Interesting how many people claim that they have no prejudices about other people. In especially I have noticed this statement coming out of the mouth of young people. They very often claim that we - the old bags - have prejudices about and no acceptance of people being different from the norm.

This is interesting, because that tells me that regardless of age most people fear the unknown.
It doesn't really matter what or how. If you are black in a white community, have a farmers dialect in an urban community, wear punk clothings in a hippie environment, bleeche and strech your hair in an afro club - whatever it is, you deviate from the norm and will be treated with suspiciousness.

When I got my first job in Sweden, everybody praised me for my solid Swedish languageskills because Swedish is not my native language. But after a while I began to realize that it is not just the language that does it. My continental behaviour and humor was not acceptable in the Swedish sphere. I experienced suspiciousness and negative attitude towards me and I felt like an outsider. - It's the small details right - such as the parties you don't get invited to, the roaring silence when you enter the lunch room, the amusing ha, ha, claims about your does related to general misunderstandings about the behaviour in your birth country (For the record- I drink beer all day and eat sausages accordingly).

One of the things that caused me great troubble was my lack of support to the Swedish cult phenomena Fika. Since noone bothered to explain the benefits of Fika to me, I automatically in my continental mind saw it as ridicolous and a complete waste of valuable time. So naturally I didn't adapt the concept. And naturally I became an non-adaptable alien in the minds of my Swedish colleagues. An outsider.

I was mature enough to handle the whole situation with a bit of black humor and ironi, but I can understand if young people facing that attitude takes it to heart. Some of the rudenesses went straight to my heart as well. I have a natural distance towards strangers, and that distance became my wall towards the - as I felt - ignorant Swedes.

Richard D. Lewis wrote the book When Cultures Collide in which he with a great sence of humor reflects on his experiences with culture phenomena. That book is a must if you are in need of a turn-around in the tunnel. I read it in 2 days, and it was so refreshing to meet Richard Lewis reflections on these issues. For me it led to an ability to overcome the obstacles without getting hurt.

I still don't support Fika, but with the guidance from Richard D. Lewis I manage to pretend that I see the benefits, and I can even explain it to you if youd like and make it sound as a perfectly natural feature of everyday life.

Ignorance creates barriers between people. Its YOUR responsibility to tear down YOUR barrier if you expect others to respect YOU as you are.



Christopher Raun Leth said...

You're sooo right. Living in Denmark at the moment actually should make people realise this (they just have to listen to politicians and journalist for half a second) but I guess it is a bit hard to see the forrest for all the trees...

Asta said...

You are ever so right. And it is so sad. I love Denmark, but by God it is sad to hear how things have been blown out of porportions.
And actually this was why I wrote this article, because I think that if you felt what it´s like to be treated with suspiciousness, you´ll think twice. I do believe that a developed human being is open minded and accept people as they are. It is very difficult to fight prejudices.