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A repat helping expats during the Corona crisis

Photograph: iStock

Text: Zachary Marx

Spreading the latest news and procedures is one of government’s key functions during a crisis. This has never been more apparent than during the first few weeks of the COVID-19 crisis when reliable information was difficult to come by.

However, a government’s ability to successfully spread information is only as good as its ability to reach everyone. In the case of Denmark’s otherwise laudable early and effective actions, there was a key demographic left out of the loop: non-Danish speakers.

Thankfully, several Danes are working to fill the information gap, including Frej Jensen, the founder of the Facebook page The Repat Dane – Updates Doing the Corona Lockdown Period. Jensen has been posting live translations of government press conferences during the crisis.

According to Jensen, there was a lack of effort to reach out to the expat and non-Danish speaking communities with important information.

“When COVID-19 came, I realised quite early that there weren’t any translations into English. The press briefings were not translated,” Jensen explained. “So I took my phone and started recording.”

Jensen, as a former expat himself, has experience of being in a foreign country during a crisis and is familiar with the feelings of confusion and stress that comes with it. He was living in Brussels during the 2016 terrorist attack.

“With the terrorist attack in 2016, the Belgian government failed to give proper information to the huge international community,” Jensen said.

While Jensen is no longer an expat, his experience of living abroad for nearly two decades puts him at odds with the “typical Dane.”

“I went from being an expat – a foreigner in another country – to a foreigner in my own country. You come to a point as a repat where you realise that you may speak the language, but there’s something different in your cultural or human luggage than your Danish peers have.

“You sort of fall in between two stools,” Jensen concluded.

Hospital Hygiene Rules and Safety Guidelines varied from place to place, and so did the food and beverage donations. From warm food, fruits, and bread to snacks, chips, and soda decorated with small cards saying “Thank you our superheroes, for taking care of us”. The simple gesture made them happy.

Although the crisis is far from over, the urgent need for the latest information and government policies has diminished. Regardless, Jensen is committed to continuing updates and providing a platform for worried non-Danish speakers to have a conversation.

As the COVID-19 crisis continues, The Repat Dane will undoubtedly prove a useful platform for filling in the gaps left by government and media oversight.

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