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Something is rotten in the state of Denmark

Ok, so this newest offering from Sophie Kingo’s Bits and Blogs is, again, not within the craft remit the blog has mostly tended to be. But, it does fit the ‘anything else I feel like blogging about’ declaration, so I’m allowed. And this post is much needed as it’s a culmination of my growing grievance at the growing intolerance in Denmark.

As you may know, I am half Danish – that is, my Mother is Danish. I was born in Britain, spent the majority of my eighth year on this planet in Denmark, and have pretty much visited Denmark’s third largest town Odense (with a population roughly the same as Rochdale, the UK’s 40th largest urban area) every year of my life. So I know a fair bit about the place. Now don’t get me wrong. I like Denmark. Maybe more because it feels somewhat like a home from home and holds a lot of memories for me. But I also know that people can be remarkably unfriendly – more or less no one holds a door open for you, and my Dad will testify he never sees any customer in the local baker say please, thank you or smile as they order their pastries – and that it’s also a little backward  – don’t even think about going shopping or to a museum on a Sunday or a Bank Holiday. Even in the capital city.

Over the last couple of years I’ve come to realise more so that Denmark isn’t the rosy, liberal, open-minded and accepting place that people from Britain tend to think it is. There’ve been several instances where it’s evident Denmark is fast becoming, if it wasn’t already, a county that is intolerant to change and to people of different backgrounds. Here are six reasons why.

  1. Back in 2008, Jeffrey and I went to Denmark for five nights to visit my family and have a short (over-priced) stay in Copenhagen. For those of you who don’t know, Jeffrey’s black (I’m white). Jeffrey’s parents moved over to London from Ghana back in the 1970s. Jeffrey was born in Britain. He has always lived in Britain and has only a British passport. (Even his parents hold British passports, unlike my Mum.) So why, when we stepped off our Easy Jet flight at Kastrup Lufthavn, did he have loads of questions thrown at him by passport control? Why did they need to ask him (and a woman who looked like she was of Somalian origin) and not me and countless other white British people stepping off the flight, questions including: Why are you here? How long are you here for? Where are you staying? As far as I’m aware, if you’re from an EU member state you are free to travel within Europe as long as you have a valid passport from your EU member state. There’s no need for the interrogation thanks.
  2. In 2009 my Mum had a job as a Danish speaking sales/client relationship person at a packaging factory in Hull. For this, she had to spend three weeks in Nyborg, Denmark. While she was there she noticed a growing negative feeling towards immigration and a growing intolerance.
  3. In February this year, Radio 4 broadcast a programme Driving on the right looking at the growing support for far right politics in Denmark and Sweden. The Dansk Folkeparti (Danish People’s Party) wins less than 15 per cent of the national vote,  hasn’t entered government formally, and yet manages to influence mainstream politics massively. They hold the balance of power in the Liberal/Conservative coalition government and offer support in getting the government’s new policies through parliament in return for demands on immigration and economics. Now this wouldn’t be a problem if the DPP wasn’t blatantly racist. Pia Kjærsgaard, the DPP leader, believes there are too many immigrants in Denmark. In the report, Kjærsgaard throws about her scare tactics: “Denmark is a very small country…We have very many who hasn’t a job who just want money from our taxes.” Her supporters – both young and old, both typically traditional nationalists and younger people, put Kjærsgaard on a pedestal. They believe that she has, and will continue to, reduce the number of immigrants in Denmark by influencing government. A former bouncer, and a supporter of the DPP, said, “I don’t think anybody should come to Danmark…We have enough already”. Then you have Youth Politicians and young teachers: “many people  don’t like the country. If it was me I would go home…actually if you leave DK you can get DKK100,000.” A young Danish mother adds: “when I go into a mall and go…to nurse [my baby]… there are so few Danish mothers there…they are outnumbering us”. The DPP has managed to influence government policy on immigration, bringing down the number of immigrants from outside the EU being allowed into Denmark massively. The DPP has even influenced immigration policy which results in mixed nationality married couples being unable to gain a permanent resident permit for Denmark. One couple – a Dane and a Mexican –  have been living in Denmark for 8 years. Both are working graduates, both have been paying taxes and neither are in debt. But the Mexican woman cannot get a permanent resident permit. The Danish husband believes this is because they are “an acceptable casualty” in the political compromise. He goes on to warn people to “think twice before you marry a Dane”. Now, opposition parties are not willing to oppose to current immigration law in fear that they will not win power in the future. So this feeling, viewpoint and political stance will not go away easily.
  4. “Think twice before you marry a Dane” – well, maybe people will have to. It is increasingly difficult for a non-Dane to marry a Dane as a number of conditions must be met: both the Danish and the foreign partner need to be at least 24 (yes, 24!) years old; the Danish partner needs to post a bond of £7,200 collateral; the foreign partner has to pass a language and knowledge test; and both need to demonstrate a combined attachment to Denmark greater than to any other country. Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-12366676
  5. In 1958, the Nordic Passport Union was introduced fully to allow citizens of the “Nordic” countries – Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, the Faroe Isles and Iceland – to travel and reside in other Nordic countries without a passport or a residence permit. Citizens from outside of these countries can also pass the borders without having their passport checked, but still have to carry a passport or other approved travel identification papers. However, this year, Danish police have been requesting black and “Asian-looking” Swedes to show their passports while on the train from Sweden to Denmark. Unsurprisingly, the DPP fully supports this new practice, in apparently fighting illegal immigration. It strikes me as odd that it’s only black and “Asian-looking” people that can be illegal immigrants. Racist, no? Source: http://politiken.dk/indland/ECE1238209/v-fint-at-kraeve-pas-af-farvede-svenskere/http://onlyindenmark.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/v-ok-to-ask-for-passport-from-coloured-swedes/
  6. Finally, I’ll close with another (semi) personal experience. When my sister Lisa and I were arriving in Billund, Denmark, for our Grandma’s funeral earlier this year, the Arrivals from the EU customs gate was strangely closed. This meant that everyone had to go through the Nothing to Declare or Goods to Declare gates. In front of us was a man of Asian-looking origin, about 22 years old and carrying a rucksack. My sister and I were both watching him as the Customs officer pulled him to one side to speak to him. We both looked at each other ready to exclaim “surprise surprise” to each other as it was absolutely no surprise to us that this one young not typically “Scandinavian” looking male had been pulled aside by the officer. And it certainly didn’t seem coincidental that no white people were being pulled over. Luckily, a few words in Danish from the young man meant the officer soon let him on his way. But I wonder how many other people weren’t so lucky. And what would have happened if Jeffrey had been with us this time…?

