A problem in a foreign culture

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Rotsne, Nov 16, 2008.

  1. Rotsne

    Rotsne Banned

    I have a lot of problems but problems you properly would have difficulties to understand. I am stationed in Denmark and have been here for a lot of years. My children are Danes, born and raised here all their life.

    Like most Danes they speak foreign languages very poorly. I would have liked them to speak English a little better but almost from their birth we had social workers in our home due to the illness of my wife.

    Because I am born outside Denmark it has been the caseworkers primary goal to make them good Danish citizens like their mother. That means ban against speaking any other language than Danish in your household according to the integration experts in our county.

    It worked. They are both straight-A students and doing well in classes. But we have been forced to turn to the DSS once against. My wife became hospitalized once against just before the oldest one was to have her confirmation and that is a critical point in her development, because it is tradition that she should start to drink alcohol. While the party itself went well, she hasn't attended any of the bag parties parents arrange for the teenagers.

    (I have to explain the concept. Because none of the parents want a binge drink party every family tag a bag with the name of the child. In each bag the amount of alcohol the child and the parent decided based on a combination of knowledge and experience, so the youth can learn his or her limits with adult guidance. In Denmark the law allows all 16 years old to purchase whatever they can afford, so there is only so much time. The law has been like that for 5-6 years because they want to lower the numbers of DUI's by showing the dangers of alcohol before the youth can drive (Limit: 18 yo))

    We have an old saying "You can drag a horse to the water, but you cannot make it drink". We had numerous meetings with our family coach and she on behalf of our county is also concerned of the risk that our daughter would be caught up with at-risk youth. We are at war and right now a lot of our cities marked by riots and the burning of vehicles. Behind those cases of unrest is groups which drove through our streets on 9/11 celebrating that tragedy. So every youth lost to "Non-Danish" habits is a potential risk to our society and it concerns us parents.

    When people cannot socialize they cannot get a job or participate properly in higher education. They are kept out by both the employers and the colleagues. I dont want to raise social outcast and a threat to our society. I am a strong supporter in our war against terrorism.

    So I went to this forum to find strategies which could appeal her to attend parties, drink alcohol so she can be accepted among her peers instead of joing the mob throwing rocks against police and fireworkers.

    I know that most properly try is different, but my children are a product of the Danish society and we are another culture, but did you make your off-springs drink alcohol and attend parties?
  2. busywend

    busywend Well-Known Member Staff Member


    I am sure I do not understand the cultural differences, so please be patient with me and know that I do not intend to offend in case I do.

    I certainly can not imagine a parent of any culture encouraging drinking alcohol before they are of age in any part of the world. Even once my daughter is of age, I do not intend to encourage the alcoholic drink.

    I am sorry to hear of your wife's illness.
  3. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Hi and welcome. I wish I could help you--I'm horrified at the thought of introducing kids to alcohol. We have never done that in our house. So I'm sorry I can not relate, but maybe somebody else understands better and can. There are Americans who do not drink at all, and I am one of them.
  4. habibi

    habibi New Member

    I read your post 3 times. I THINK that you may be a Muslim who is married to a Dane and who is trying to rear your children to be culturally Danish.
    Am I right?
  5. flutterbee

    flutterbee Guest

    It's illegal here in the US for adults to host parties and serve alcohol to children, so that's a completely foreign concept to most of us.

    But, dealing with social interaction is probably pretty universal. Who are her friends in school? What type of school do they attend (I'm not familiar with Denmarks compulsory education system)? Are there groups or peers within her school or neighborhood that can be a positive influence that may share some similar interests that you can encourage? Is it customary that parents attend the bag parties with their children or do they children go to someone else's house with their alcohol and are supervised? I'm trying to understand how that works. In other words, has she been able to attend these parties at all or has she not been able to because her mother is ill has not been able to attend with her? Is this an event you could attend with your child?
  6. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    I am not as horrified by the alcohol issue as others here. My parents allowed us to taste whatever they were drinking, and if we asked we could drink at home - a SMALL glass of whatever. I can remember my bro asking for and being allowed to drink a beer at about age 14, I can't remember asking or drinking at home until well after I was married. I just wasn't (and am not) into drinking. BUT I DO see the idea behind it - getting people to know their limit and when to drink and when to stop.

