Cultural Differences in Certain Countries and My Own
I have had the privilege to live different places in Denmark and five years in the brother country Sweden and for six months in Manchester in England.
Having travelled in the old Soviet Union have given me other experiences of people’s reactions that I could find at home.
The hardest part for me was to adjust to Jutland in Denmark after the five years in Sweden. Jutland is situated FAR from Copenhagen the capital of Denmark. I lived in Copenhagen nearly forty years so for me Copenhagen was Denmark.
The accent is very different in Jutland, and it’s not well accepted to speak like you do in Copenhagen. It’s regarded rather vulgar. My handicap was even worse, and I was influenced by Swedish.
A few hundred years ago Swedish and Danish was the same language, but our kings liked to fight so we did not get on so well and the Swedish people can’t understand Danish at all. I had to be fluent in Swedish living there and I learned by listening to tapes and radio. Moving to Jutland due to my husband’s job, I probably spoke with a slight mixture of Swedish and what they speak in Copenhagen.
Worse than that was that I couldn’t recognize the mimic of those I was conversing. As a health visitor you have to be able to communicate with every body.
In Copenhagen we laugh a lot and speak to strangers without hesitation. In Jutland you don’t use too many words and mimic unless you know each other well.
It took me years to just be myself in a moderate form though.
I have been in a public school speaking with pupils on health issues and sometimes they had the impression that I laughed at them! So still after many years I could still forget about it. I would tell them that I laughed with them and not at them.
The lack of mimics made me insecure, because I couldn’t read their thoughts. Now after twenty years in Jutland I look at the small things in people’s eyes or tone of voice and I think I am over it by now.
At the time with my dear host family in Manchester I was teasingly called a flipping foreigner or just an alien by the father in the house. He only had sons so he was expressing his love for me that way.
In Sweden you are expected to stand outside the door and wait to be invited into the house. When you enter you take off your shoes as the most important thing so you don’t bring in snow and dirt! This is true all year round.
In Jutland you just knock at the door, wait a few moments and walk in and say hello! The postal worker comes that way too.
In Russia they can be very hospital and invite the lot of people who need a bed or something to eat. This is regardless of how small the apartment.
When you smile to strangers they probably think you are a bit stupid, because you save smiles and friendliness to close friends and family.