 

Addition – Saturday 2 April 2011, 23:41

After tweeting a link to this post on Twitter and to a few people who had recently tweeted about racism in Denmark, I received the following tweets. I think it’s well worth sharing these with you as they reiterate what I have outlined above:

@perritob – Sadly but true, the increasing racism in my land makes me cry, we used to be much more open to other people.

@moshebli – I experienced the same thing 4 weeks weeks ago when I went to Amsterdam. I have a european passport, but I look middle eastern

@moshebli – infact I got used to it every I travel now. Except @ my home eu country

@Idélaboratoriet – Denmark’s immigration policy is becoming a shame for whole of Scandinavia and country will continue to slide in the creative class index…

@Idélaboratoriet – …but today we will enjoy one of the immigrants that has made Denmark an interesting place: Rene at NOMA, the no1 restaurant in the world!

Previous tweets from @perritob on this theme include:

  • Where is the justice, when a foreigner gets punished more by the Justice system than a native citizen in Denmark, it shows our racist mindset
  • Danish minister of integration says harder laws toward throwing people out of our country will come, sir you are a racist.
  • But what to expect in a country like Denmark were the government is supported by a fascist and racist party Dansk Folke parti.
  • Humanity is one Race with different beautiful colors, each one more beautiful than the other, together those colors become even more pretty.
  • I talk alot about one race, the problem is, looking at my own country it does not at all share my view, Denmark for Danes is common here
  • And it means Denmark for Danes not Arabs/Muslims, this is sad but true, I talking to people to listen but most shake on there head at me
  • Free speech in Denmark means free speech to critisize people that are different or who supports openess towards people of other cultures.