    Is there a high degree of alcoholism in Denmark? I just don't know.

    Anyway, most whatever we try to get our teens to do doesn't work - they do the opposite. But who are her friends and what do they do for fun? She may just not be mature enough to feel comfortable at those parties. I can remember being at parties and feeling very very uncomfortable because drinking or pot usage was going on. Maybe if you host a party for her friends and their parents in your home? Or a party after some event she enjoys?

    Just throwing out ideas.
  7. Rotsne

    Rotsne Banned

    I guessed that it is a totally other society you are dealing with on everyday basis. I was also shocked by how far our cultures have moved from each other the past 20-30 years. When I arrived there was more slack to act non-danish, but especially the war against terrorism has made the danish people stand firm. Some of you might have heard about the cartoon crisis (link). In Denmark it is regarded as the biggest single incident to have strengthen the self-esteem among the normal citizens since we helped the jews to escape in WWII. It did hurt the circles where young terrorism are recruited very bad.

    Regarding who she sees and how she manage in school the answer is that she actually sees none after school. We are working class people. Sports and other interests are something for the higher circles. The church are no something people attend very much, so we dont have church sponsored clubs. Unless people have something personal to attend to in church concerning their own family then dont go. Most sundays you can find 3-10 people in church. A lot of funerals are only attended by the priest and employees of the church.

    But my daughter are a straight-A student and most of the time she does her chores without arguement, which have caused our family coach to suggest that she is a pleaser and she should go to a continuation high school for a year. The general
    assumption among social workers are that if the youth dont rebel something is wrong.

    In the old days continuation high schools (Danish term:efterskole) was our juvies. In Denmark no child below 15 can be charged with a crime, so all kind of youth who did commit crimes were sent to such schools. Today youth without any problems enroll in such school voluntary so they can appear tough among peers when they return home either expelled as up to 33 percent do or with an exam paper. I dont know what continuation schools are called in the states. Maybe Therapeutic Boarding Schools. A lot of them have ban on mobile phones the first month, but normally the kids are home during holidays and every weekends. Here is something about those schools from wikipedia (link).​

    But I am still worried to banish my child from her home for no reason. Some of the schools do even have a ban against tobacco. It is not that she is a smoker, but history has shown that youth be smokers at those schools or they will be isolated. I know a lot of parents who have told the school that their children are smoker even if they are not, so there wouldn't be problems in they take up this bad and expensive habbit. (Tobacco in Denmark have 80% tax on them, so our government are not very busy to outlaw consumption among youth. Only purchase.). Our heathcare system has made a public warning that the combination of both smoking ban and ban on mobile phone have resulted in increased risk of suicides (link. I know that it is poor translated, but I could't find anything in English).

    My question to the social worker from the very start has been: "Why should she be punished when she doesn't have committed a crime and when she is functioning very well in our family unit?"

    Our only problem after all is that she could be a social outcast in the workspace and while that is bad, we do have a lot of fonded jobs where people can work part time if they suffer from various issues. I am standing quiet firm against the family coach.

    But we will try something new. We will send her to a police-sponsored and arranged party for youth in a town near us. They allow kids to arrive drunk but only so drunk that they can walk on their own feet. Inside they dont serve alcohol and if a youth wants to leave, he or she cannot come back this evening. They call it a challenge of self-control. To little and the party is boring. To much and you dont get in. Here is something about the party (link).

    You can see that I have my hands full. Just to show how different our culture is I have found this page describing a little about our look on alcohol consumption (link).

