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Communication, by L.C., Culture Shock


(Continued from Part 1. This concludes the article.)

GET TO KNOW YOUR NEIGHBORS. HUMBLE YOURSELF.

We took Danish lessons. It is a very difficult language that has 6 extra vowels that I can’t even hear the differences. After living on our small street for several months, we received an official-looking post card. Using our Danish-to-English dictionary made no sense of the phrases on the card. We had met our neighbors but had not developed friendships. We had learned that all Danes are taught English from 3rd grade onward. If we spoke Danish, they would answer in English. So I humbly walked over to the neighbor and knocked on the door, asked what the card meant. The neighbors were great, explaining that the post office wanted us to shovel snow off our driveway so they could deliver the mail, but don’t worry they said, the temperatures would be in the 50s tomorrow and the snow would melt. Smiles all around.

Then we received three letters from the health department. I had surmised that it was about me getting a pap smear and since our annual health care concerns were taken care of when we traveled back to Ohio yearly, I threw out the first two letters. The third letter was in bold and red type! Did the Danes have a gynecological police? So off to the neighbors again. This time a different neighbor. I humbly knocked on the door, and she (thankfully a female) answered and I showed her the letter and asked questions. She assured me I was fine as I went to the USA for yearly exams.

HINT #9: USE HUMOR. Another time I walked to a different neighbor, knocked on the door, and asked for help. I explained that we had bought an answering machine but didn’t know if we had set it up correctly. I asked them to phone us, we wouldn’t answer and hopefully the machine would record their call. Then would they walk to our house, and they could show us how to get the message and we would all enjoy a glass of wine. After going over this twice, ‘you want us to call you but you aren’t going to answer?’, they agreed and we did enjoy the wine.

HINT #10: SHARE YOUR CUSTOMS WITH THEM, AS YOU LEARN THEIRS. After coming home from church one Sunday in December, we decided to go Christmas caroling to our neighbors. We thought we would sing one or two carols and move on to the next neighbor. Wrong! At the first house, we knocked on the door, waited till they opened and then started “Jingle Bells” followed with “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.” They insisted we come in for a glass of wine. As we talked, they asked, “Did Americans really go Christmas Caroling? We see it in American movies, but did we actually do this?” Well at least in our area of Ohio we did. It all took all of December to get to all the neighbors and a lot of shared bottles of wine. We learned that if Danes do not invite the person inside at Christmas, then their Christmas would be stolen from them.

Another Christmas, we decided to host a caroling party at our home with the church youth. As our neighbors didn’t church often, and not our English speaking church, we decided we would carol to all our neighbors then go back to our house for party. Not wanting ‘to steal Christmas’ from anyone, I walked to each neighbor and told them we would come caroling next Sunday and did not need to be invited in as we would have refreshments at our house for all. Foiled again! We went caroling but each and every home insisted we come in as each and every home had invited guests from everywhere (Sweden, or Germany, or Poland) to come to hear the ‘crazy Americans’ carol to them. A long evening, lots of glogg and wine, and great memories.

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HINT #11: BRING GIFTS. Whenever asked to a Danish home, bring gifts. Flowers and wine. Just do it. Everything in Denmark is very expensive and taxed. Everything except flowers and wine. Normal income tax rate is 62% with an added 25% sales tax on everything.

When we would return from a visit to the States, we would bring a suitcase full of “Press and Seal’ (cling wrap) and Baggies. Both are illegal to sell in Denmark at that time. Danes believe “You don’t need that!” and are eager to tell you that you don’t need something. However, they loved getting the Press and Seal and Baggies.

HINT #12: LEARN LOCAL CUSTOMS. ASK. At the first formal dinner that we were invited to, there were 5 different style of glasses across the top of the place setting. Yikes! A before dinner aperitif, white wine (with the salad), red wine (with the dinner entre), water goblet, and dessert wine. And you were worried which fork to use!

Also arrive appropriately on time. In Denmark, that means not early by even one minute, and not more than 6 minutes late. If more than 6 minutes late, then the host may not speak to you for the first hour.

Dress locally. Which in Denmark means, wear black: black tennis shoes, black clothes, black coats, gloves, hats, etc. Bright colors stand out—alien!!

Learn local holidays and customs.

An American missionary hoping to start a church nearby, (incidentally Denmark is considered post-Christian), decorated the Christmas tree in the front church window with all bright colored lights and decorations. He thought beautiful for the church Sunday service coming up that week. As he was walking home, following two Danes who were slightly ahead, he heard them question each other, “When did that turn into a home of prostitution? Look at those lights!” He ran in and told his wife, “Quick, let’s get these lights off. Danes only use little white lights.”

Also we learned when to toast: The male host will raise a glass of wine, speaking a few words of welcome within the first three minutes of the meal, to be returned by the female of the guests raising a glass of wine and speaking a few words within the next three minutes. Never sip any glass before the toast. Always look all the people toasting in the eyes, and never let your glass go empty. An empty glass toast is an insult.

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HINT #13: HOST PARTIES. HAVE FUN. Late June one year, I walked to each neighbor and invited them to join us this coming Sunday afternoon, for a 4th of July party. Their reply was, ”But that is the second of July. Why not say a second of July party?” Then it dawned on me, they don’t celebrate the 4th of July, Independence Day. They all accepted, we had the party. They brought wine and flowers. We served hot dogs, and potato salad, and baked beans. They wanted the recipe for baked beans. We played kubb.

CONCLUSION:

After 5-½ years, my husband was offered head of international sales, so we moved back to Ohio. Before we did, our Danish friends hosted a going away party for us, with caterers and presents, and all our neighbors. Before hand they all got to together and had a photographer take a group shot of them and had it framed, for us to remember them. They also had a 5 foot tall wooden Danish royal guardsman made for us. (It stands on our Ohio porch.) The party stated at 4 in the afternoon, and went till 3am.

My husband and I supplied the wine. We did so because before we moved to Denmark we didn’t drink wine. But now we had been given so many bottles, and I had planned on taking the 112 bottles back to the States with us. But then some crazy person had tried to blow up an airplane using liquids and no longer could we bring them back nor ship them for fear of explosions. So we supplied great wines to the party and to every friend and acquaintance.

The next afternoon, just before we got into the taxi to finally leave, our Danish friends left work to be with us, and we also fired off fireworks (typically Danish), saying our final goodbyes. Our Danish friends said we were more European than most people they knew. Through our efforts to fit in, know customs, having parties, our neighborhood which had fences between every house, had been brought together. They said if they ever won the lottery they would all come over to Ohio for a 4th of July Party. And since then four of the families have visited us here in Ohio. And one family’s daughter twice came over as an exchange student.

I hope and I believe these hints will help anyone to move into an unknown, strange, area and then fit in, and make long lasting friends. Good Luck, God Bless.

JWR Adds: Again, I hope that SurvivalBlog readers do not dismiss the preceding article as just a collection of slightly-dated reminiscences. The mindset described has great applicability to preppers, moving to rural areas here in the United States. Whether you are moving from North to South, from Urban to Rural, or simply from farming country to ranching country, there will always be at least a little culture shock. As the author stated, humility is the key. Be humble, Don’t try to change things in your new community.  You need to adapt to your neighbors and their customs. Not vice versa!



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