American Ambassador Leaves Denmark

Today the former American Ambassador to the Kingdom of Denmark James P. Cain (R) makes his departure back to the U.S. after serving in Copenhagen for the last 3.5 years. He left a few parting words with the Danish people via an interview posted on the tabloid newspaper B.T. The article’s headline, “The Ambassador to the Danes: You are 50 Years Behind,” refers to Denmark’s tolerance and attitude towards foreigners and lack of integration.

In the article, he says that Danes are not good at welcoming foreigners and that it’s extremely difficult for foreigners to feel at home and settle here. He underscores that it’s not about certain nationalities in particular, but all nationalities in general that has a hard time feeling at home in Denmark.  

Cain also pointed out that it’s not about giving up traditions, but accepting that the world has become more global. And that Denmark shouldn’t be afraid of losing it’s culture/traditions/values and to realize that it’s possible to both keep them and and still encourage people who are different from them. He also said that it would make Denmark much stronger in the long run if they were able to welcome foreigners and accept them and the fact they have different belief systems.

According to Cain, Denmark is facing some of the same issues that American has for the past 200 years. The Americans were afraid of people who look, speak and think something different from them. The recent milestone American just reached in electing an African American as President is testimant to the fact that American has overcome this.  The question is, is Denmark too set in its own ways (heritage and tradition) to evolve in this manner?
The funny thing is that Danes love to travel, they love experiencing new cultures, but somehow they reject that they already have a mixture of cultures right in their own country. Personally I feel there is a general (positive) open attitude towards foreigners for basic things (every day surface interactions) and especially when you are here as a tourist. But the problem is that it doesn’t go much deeper than that. It’s kind of like, “sure, you can live here (if you meet our immigration requirements, which are also criticized for being too strict), but we won’t welcome you or go out of our way to help you.”

I, like many other foreigners here, instead reach out and build a network among other internationals and form colonies of sorts, similar to the English in Andalusia or Danes in Solvang, California, or the Muslim community in Denmark. This creates further division or a sort of silent segregation that no one really speaks about openly. My hope is that over time this will change for Denmark  too and the country will in fact become more global.

See additional coverage and video (in English) here on Berlingske Tiden

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