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Cultural integration

Debate material: ”Cultural Integration”

Folkevirke wishes to focus on the cultural problems that you encounter when, as a European citizen, a refugee or an immigrant, you arrive with a different cultural background


This material has been prepared by the vice president of Folkevirke, cand. pæd. Jeanne Bau-Madsen with basis in Folkevirke's EU-project "Cultural integration".
Folkevirke has held a five-day conference in Copenhagen with the title "Cultural integration":
During the conference days, Folkevirke has wished to focus on the cultural problems that you encounter when, as a European citizen, a refugee or an immigrant, you arrive with a different cultural background.

The debate material "Cultural Integration" gives ideas for various study groups. To assure clarity, an introduction is given with a brief explanation of what a study group is. We also refer to "Studiekreds-håndbogen" (Study group manual) written by Jeanne Bau-Madsen and published by Dansk Folkeoplysnings Samråd (Danish Consultation for General Education) 2009.
The ideas for the topics for the study groups were generated in connection with Folkevirke's conference days "Cultural integration". The participants during these days were EU-citizens from, besides Denmark, also Turkey, Spain, France, Great Britain, Czech Republic and Poland. Also interested members of Folkevirke were present.
The topics for the study groups were generated from the subsequent debate.
It is Folkevirke's hope that this material will inspire Danes and new-Danes to assemble in study groups and thus get wiser on "Cultural integration".
Folkevirke offers a consultant on stand-by with good advice if any practical problems should occur.
The teaching material consists of proposals for topics for study groups. For every study group, an example is given on a shared knowledge as basis for the work. Furthermore, there are examples on questions which can create a basis for the discussions to take place in the study group.
Finally, there are suggestions for evaluation of the work in the study group.

 What is culture?


Culture is first and foremost created by man. Culture is, among others, social conventions, behaviour, habits, attitudes and traditions. It is also high culture such as literature, pictorial art and music.
If you were to try to make a definition of culture, it might sound as follows:
"Culture is the coherent whole of faith, moral standards, values and practice which together creates the basis of the behaviour, the laws and the customs of a population."
The culture of a population is not necessarily identical with language barriers and frontiers.
You may find many cultures within the same country.
In the multi-cultural countries in Europe and the USA, there are many diverse cultures where the single human being has a higher degree of attachment to the culture of a certain population group rather than to the State itself.
The older and more homogeneous a state is, the more the frontiers of the state coincide with those of the culture. Denmark may be conceived as a well-defined culture and state area.

Cultural differences
Why are there cultural differences in the world?
Who has created these cultural differences?
It can be conditions created by nature as well as by man.
Conditions created by nature can be:

• Geography
• Climate
• Population density

Geography: F.inst. lowlands, mountainous countries and island realms. 
Climate: A warm climate offers the opportunity to spend great parts of the day in the open.
Population density: A country with low population density often has other social conventions than countries with high population density. Think of nations like Russia and India.

Conditions created by man:

• Language
• Disguised attitudes
• Expressions of courtesy
• Language and body language

Language: The language is the means through which human beings communicate and through the language the most important cultural elements are transmitted. Quite often, the differences between languages create serious cultural barriers. The language is used to express our thoughts and feelings. A common language gives a common feeling of confidence and community.
Disguised attitudes: Through the language you can express disguised attitudes by using irony, sarcasm and humour, among others.
Expressions of courtesy: They have various importance in various cultures. In the Chinese and Japanese language areas, courtesy and positive comments are crucial - something which is not weighted highly in Denmark.
Language and body language: The various languages use the body very differently. A Dane uses his body much less than an Italian. The language and the body language are the most important bearers of culture. To learn a strange culture's language and body language is almost impossible as this learning process starts already in the childhood.

The attitudes towards other people, work and family life is often ruled by the religions. The importance of religion is often neglected in many contexts in our cultural sphere, but in other populations this factor is the very basis for behaviour, economic and political thinking. In some Islamic states, the religion has great importance to the freedom of the citizens. Here the religion and the State are often very closely connected.
The political ideologies are important to the possibilities of the individual. Here we think of liberalism versus communism. The communism prioritizes the collective interests of society, whereas the liberalism finds it more important to give the individual a possibility to develop.

