Meeting this danish family in Bornholm really changed my feeling about the Danes.
When I first arrived to Europe my biggest interest was to get to know the European culture and how to integrate. I find it very important to know how to understand a new place and their people. Danish people, as I heard from non-Danish people, were private and careful when getting new friends or trusting people.
This summer, I went to Bornholm with my Danish colleague Camilla to cover the Folkemøde for New Times. Camilla’s boyfriend Laust and his family welcomed us like in my home country. It was interesting to see how Danish culture and my culture are similar.
“From today this house is your house”
I have been an asylum seeker for the past 7 years. I am from Eritrea, but born in Ethiopia. Besides Denmark, I have been to Norway, France, Greece, but Denmark is the country I have stayed the longest in an asylum centre.
Denmark is very different from my own culture in many ways. Back in Ethiopia and Eritrea we are respecting guests very much because of our religion. In the old testament Abraham welcomes guests into his home and treats them in a very welcoming way. In our tradition, you don’t let guests do anything themselves – you will cook, serve and do everything for them while they are visiting you. We also greet everyone living in the same area and even if we meet three times a day we shake hands or kiss. I have not experienced that in Denmark before.
I truly believed that visiting a Danish home would mean that we were supposed to serve ourselves. But when we went to Laust’s house in Bornholm for three days, of all places in Denmark, I didn’t expect they would welcome us like in my own country. Suddenly I felt the similarities – the family were welcoming us with a big smile and his mom said: “From today this house is your house.”
Different but same
I meet the Danes different places, in the city and in the countryside, which has been a good experience but sometimes also confusing. Some Danish people only know foreigners from TV or news magazines so they believe everyone is the same – that all are doing bad things. I have met many Danes who are surprised to find out that asylum seekers are not all bad. I often feel that Danes are not open and that I cannot communicate with them; sometimes I feel like I’m using the wrong key.
But staying with the family in Bornholm made me so happy. I really didn’t expect so much from them, I thought our cultures were so different, but it turned out we are quite similar. I was so happy; I felt like I was with my parents again. Danish people are usually private when you meet them for the first time. It takes time to get to know them and become friends. But on the other hand, I also experienced that Danes are very kind and polite and they really respect someone’s privacy. They have a plan and time for everything, and I like it.