Thursday, 24 March 2011

International Relations

As a first time Expat, I think the thing I initially found most unexpected about our time living in Denmark, is how much I expected to meet and interact with people from our host country, and how much we actually haven't.... It only took a couple of months to work out why, the Danes are very private people, choosing to socialise with a close network of friends (and family) they have had for years, rather than new people. The few Danes we have become friendly with have lived abroad themselves at some point, so know we don't bite!

Another thing I am not sure I appreciated before we came here was the wide variety of expats we would come across instead, both work-expats and "lifers"! It's so interesting observing different views on things depending on which country people come from. I guess my amateur cultural anthropology observations are based mainly on parenting, as it's the subject I have most exposure to on a daily basis with two small children at school. There is a huge variation in attitudes towards a lot of things here including play, food, clothing and education! For instance, Danish parents with young children in my daughter's class have very relaxed views on education. To them play is considered far more important initially as a means to becoming "socialised" (and the various forms of outdoor play are far more relaxed too - the Head of UK Health and Safety would spontaneously combust should they ever spend time scraping beneath the surface of some Danish playgrounds)!! The attitude is (refreshingly so in some cases, but definitely not in others!)that the children should be trusted more, and will learn what is safe and what's not... The parents of the Mediterranean children in the class also have more relaxed views when it comes to learning, the view there is that they are still babies really, and should enjoy themselves as much as possible (unless you bring home nits, then in all likelihood your mother is going to scrub you within an inch of your life and freeze all your clothes and toys in an effort to kill all the "horrible little creatures" - I felt so sorry for the poor mother in question, she was traumatised! All the children in the class actually got it deep in the heart of hat-wearing season, but the parents from other countries were considerably less phased), but they should take care when playing, no rough and tumble for them! The American, British and Asian parents take education at a young age a lot more seriously, and play is not considered as important at all, learning social skills should come later! I am not saying that people who don't take a greater interest in education at this stage are wrong of course, I just find it fascinating how we all have such different conceptions!

All in all I am very happy to report that international relations are mostly excellent, and it's not just the children learning new things about different cultures! It's great being part of an international community where we are all from such different backgrounds. Most refreshingly there's none of the competitive parenting I experienced at home, I found that so depressing - unless you were to open one of the fantastic global lunch boxes then that would be a different story!...

(photo courtesy of Sakurako Kitsa, click here to see more of her work!)...


  1. Wow that's the king of school lunch boxes can I have one ? :-) Very interesting post. Thanks.

  2. Very interesting, Emma. So far, and it has only been a couple of months, I've really enjoyed learning about other ways of doing things and seeing that my way isn't the only way. The novelty might wear off but for now its refreshing!!

  3. What a brilliant insight to those different approaches. I'm slowly differentiating the British, European and Mediterranean way and understanding more the 'role' of the mother too.
    It's encouraging to recognise those behavioural and cultural difference and you often hear of more solutions to problems and become a sharper thinker!
    What a fabulous lunch box!!
    (Love Blog Horn!)

  4. Thanks Expat!

    Kitty - it gives you a real insight into a different way of doing things doesn't it, the novelty has yet to wear off for me!

    Maria,I am hoping that the sharper thinking might work for me at some point!! thank you (and for the follow too!)... Emma :)


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