The various nations of the world each have their own historical background. Some countries like Denmark are ancient realms. Others only have a few decades on their back like many of the Eastern European countries. An old state has had many years to develop its own customs, practice and opinions and thus often has its own culture. Young states and states created across of language and population barriers very often have no common culture.


Comparison of different cultures


The dissimilarity of cultures
Culture is a key to interpretation of the society you live in, a tool to perceive the world. It tells you what is right or wrong, good or bad, normal or abnormal.
Thus culture is an acquired skill, not inherited. It originates from the environment you grew up in.
We all belong to different groups or categories of people and we therefore all contain different levels of acquired skills:
• a national level corresponding to your country
• a regional and/or ethnic, religious, linguistic level of affiliations as most countries are composed of different cultural groups
• a level of gender, whether you were born as a boy or a girl
• a level of generation which separates grand parents from parents and parents from children
• a social level, connected to education possibilities, occupation and profession.
In the beginning of the 19th century, anthropologists were convinced that all societies encounter the same basic issues. The difference is merely how you solve them.

There are five obvious points that can be used in a comparison with other cultures:
• Social inequalities
• The relation to authorities
• The relation between the individual and the group
• Social consequences of being born as a boy or a girl
• Conflict resolutions

To have a general view of European dissimilarities, the partners in the EU-subsidized project "Cultural integration" have given each their suggestion:

Social inequalities

The Danish view is:
- Relatively large equalization between the sections of the population.
- Social safety net.
- Welfare State.

The Czech view is:
- Large "higher middle class and lower middle class".
- Welfare state for people disadvantaged on the labor market, for unemployed, disabled X decrease of financial support.

The British view is:
- Quite large difference s in wealth of population and very different outcomes as a result of differences e.g. 10 years + life expectancy for those living in wealthy neighbourhoods as opposed to more deprived neighbourhoods.
- Welfare state for people lacking employment, sick or disabled.
- More pressure on people to find work and diminishing payments for non-compliance.

The Spanish view is:
- Crisis of the current social security net.
- Wrecked welfare state.

The French view is:
- When we talk about migration we must pay attention on the very long history that France have with migrant people coming from all over the world and for different reasons.
- Since the law on Male-Female parity in Politics (2007) we can observe a great movement for diversity including origin, disability, sexual preference (lobbying). The purpose was to make all kind of people visible and to give them a chance to take part in society.

The Polish view is:
- There are differences between agglomeration and suburban areas.
- It is connected to industrialization of the centers also to people's education.

The Turkish view is:
- Really good and wide relationship between relatives no matter the age.
- Friendly and helpful people in all governmental places.
- Social security.
- Open to all nationalities.

The relation to authorities

The Danish view is:
- Generally an anti-authoritarian attitude in the family, at work and in society.

The Czech view is:
- Stronger attitude to authorities in both families and work places, less in the society in general.

The British view is:
- Anti authoritarian attitude across family, work and society as seen in Denmark.
- References to "nanny state" when Labour Government and this reference comes back during times of rolling back state interventions when we have a Conservative government, where moves to Darwinism - survival of the fittest type of policy of government interventions with individuals.
The Spanish view is:
- General anti-authoritarian attitude, in family as well as in place of work, and in society.
- Quote from XVI century literary traditional figure "The Rascal" (El Pícaro).

The French view is:
- We talk about authorities for security, justice and politics: as in every part of the society there are people more conform to authority than others.
- Danish comment: "General anti-authoritarian attitude, in family as well as in place of work, and in society". In France we strongly refuse to see migrant people in this global way. Memo: This kind of comment could be judged as discriminatory by the Human Rights European Court.

The Polish view is:
- Due to the last investigation the results are: 77% - negative, 11% - positive, 11% - neutral. Considerably, it is continuation of attitude to communist authorities as it was before 1990.
The Turkish view is:
- Usually wonderful attitude to authorities everywhere - in work, at home and on the streets.

The relation between the individual and the group

The Danish view is:
- Relatively weak social networks.
- Individualism.
The Czech view is:
- Transformation from strong group attitude into individualism.
- Gradual increase of individualism.

The British view is:
- Individualism with some movement to improve community development across urban areas.
- Social networks growing and improving through use of Social Media.

