Thursday, August 29, 2013

of handsome men and not so handsome politicians

as you know, i spend a rather inordinate amount of time trying to figure out what makes the danes tick. i have assorted bloggy (and real life) friends who do as well. here's an especially amusing new theory - the theory of the handsome danish men. yesterday, i observed a Handsome Danish Man in action (he was Handsome, just ask him, he'll tell you himself (flips hair fetchingly)). he sauntered around importantly. he flashed smiles at himself when he caught sight of his salt and pepper hair in mirror-like surfaces. he oddly kept calling attention to the fact that he is an embedsmand (non-political government official), which frankly, detracted significantly from his handsomeness, but must have been making him feel important. and it was more than obvious that he feels important as well as Handsome. however, i'm not yet ready to fully buy the theory as in my opinion, it's danish women who exhibit the most appallingly rude behavior in public space. perhaps they're just bitter about being treated badly all those years by the handsome men. i'll have to ponder this new theory a bit more.

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apropos attempting to understand the danes, there was recent swirl in the billund newspapers surrounding a report on quality of life among expats in that municipality. (billund is where the second largest airport in denmark is located and is the home of lego.) apparently one local politician was so incensed that the report was in english that he publicly declared that it was over with addressing politicians in english in the municipality. 

the report is the result of interviews and a workshop with 22 expats living within the municipality (which is more like a county-sized entity in US terms). they had a lot of positive things to say about denmark (it's safe, it's not corrupt, it's a great place to raise children, there is a good work-life balance), but they also expressed a lot of negatives, largely surrounding how hard it is to break down the barriers and establish a social life with danes. people had tears in their eyes as they told tales of feeling rejected by their neighbors and even strangers in line at the grocery store. some were on the verge of clinical depression due to inability to connect or get meaningful work. two said they had actually taken antidepressants. so the overall story was of a pretty harsh reality of daily life as an expat in a place where people felt invisible and rejected. and the people of billund were outraged. how dare foreigners complain about this idyllic little land? they should just pack it up and go back to wherever they came from.

the reaction of the politician, to declare that this is denmark and all municipal business must take place in english simply underlines the results of the report. foreigners feel rejected by danish society. he apparently advocates taking away completely the voice of the minority population within the municipality when he declares in a news story that "it's over with addressing politicians in english." how a grown man who is an elected official in a little land with a minor language can stand up and say out loud that he doesn't speak english is beyond my comprehension. the largest business within the municipality is the very successful toy maker lego. foreign workers are essential to their continued growth and success, so to deny these people, who bring jobs and money into the community, a voice is absolutely absurd. the politician actually said, "i wasn't there on the day we had english in school," so he further negates the importance of english in a globalized world. happily, there is an election coming up this autumn and foreign residents of a municipality are allowed to vote in municipal elections (at least for now, tho' the xenophobic danish people's party would like to take that away), so perhaps this clown will be shown the door and replaced by someone with a more global view. 

another interesting side note - in three articles about the report, the reporter in question never once made an attempt to contact the authors of the report for more information on methodology or the results or to have a more nuanced view on the story. and this despite declaring in a sidebar that they will spend the next week looking in depth at the contents of the report. and that's journalism today, folks.

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and speaking of danish politicians, i spent yesterday with several of them. i sat down next to one of them at lunch, a heavily pockmarked older man with a shaggy and decidedly non-hipster 70s mustache and a dried sweat stain on the back of his shirt. he didn't ask me my name or tell me his (perhaps assuming i knew he was An Important City Council Member). instead, apropos one of my uncles at a family reunion, basically asked me what i did with myself to deserve the air i was using up. when i explained that i do all kinds of writing and communications in english, he asked if i was english. on the principle of not offering more than you're asked, i said no. what i should have done next was ask him what he did with himself to deserve the air he was using up. instead, i just sort of gulped and fumed a little bit about being made to feel inadequate by this unfashionable-shoe wearing git. it then came out that i was american. and where i lived. and that was that.

sometime later, as we toured a library, he asked me how long i'd been in denmark. i said 15 years and he said, "oh, well, you're danish then." i replied that i most decidedly was NOT. (funny how we're most our nationality in defensive situations.) and he asked, incredulous, why. i pointed out that i have an american passport (i've heard those are quite sought after) and why on earth would i give that up? (he'd ticked me off by then.) he said, oh, but you can have both. and i said, no, i can't. the americans would allow it, but the danes won't. even the former prime minister's own son had to give up his danish passport when he became an american citizen a few years ago. this guy should have known that, since he is from that same party!

i'm sure he's pondering ways of trying to get me thrown off the local group which is involved in establishing a "culture house," on the grounds that i'm a bad foreign influence. he probably doesn't realize that i get to vote in municipal elections. and i know who i'm not going to be voting for.  he also speaks a bit against the handsome danish men theory, as he was most decidedly not handsome (i have a photo of him, but i don't dare to publish it). but again, i'm not done pondering that one.

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monty python and the holy grail lego sets. awesome.


Elizabeth said...

so you had yourself an interesting day .... :)

Frollein SH-ic said...

aha Julie .. it sounds good to compare the men .. love andrea ( fotosh )

will said...

There are two simple procedures that can be used when you are forced to be in the presence of arrogant HM.

1. Totally ignore the guy who's full of himself. I mean, act as if he's invisible. These guys usually implode when not getting max attention. The second is more fun.

2. Laugh at him. Do an obvious glance then begin snickering. Turn away, look back and do a few more giggles.

Only the most rabid of alpha dog wannabees will make effort to resist these procedures - but the gaffaws and giggles probably left a kernel of doubt in their partially empty craniums.

Veronica Roth said...

Outrageous! But then, I get the same treatment here in E, even though I speak the same language in C. (OK, some might argue that point)