    I am trying be positive, but just this evening our national television is showing a documentary about a normal Danish boy, who is in jail for acts terrorism. He did isolate himself and joined those dangerous groups who is among us. We dont have homeland security here and we are so to say in the front line and have to watch out for those youth who dont act like the others. It is just very hard to a child who is different.
  8. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I found this post fascinating. Wow, we are not obsessed with terrorism here and NOBODY can smoke in school! And we encourage our kids to be themselves, not as one. We are a very diverse nation and all kids are different. And we don't have social workers around unless our kids get into serious trouble. I had no idea it was like this in Denmark and it is very interesting to hear about different cultures. I did not think we were so different.
    I wish I could help more, and sadly I can't, but I did want to tell you how much I enjoyed reading about your country :)
  9. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    There are cultural differences that can sometimes be quite challenging, but we can handle that on this site. Just be patient, not everybody will understand but enough will to make it worth your while. We can help with a lot of things that are universal - the way kids behave in response to the way parents try to handle them.

    As far as cultural things are concerned - I'm from Australia and I often find some puzzling cultural differences, often surprising. As far as alcohol is concerned here - it is illegal for alcohol to be sold to anyone under 18 but it is legal to allow your own child to try it in your own home, as long as you don't allow your child to be harmed. We encourage our children to TASTE a sip of wine with dinner, on special occasions, if we feel it's a good wine and we want to teach them to recognise quality. If we can give them expensive tastes before they are old enough to buy their own, then maybe when they're legally old enough to buy their own alcohol they won't be able to afford the only stuff they're prepared to drink. At least that is the theory.

    I was raised as a teetotaller with a father who drank (not to excess) but had no idea HOW to drink with any understanding of what tastes right. In other words, he was drinking for the wrong reasons, in my understanding. So when I was 18 I was living away from home and drinking whatever was left lying around in impoverished student households. Rough stuff.

    As I learned, I found I had narrow range of likes and a broad range of dislikes. If I'd learned that sooner, I'd have missed out on a lot of very unhealthy drinking.

    We're now seeing how our strategy has been working - with easy child and difficult child 1, they don't drink to excess. difficult child 1 went through a brief stage of occasionally getting a bit tipsy, but these days he rarely drinks at all and never more than one glass of wine. None of our kids drinks when likely to drive within 12 hours - our laws are strict.
    easy child 2/difficult child 2 was a problem drinker for a while, but these days has learned that she feels better when she keeps her intake in moderation. Again, taking her to wine tastings as soon as she has been legally old enough, has been a good strategy. When her friends are mainly out to get drunk on whatever pours, and they can only afford really poor quality wine which she finds distasteful, she usually chooses to be "designated driver" - a way of staying sober and still being 'cool'.

    difficult child 3 is 14 and has been having sips of wine on rare occasions. He is very anxious about the risk of getting even slightly affected by alcohol, but is learning, sip by sip, to recognise a quality wine and to avoid anything of poor quality. He is also learning that refusing a drink is perfectly acceptable - I no longer drink (health reasons) although I will have a very occasional sip only.

    Once our kids were legally of drinking age, they would buy their own alcohol and bring it home. We allowed them to drink at their own rate at home because at least that way they were under our supervision.

    I hope you can find something here that you can adapt to your social situation.

    And isn't Princess Mary a peach? She and Prince Fred met in an Aussie pub, you know. Maybe there's more meaning in that than we realised...

    Welcome to the site. Good on you for wanting to help your girls and keep them safe.

  10. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    I am fascinated by the glimpse into your culture, and esp by the idea that if a child doesn't drink then they won't have friends. Here in the US the legal age to drink or buy alcohol is 21. You can legally allow your own child to have it in your own home, but most states, if not all, prohibit you from allowing other people's kids to drink. In some states you can let your child have a sip of your drink at a restaurant, but not all states by any means. And if the social workers find out you ahve been letting your under 18yo child drink Occupational Therapist (OT) get tipsy or drunk there are chances you can lose custody of htem.

    I think, overall, it is a wiser theory to teach children their limits. But we have a genetic risk of alcoholism in MANY MANY families, and you never know which child has the gene (my bro does, I do not - he is a recovering alcoholic and I have never really had a problem with getting drunk or with stopping once I have started - actually I rarely drink because so few alcohols taste good to me, the ones that do are REALLY expensive, LOL!).