The Spanish view is:
- Strong and marked Individualism.
- No social fabric for social networks.

The French view is:
- As I already said we never use the word "ghetto" in France, it's forbidden and there are no official ghettos even if, in fact, some migrant people tend to settle in places where they can find people from the same country, area, village, ethnic group.
- A few migrants are organized in communities, e.g. Armenian or Comorian but they are not formalized by the Government.

The Polish view is:
- Most of people don't like to cooperate with a group. It is also strongly connected to obligatory work in former communist kolkhoz and big state factories.

The Turkish view is:
- People do not think about themselves. They are trying to help all around people.
- No individualism. Everybody is together.

Social consequences of being born as a boy or a girl

The Danish view is:
- Only very little sex discrimination.
The Czech view is:
- In educational system - no discrimination.
- Larger discrimination in work place. Almost no women on higher positions in big companies - both private and state institutions, Czech government etc.

The British view is:
- Little recognized sex discrimination but boys do achieve worse outcomes through education and women still earn less in workplace.
- Concept of Glass Ceiling, preventing women moving to senior roles in workplace persists despite equalities legislation from the 1970's onwards.

The Spanish view is:
Little sex discrimination (co-education at school level).

The French view is:
- Same in each part of population.

The Polish view is:
- There is some sex discrimination (e.g. worse paid women) but it is changing all the time to women adventage.

The Turkish view is:
- Cultural discrimination between sexes.

Conflict resolutions

The Danish view is:
- Democracy prevalent.
- Tradition for peaceful conflict resolution.

The Czech view is:
- Not many conflicts, more likely dissatisfaction with government policy -
- Criticism via media.
- Strikes = peaceful way of resolution.

The British view is:
- Concept of democracy widely accepted however, low turnout at elections persists especially in local and European elections.
- Unions weakened in the 1980's and little to restore their strength during Labour government of 1997 - 2010, means demonstrations and efforts to challenge current austerity cuts in public and voluntary sector was not as strong as in previous protests in British social history.
- Conflicts of strong anti government movements such as Class War still exist (violence parts of recent demonstration in London), these movements likely to grow as resentment of conservative government policy pushes people into unemployment for the first time in their lives.
- Also government work with faith communities to "prevent violent extremism" following from Islamic Suicide Bombings in mid 2000's, shows a fear of conflict in society and Islamic communities face discrimination and challenge in the community as a result of growing "Islamophobia". Mixed views as to the success of such projects in communities.

The Spanish view is:
- Widespread democracy.
- Conflicts are solved peacefully (hopefully).

The French view is:
- Same in each part of population.

The Polish view is:
- From year to year, in Polish new democracy, appeared conflicts are solved in satisfactory way.

The Turkish view is:
Conflicts are solved peacefully but take a little bit long.

Culture meeting across the frontiers


There is no doubt about the importance of a dialogue across the frontiers. And as today there are more possibilities to communicate f. inst. by e-mail and Skype, you may, within a few clicks, establish connections to the entire world. When, in the past, it was the spoken word that crossed the frontiers, it now happens over the telephone, and today you can transfer documents, pictures and other material to one or several recipients anywhere on the globe. Globalization has made it a necessity to create connections across the borders.
Even better, though, is the personal contact and the direct dialogue. By the open and unprejudiced meeting across the frontiers it is necessary to set the aim that the cooperation must be based on mutual tolerance and understanding. The understanding must not only be in language but also in culture. It is therefore important also to respect each other's culture, religion and way of life.
In the meeting across the borders, the participants can acquire a democratic mentality and take part in developing a culture which is democratic - globally, nationally and not at least locally. In other words, be active citizens in a political democracy or - if you do not live in a democratic state - contribute to developing democratic governance. Democratic practice in the various countries and institutions must be described for in that way to reveal dissimilarities and equalities that will appear in democracies which have been created on different historical conditions.
Citizens from countries like Denmark and other Nordic countries with a democratic tradition of more than 150 years will naturally have another attitude towards the democratic working process than citizens from nations with a shorter tradition of democracy.
Why is it so important to work democratically?
Vaclav Havel has once said that a democratic constitution not automatically makes a democratic population but that a democratic population compels democratic governance.
It is therefore important that each generation is educated to be democrats to ensure a democratic development in each country. With democracy follows freedom and freedom must be freedom with responsibility. The population must take part in forming, shaping and educating - to democratize themselves and each other. In other words, democracy must become a life style. If everyone possesses such a life style, it will not be a problem to meet across the borders on an equal basis. Democracy must be experienced in practice and thus the meeting across the frontiers should take place in the workshop of democracy - the study group. Here are the possibilities of a dialogue and a discussion as well as an exchange of knowledge and experiences. Here the participants may develop a democratic disposition and impart the understanding of other cultures, norms and traditions to each other.
And when the participants understand each other, you may achieve unique results in the collaboration across the borders!

