that is the ever-growing tension between cultural differences between native-born Danes and new residents. I don’t understand the tension because I don’t live in Denmark. But I do want to understand it. And that, in a nutshell, is my hope and desire in reconnecting with Danish venner (friends) and making new ones. Taking in more of the culture, be it in the hustle and bustle of Copenhagen or the rural setting in Jutland. Suspending my own preconceived notions about Danes and Denmark – easy said than done – is my continued quest.
Who is willing to help me?
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