Pondering over values and beliefs
Posted Sunday, January 6 2013 at 02:00
MY DENMARK DIARY. When the writer had just gone to Denmark, she took for granted her own cultural values and had never truly examined them. However over the years, as she came face to face with different values, she started to slowly try to comprehend her values as a person.
When I first learnt that I was going to study in Denmark, my mind reverted to the classes in primary school about the extensive Dairy farming. Call it naivety, but I had no clue as to what the Danes are like or the Danish society so to speak.
I was fortunate to have been placed in a student residence with only Danes, as such; the introduction course on the Danish society came in handy. Coming to a different country, I was both excited and anxious. The Danes are generally friendly people I soon learnt. Although friendly, Danes are generally a closed people and therefore being a part of this group is especially difficult for students from foreign countries who do not have the knowledge of the Danish language, customs and culture.
I soon found this to be true. On the day of the first party I attended in Denmark, I noticed that people rarely made an effort to get know new people, but stuck to mingling in the same group of friends. Being the reserved person that I am sometimes, this gave me an awkward feeling. I was frustrated and wanted to understand why some of the Danes I lived with were a bit stand- off-ish even though they were friendly at the same time.
However, I soon realised that Danes are much more open when they are drinking. To be able to get to know them, one should be socialable and willing to show genuine interest in another person.
Friendliness brings friends
Once I got out of my shell, I began to have interest in the people I lived with, where they came from in Denmark and what the cultures or customs of these different places are. I also began to take an interest in the politics and the media and often discussed topical issues with my dormmates, who equally expressed interest in learning about Uganda.
In showing curiosity about this society that I now lived in, I soon learnt that Danes value trust. Often when I forgot my money or phone in the common living room where I watched television and ate with my dormmates, it was the norm to return these lost items to their rightful owners.
This made me feel very safe in knowing that I could trust the people that I lived with and that they in turn could trust me to return lost items to their rightful owners. I often compared this to Uganda which is a religious society and yet still very much lacking in trust, compared to the Danes who are a contradicting mix of Christian society by name, but a secular society by practice. I discovered that atheism is widely accepted and I found it a little amusing that only elderly Danes went to church and that one had the option of paying a church tax to remain a member of the church.
A humble society
The Danish society is also strongly founded on the custom of humility also known as the “Jante Law” based on modesty whereby it’s considered almost an abomination to show off your wealth and status or to be better than others in any way.
I took for granted my own cultural values and had never truly examined my own beliefs, and now I was interacting and coming to face with different values, I am slowly trying to comprehend my values as a person.
It’s a process I am trying to deal with as a person, a journey of finding answers to questions I once willingly accepted as conventional.