Opinion | When children move to Denmark from abroad
In recent weeks, we’ve seen a discussion about children who return to the Danish school system after attending an international school while living abroad.
Over a period of eight years, my family and I lived in four different countries before we returned to Denmark. In addition to the academic aspects of starting at a Danish school, there were a number of differences to adjust to: more noise, less respect for the teacher, etc. Then there were all the social aspects. For example, children returning to Denmark aren’t aware of the current slang, which gives them a linguistic challenge.
Our two children transferred from an American international school. There, saying the word ‘fuck’ was nearly enough to get you expelled. Instead, people called it ‘the ‘F’ word’. It was incredibly shocking to hear Danish children constantly saying ‘fuck’. It was also important for us to prepare our children for the greater degree of independence Danish children have.
On top of being one of the safest countries in the world, Denmark has a good network of cycleways and pavements. Children in other countries aren’t necessarily accustomed to walking alone on the street at an early age, either because of high crime rates, or because they risk being hit by a car.
In order to make sure that our children’s classmates understood where they were coming from, I spoke to their class about what it is like to attend an international school. The next day, I was stopped by one of the other mothers. “My son never tells me anything about what he does in school, but it really made an impression on him when you said that international school students aren’t allowed to wear caps indoors.”
There’s a lot parents need to do to get their children ready before they head back to Denmark. It’s these challenges that I address in my third children’s book, ‘Søs flytter hjem til Danmark’ (Søs moves home to Denmark). The book will soon be released in Danish and contains 15 tips for parents.
Among them are: Danish children might dress differently, show less respect for their teachers, it might be noisier in the classroom and kids might swear. You might want to speak with their class about what it was like in your children’s previous school. If possible, one of the parents might want to wait a few months before starting work so they have time to help their children get settled. There may be different social norms and unwritten rules in Denmark. One example could be that there’s a limit on how much students should pay for birthday gifts for each other. Ask if you aren’t certain.
If can be difficult for families to move back to Denmark. Parents and their children have often had their horizons broadened, and it can take them a long time before they feel completely integrated again – also known as reverse culture shock. One thing that helps is explaining to them that there are differences between the country you came from and Denmark. For example: in Denmark, you always stop and wait for the signal before crossing the street. Otherwise you risk getting a fine. That’s not how it was where we lived before.