Introduction to a study group on ghettoization


First some facts on a Danish ghetto - Mjølnerparken:
In 1984 the construction of Mjølnerparken at Nørrebro in Copenhagen began. The buildings were completed in 1986. Around 2.500 persons are today living in Mjølnerparken at Nørrebro.
98 percent of the residents are immigrants or descendants of immigrants. They represent 38 different nationalities. The majority are Arabs or Africans.
In Mjølnerparken there are from one to four room-flats, all with a balcony and elevator. The apartment buildings are constructed in blocks with green spaces.
Mjølnerparken has been listed by the State as a ghetto.

The State's wish for a ghetto is:
• Immigrants and descendants from non-western countries: Max 50%
• Immigrants or descendants outside the labour market or education: Max 40%
 • Convicted of violence, illegal possession of firearms or drug-related crimes: Max 270 persons out of a group of 1.000.

The ground plan of the area shows that the dwellings are grouped around courtyards. There are green spaces, playgrounds and cosy corners. The buildings thus turn their backs to the surrounding society.
Only the residents visit the courtyards. It is safe and good for children at play and the mothers meet at the tables over coffee and a chat.
With the present composition of the residents, the result is that you live here as you did in the countries of origin. No "strangers" - like Danes - pass by.

Fact box

Assimilation: To make similar to
Integration: Connection of versatility to a whole
Segregation: Segregation (separation) of ethnic groups

Danish problems
Ghetto problems with immigrants who do not want to integrate are a huge topic in the debate in Denmark. When you see pictures from Mjølnerparken, they show a well-kept, green and cosy area with nice flats. But in the evening, the residents dare not go out and passers-by on the cycle paths in the green areas keep out.

Suggestions for issues:

• Should people from the same country of origin live in the same area?
• To be a ghetto releases some funds from the State. Is the State's definition of a ghetto a good idea?
 • Most of the residents in Mjølnerparken are segregated. What can you do to make the residents of the ghetto want to integrate?
• Is there a possibility to physically open the buildings towards the surrounding society?
• Angela Merkels, David Cameron and Søren Pind are talking about immigrants having to assimilate. Would this solve the problems that the European countries have with immigrants from third-world countries?
• The Minister of Integration, Søren Pind, elaborates his demand with further to claim that the immigrants must accept our legislation and that they must acquire a democratic form of life. Do you find these demands reasonable?

Introduction to a study group:
Who has difficulties in being integrated in Denmark?


When we talk about problems with integration in Denmark, we most often refer to people from non-democratic third-world states.
What makes it so difficult for people from these regions to settle down in Denmark?

Examples on areas that may be examined and debated:
• religion
• job culture
• equality between the genders
• active participation in society
• individualism
• attitude towards public authorities

A lot of interesting information can be collected at the website of the Ministry of Integration, Ny i Danmark.
A lot of interesting information can be collected at the website of Københavns Kommune's integration plan.

The link for the English version is:

The link to the Danish version is:

When searching for information on the internet, it is important to be critical.
You must examine:

Source situation:
• Who wrote the site? If not indicated then reject the site.
• If the source is not familiar, then send him/her a mail.
• In which context is the site written (time)?
• How often is the site updated - does it have a webmaster?

• Is the layout reliable?
• Is the layout homogeneous and calm?
• Are there any commercials?

Text (interpretation)
• Does it say what the purpose of the site is?
• Does it say who the site is written for?

The pictures
• Check if picture manipulation has been used.
If you want to see a website with a named source, a convincing layout, an evident recipient but with a picture manipulation that makes the entire website a fraud, then check