It’s amazing how fast time has passed in my time in Copenhagen as a Fulbright student.  I’ve been here for 9 months and have learned so much about myself, about Denmark and perceptions of the U.S. on a global level.  I’ve now pretty much decided to stay in Denmark a bit longer.  First, I would like to finish my education and hopefully get a job.  I’ve been battling this decision for quite some time in light of all the media attention about immigrants coming to Denmark.  Every time I’ve read a new article, it’s been something about immigration in Denmark, whether it’s about non-Western immigrants taking advantage of the welfare state or how the new points system is unjustly weeding out skilled workers that Denmark actually needs. Undoubtedly, the media plays a large role into what we are informed about but also how we might react to what we are informed about.  I have mixed feelings about the Danish points system but I digress from really taking a stance on it.

I’ve spent much time, looking through the Immigration Website to see what are some of my options for extending my stay/moving to Denmark and it can actually be quite confusing.  You are either stuck between the feeling of being in a society that does not want you here or being afraid of applying for the wrong type of permit and ultimately losing a decent amount of money, especially for a student.  So after checking the website, I decided to check things out for myself and visit the Immigration Service Centre to navigate through some of the confusion.

Upon entering, I noticed all types of people and most appeared to be non-Western immigrants.  But that was only from my own biases of what someone who belongs to the non-Western immigrant group might look like.  I mean sometimes, I’ve been even classified as a non-Western immigrant (not that it is a bad thing to be called a non-Western immigrant, as it seems to carry a negative undertone sometimes in Denmark) until I’ve said I’m from the U.S.   But I can say, most were not people who would be perceived as ethnic Danes.

From the picture that the media has depicted of the Immigration Services and all the controversy, I really expected rude customer service and people who probably wouldn’t be that helpful because they just want to get foreigners out of the country.  But from observation and experience alone, I experienced something completely different.  The customer service representatives were friendly and helpful to everyone.  The guy at the Information desk basically walked me through what I was and was not eligible to apply for and then gave me the correct forms, as I watched him do the same for every person before and after me.  This also applied to the other lines that I could see or the Danish that I could understand.  The guy even cracked a joke, dredged in typical Danish humor.

Maybe it was the combination of expecting something only to have a completely different experience or that I just wanted to feel welcomed despite everything that the media keeps saying about the state of immigrant affairs in Denmark.  We can easily blame the media but we must also keep in mind that the media is not a monolithic force, it can very much be a reflection of society, be it some or most of society.  That part, I am definitely not ignoring.  I do know that I experienced friendly and helpful Service Centre Representatives at the Immigration Office and that totally made me feel a bit more at ease about the Danish society compared to what I’ve been constantly reading about in the Danish newspapers.  I only hope this continues to be characteristic of my experience as I continue through this process.


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