I Live in Denmark and Don't speak Danish. Here's why.

I recently wrote something for The Copenhagen Post which I knew would cause a bit of a ruffle. But I stand by it. Here it is in full.

I had an epiphany the other day that reduced my stress levels no end: I am no longer going to feel guilty about not speaking Danish.

I’m going to let it go.

Some people say to me I should speak Danish. Like it’s an easy task. Like it’s not a hard language to learn. Well it is. It really is. I mean, there’s a reason it never caught on. And I’m raising two tiny kids. I’m not going to dedicate what precious little down time I have to sitting in a classroom of an evening learning Danish. I’m too tired.

Some people have said that the fact I don’t speak Danish is disrespectful. I’ll tell you what else is disrespectful. Trying to make me do something I don’t have the time, money or inclination to do, just so you can feel a little less uncomfortable. Me not speaking Danish is not going to undermine Danish culture, tradition and heritage. I’m polite and courteous, I work hard, I obey the law. I pay my taxes. I’m just trying to get through the damn day. Leave me alone.

And if you’re not comfortable speaking English? That’s fine. I’ll meet you half way. We can still converse. Because I guarantee your English will always be better than my Danish. And speaking Danish to Danes is a grueling, demoralizing ordeal. Why? Because Danes are just not used to hearing their language spoken with a foreign accent, so there’s no cognitive elasticity. That’s why, if you mispronounce a Danish word, even slightly, they often won’t understand you. They won’t meet you half way.

Some people have told me I’m arrogant. How dare I come over here and not speak the language. I’m not arrogant. I’m just honest and realistic. I do understand why some ex pats feel they should learn Danish. They see themselves as guests in this country. Well I’ve got news for you. You’re not a guest. You come here legally and pay your taxes? You’ve got as much right to be here as any Dane. And if you think being born here gives you the right to tell a foreigner how they should conduct themselves, if they contribute equally to society, then you’re just a big old racist.

I’m not patriotic. As you can tell. Take my own country. There are things I love about Britain. There are things I hate about Britain – especially right now. But it has great pubs! I loathe nationalism. It’s dangerous, it’s divisive and it’s destructive. I don’t care where you’re from. Just be kind, be generous of spirit, be open to others’ differences. That’s enough surely?

I love the ex pat community. Because here, we interact with people from all over the world, bringing with us a veritable multiverse of culture, history, customs and experience. Denmark is a monoculture. The ex pats bring the diversity. They bring vibrancy. This is not a ghetto, it’s a wonderful rainbow of inclusivity, splattering colour over all this Danish grey. I’m proud to call myself an ex pat. We don’t all need to be waving a flag all the time.

November 30, 2019 By admin General , , , , , , Share:

2 thoughts on “I Live in Denmark and Don’t speak Danish. Here’s why.

  1. Frances says:

    Hi yes I agree with you. My experience here in denmark is just kind of hard after 2 years. My gf family does not speak or want to learn english. They expect me to learn danish but I guess I should so at fam social gatherings I’m just not sitting there shy bored and twiddling my thumbs for hours all they do is eat and sit and talk for hours. Cant get used to no way just the danish way. They treat me like I’m dumb. I come from uk lived in usa here in denmark with my gf. Everything they tell me is negative cant do this or that your in denmark now. I cant get used to the simple life. We dont do anything the same thing. I just dont want to sit and talk for hours I’m not used to that. A very hard time for me. Have no support here. My gf told me if I was gone to my family she would act totally different like I hold back and she does to.

  2. MECA says:

    maybe this is very late, but, as international my self lived in 3 different countries myself, i really liked your post, i really liked your post, and i agree with you 100%, i think people should feel what a life of a foreigner is like, feel it at least, it is not easy already, so they should not make it more difficult, we are not some magic Elves that will do everything they expect us to do, ( learn language, speak like the native, our rights are always less ) ….

    I am now looking to move to a new country, and this time around my FIRST concern when i am looking around is racism, i am here because i considered Denmark as an option, so i was looking for the language and if English is enough, i am tired learning languages of each place i move on to, it is just a waste of time… language is for communication, that is it, why the hell i should go through hell while we, the speaker and the listener could use a common language, anyway thank you for the post, it was great to know, how things really are, behind the scene.

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