    So they want you to send your daughter to a reform school for juvenile criminals because she doesn't want to drink? Sounds like something I would not be in favor of, but I don't know what is or isn't the norm there. Is it only because you are not danish that you have this social worker in your lives, or does every family have one?

    So only the wealthy play on sports teams? I always feel like we are going broke paying for my daughter's soccer, and the basketball for my youngest, so I understand - heck the SHOES cost a FORTUNE for soccer for my daughter! I just think it is interesting because here we get lots of pressure to have even very young kids play sports - my daughter started playing at age 4. She flat out LOVES it, but hasn't played much the last few years because injuries. She does a lot of other stuff. (In fact, if your daughter would like an English Speaking penpal, Jess would enjoy emailing her - she has been talking about finding a pen pal, she is a bit lonesome lately since we restarted homeschooling her).

    Some people just don't "blossom" socially in their teens. I am sure I was quite the challenge (in so many many ways) to my parents when I was a teen. I really wasn't very social, but I became much more outgoing once I got older. She may just need to grow up a bit. What kinds of groups are kids involved in after age 16 or even age 20?
  11. nvts

    nvts Active Member

    Hi! Welcome to the site!

    I have a couple of questions:

    You say your children are socially challenged. In what way? Are they introverted (just shy) or do they have quirks that make them strange to other kids in their age group?

    What are they doing that makes them quirky?

    If it's simply the alcohol problems (or lack thereof), can you tell the social worker that they've tried it and just don't like the taste/sensation?

    If there's more to it behaviorally, can you have them evaluated by a neurologist/psychologist? You might want to do a search on the Web for Aspergers Syndrome and see if the profile might describe your kids.

    Sorry for all of the questions, but it might help some of us with giving you an appropriate arguement for the various criticisms that you've been getting from the social worker! :D

  12. flutterbee

    flutterbee Guest

    I did some reading on Danish culture last night and got a bit of a feel for what you are going through.

    Regarding the continuation school: I think you have a good handle on it already. As you said, your daughter has not committed a crime and functions well within the family unit. She is only 15 and still has a lot of growing up to do. The brain isn't done 'maturing' until about 20-25 years of age. I do think, however, that putting a child who has not done anything wrong into that environment (continuation school) could possibly lead her down the wrong path as she would then be around more kids who have those proclivities. I agree that you should stick firm on that issue.

    What does your daughter say about this? Does she give reasons for not wanting to socialize?
  13. SRL

    SRL Active Member

    I've read through this thread several times and feel unqualified to give advice on the alcohol issues based on the cultural differences. At first it seemed like a simple answer: you stand up for the values you want to pass along to your children no matter where you live. But then I realize I've caved in on some things, such as video games, for purely social reasons.

    I do agree with the poster who mentioned looking into Asperger's Syndrome. If you find that it's even somewhat similar to what you're seeing in your teenagers, you might want to look for a forum of adults with Aspergers' Syndrome from Denmark to get their opinions. Often these individuals isolate themselves without becoming a risk. They just prefer isolation.
  14. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Hi, Welcome, Rotsne.
    I am so sorry for the problems you are having.
    I cannot imagine anyone coming into my home and forcing me or my kids to add a drug to our systems--be it alcohol or tobacco or anything else--and say that they are acting on behalf of the govn't.
    Same with-language--what you speak in your home is your business. What people speak in public, for the public safety, is where the gov't comes in. Are you sure there's an actual ban on English at home, and not just a strong suggestion? How could it be enforced? If someone sings a Beatles song in the shower, is someone going to haul them away? Come on.

    I understand that the confirmation ritual involves alcohol. But just because a group of people has a bad idea, doesn't make it a good idea.