Other tweets I’ve come across tonight:

  • @shukriadams – I love April 1st in Denmark, it’s the only day of the year when the news isn’t all about immigrants.
  • @shukriadams – Denmark seems to classify foreigners by one of three categories : “fit for labor”, “fit for fucking”, & “fit on a plane back home”. #dkpol
  • @shukriadams – Thinking of coming to work in Denmark? Well get ready to be double-taxed, because Danes want even more of your money http://bit.ly/hX3ofB
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Vi har den samme kjole på

My parents, sister and I were in cold cold Denmark last weekend for my Grandma’s funeral. This involved flying out on Friday afternoon and returning on Monday. Therefore, while my parents were busy sorting out my Grandma’s flat with my Mum’s siblings, Lisa and I paid a visit to the lovely Kingo-Berg household over the road from my Auntie and Uncle’s house where we were staying. As soon as Lisa and I rocked up at Mie and Dennis’ hyggeligt house in Åsum Ida-Marie – Mie and Dennis’ 4 year old little girl – realised she had the same dress as me. Now I say she had the same dress as me. However, this was not the intention. I had made Ida-Marie’s 1 and a half year-old little sister, Hannah, this dress for Christmas. But sadly, as was the case with the similarly aged L1 and L2 , the dress was too big for little sister resulting in big sister getting the pleasure of wearing it first.

So when I turned up wearing my purple shift, Ida-Marie instantly demanded she wear hers, despite a button having popped off a couple of days previously. Ida-Marie made sure she time and again reiterated the fact that “vi har den samme kjole på” (we have the same dress on). So I whipped my camera out  and suggested we take a photo so people can see. And here she is, looking as adorable as she is (while I look pretty bad), even though she did fart on my knee and find it hilarious.

And just to show how cute the family is, here’s a photo Ida-Marie took of her Mum (my cousin Mie) and Hannah for who the dress was intended:

Anyway, as a side note, yesterday I decided it’s time I made myself another dress. The last one I made for me was that purple shift above that I made way back in  September/October 2010. So today PBM and I took the Tricky Vicky Line to Brixton and I treated myself to the oh so expensive following pieces of cloth – one at £7, the other £10 for 5.5m. Bearing in mind I’m going to use less than 2m for each dress, I do believe this is a *much* better bargain than anything you could get in the oh so hideous Primark.

And while they’re being rinsed and drying, I just have to decide what style dress I’m going to make each into. One is definitely going to be a shift, but I just can’t decide which…


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Gifts for Denmark

On 9 January 2010 I published the blog post D’oh where I listed all that I made for Christmas presents and mention that I forgot to take photos of them. Well, I’ve only gone and done it again this year. The problem is that I make Christmas presents and, as I don’t wear them, I forget to take photos, wrap them up, et voila it’s left to those who receive the presents to kindly take photos and send me them. Also, what with the days being short and the nights long, I complete many of the presents when it’s dark out and, as you’ll see from some of the following pictures, it’s not easy to photograph them in the dark.

This blog post lists what I made for my cousin Mie, her husband Dennis and their two daughters Ida-Maria (4) and Hannah (2) in Denmark.

  • Beige/golden bracelet for Mie, made with a selection of glass foil beads from Spoilt Rotten Beads and a variety of  stone beads
  • Striped beret for Ida-Maria, made from purple and wine merino wool yarn
  • Purple dress for Hannah made from Ghanaian wax print (here’s the grown up version)
  • Bird mobile from a mixture of Liberty and Ghanaian cotton for Mie and Dennis

I remembered to take photos of these items, though the beret is incomplete – the crocheted flower is missing – and Mie’s  bracelet was shot in the dark. But hopefully you can make them out.

And apologies to Mie and Co. if this is the first time you’ve seen these items. I posted the parcel 8 days before Christmas so I’m hoping they got to Åsum in time for Julaften.

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