    We do drink a little alcohol in our home. (Actually, I drink wine. My husband is a health fanatic.) On New Year's Eve, I will let the kids sip champagne. But that is my choice. If I don't want my kids to drink, I will not have alcohol in the house. Either way, we educate them on the horrors of drunk driving and cirrhosis of the liver.
    Everything has its limits.

    These are YOUR kids. They do not belong to the govn't.

    I echo NVTs question, as to what social issues your kids have. Are they just shy? Or are they truly socially handicapped in that they cannot look others in the eye, they run and hide in a corner when strangers appear, have speech issues, etc?
    I'm wondering if it's a personal opinion, or a dr's diagnosis.

    I can see where a soc. wkr may want you to create a "well rounded individual" who can function in that society. But you should all still have a choice. How does your daughter feel about it? What has she said to the soc. wkr? Does she say the same things after she or he has left?
  15. Rotsne

    Rotsne Banned

    I just returned from a meeting. She is NOT going to any boarding school for troubled teens as the continuation schools (Efterskole) are. I have made it clear that I won't pay for it and as the times are right now the town can either, so she stays here.

    As far as the language concern it is voluntary that we dont speak foreign languages at home. There is no ban, but our authorities did some 5 years ago discover that those immigrants who continued to learn their children their own language lowered those children possibility to ever be a productive citizens in our country. 5 year ago you could even get education in our native language paid publicly. It is over now and our government had made it very clear that they will intervene if the children speaks Danish poorly when they start in school. Over 90 of all children in Denmark are now in nusery, kindergarten or other pre-school programs.

    I have spoken with my children very much lately about their concerns attending youth parties. We are not talking of any mental condition that should require any medication, but they don't like to be among huge crowds and also do not like performing in school plays or standing up presenting their work in class regardless of the fact they are receiving good grades. They are simply shy and in my world there is nothing wrong with that. At my work I even prefer shy employees because they perform well and dont cause so much trouble.

    Just to prepare my daughter for the party she is going to be at for just some hours just to show her face and convince people that she is not on her way to become a terrorist threat. We have been at the doctor to have her shoot with something we call "P-stick". It is small stick which is shoot into the upperarm and once inserted she cannot get pregnant for three years. It is quite common here for young girls to have such a shoot every 3 years until they are 18. She wasn't planning to have sex. Her biggest fear was to be "drunk under the table" and being taken advancing off.

    We won the continuation school fight and that is a milestone. Things are beginning to look a little brighter.
  16. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Wow, this is interesting.
    Why on earth would not drinking make your daughters a terrorist threat???? I don't get it. But I'm interested :) Would you mind explaining? We don't have that here at all.
  17. Rotsne

    Rotsne Banned

    Maybe it is blown out of proportions. I dont know but after more than 5 year of warnings from the Danish People Party about the dangers of non-Danish cultural activities, parents have been told to be aware about who their kids are seeing. We have been told that none of the suicide bombers who have killed both your soldiers and ours have been drinking alcohol and because we have no homeland security and a ocean between us and the middle east the population has been alerted by our politicians.

    In both school, in the public and in the workspace we tend to remove ourselves from persons who stand out so they cannot mingle and sabotage our support to the war against terrorism. Generally we wont accept a situation where people drives through our steets with flags celebrating actions like 9/11 (which some did).

    We are all concerned to let our children look and act Danish while still give them as many free choices as possible. Some of my neighbors changed their last name to a more Danish because they were not called into job interviews and suddenly they did - even by firms who turned them down before.

    Danes drink - adult about 11 liters of pure alcohol per year. DUI's we dont have many off because the most important for a typical Dane is his or her job. In fact they lowered to almost nothing when Denmark introduced the 16 year limit to allow youth to experiment freely with alcohol before they can drive. Once they can drive they are very aware about the dangers of alcohol because they have tried it.

    I have some statitic here about DUI related accidents (link red=died, Yellow=hurt). Unfortunately the number of people dying have increased but we are a member of the European Union and when the economy was good a lot of drivers from the Eastern Europe came to Denmark to work and they have no tradition with fighting DUI at all. We are about 5,000,000 people so if you compare the numbers per 1,000 with the number in your state, you can see that our casulty rate is low.

    I hope that answer some of the questions made by our cultural differences.
  18. Martie

    Martie Moderator

    Hi Rotnse,

    I am very glad you won the battle against the Continuation School. It seems like an important victory for your family.

    Since there is so much pressure to be a conforming Dane, what does your Danish wife think about all of this? What does she think your daughter should do after the school she is in now?

    I wonder along with the poster who asked if you are Muslim but you did not respond. It is your right here to disclose as little or as much as you want about yourself. However, I am trying to understand whether the problem is general Danish concern that everyone who does not "fit in" is a terrorist (not a concern in the U.S) or discrimination against people from the Middle East or who have "Arab" sounding names. Despite my feeling that such prejudice exists here and it is linked with fear of terrorism, it is worthwhile to note that the president-elect's middle name is Hussein (we are not allowed to discussion politics here---but I am only stating a fact) so perhaps the U.S. is making progress.

    I think I could understand your situation more if I knew the source of the discrimination you fear for you children. I think Danish society has become a lot more conforming than when it stood up to the Nazis to save Danish Jews more than 60 years ago.

    Please keeping posting. If we can understand your cultural situation better, maybe we can offer some useful suggestions to help you help your children. I must say that I am shocked that a liberal democratic state with such a high level of involvement in the lives of its citizens would not make after school activities available to all children regardless of social class a bit shocking.

    Thank you for the interesting information about Denmark.

    Last edited: Nov 20, 2008
  19. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Hi Rotsne, I'm glad you won the continuation issue. It sounds like you've made a decision about the party and things are going better. Sheesh. What a lot of stress! I hope things continue on an upward turn.
    I, too, think it's strange that everyone is supposed to conform to certain values and patterns of speech, etc. We pride ourselves on our differences as well as our similarities.
    I can see where fear would lead people to separate themselves and to stereotype but it sounds like certain tactics can be quite divisive. on the other hand, I can see that's where the language issues come in.
    I did a mural for a Muslim restaurant, and the kids, who were born in VA, were being taught to speak Arabic. However, they were around Americans all day so they were becoming bilingual. I like it when people speak more than one language; I've always found it embarrassing that Americans tend to only speak English (particularly when we travel to Europe).
    But as Denmark has found, languages can be divisive. Everything in moderation.
    Best of luck.
  20. Rotsne

    Rotsne Banned

    Just to clarify. I am not a Muslim. I came to Denmark for some 15 years ago to work here. As for my wife's view of the situation, she agrees with me. She doesn't want our children to attend schools outside our county before they have finished High School. It would properly make her even more ill, if it came to that.

    You have to remember that Dane are very tied to their local community. It is also one of the reasons why they can be so safe regardless of the fact that they have not even 1/10 of the security level in the states. If something is out of the ordinary, they all are alerted. Their prison population is only 1/10 of the one in the United States, teenage pregnancies are rare, while alcohol use is high the rehab level is low, they have only 1/3 of the beds for psychiatric care compared with other Nordic countries and as shown before low level of DUI's. But the pricetag is that you have to live inside the norm or they will isolate you as a community as all.
    Many Danes live all their life in the same town and consider people living only 30 miles away as strangers they wont have any thing to do with. Try moving a firm 20-25 miles and you will for sure lose 75% of your employees. Trust me. My firm tried to do that as many others. If they have to travel even one hour to work, they will start looking for a new job.

    But even with the problems I have faced with my children, I wouldn't think of ever moving to another country for one second. Letting your children drink alcohol aged 15 and knowing that they legally can buy all kind of alcohol once they turn 16 is scary - very scary, but as long as I know that they can go down the street safely 24/7 I just have to live with it (We have no curfews at all. Even children down to 12 have been spotted out after midnight).

    I am so happy that we avoided boarding school ("Efterskole"). It would have been imprisonment for a crime which have not been committed. Thank you very much for your support, even if our culture can be difficult to understand.