Updated: Aug 21, 2020
No International Day? Here’s my alternative.
Photograph: Esbjerg International Community
Text: Catriona Turner
There’s a promotional video for Esbjerg which I found before we moved here. It shows all the hyggelig moments of Danish daily life you’d expect. But I had to watch it again carefully, after an initial overwhelming impression of whiteness and blondeness among the citizens. To my relief, there were at least a few signs of diversity.
Even better, very soon after arriving, I fully experienced the diversity of the Esbjerg community on International Day, with food and performances from all over the world, and myriad countries represented.
With this year’s event cancelled, I’m offering a snapshot of that diversity on the page instead of the stage, and hopefully inspiring new connections.
Just before lockdown, Esbjerg’s Newcomer Service announced the opening of the appropriately-named International House, their new venue on Torvegade.
“At the last welcome meeting we had 140 newcomers of 16 nationalities, representing 5 continents,” says Maria Anglada of the Newcomer Service. She adds valuable insight: “Esbjerg started with people coming to work from other places. So locals are used to interacting with newcomers. This is, for me, the key to diversity here.”
With more events being organised now, International House can finally come into its own – check our events page to see some of what’s on offer.
Esbjerg Women’s Network
Swati Pandey is a recent arrival and agrees, the Newcomer Service is a great source of connection. “I also appreciate the International Community and Esbjerg Women’s Network in helping you get settled in a new place.”
She’s on the organising team for the Women’s Network, which “organises events where all women of Esbjerg, irrespective of cultural background, can connect and socialise.”
"In Esbjerg, everyone knows everyone, so we end up knowing more about the different countries and cultures." - Srishti Chauhan
Indians in Esbjerg
Inderjeet Kaur is an organiser for the Indian network. She says, “It’s great to be able to celebrate big cultural events together.”
Having moved from Copenhagen three years ago, Srishti Chauhan finds that a diverse experience is more accessible here. “In Esbjerg, everyone knows everyone,” she explains, “so we end up knowing more about the different countries and cultures.”
Russian spoken here
Elvira Caspers represents the Russian-speaking network, which she describes as “different nationalities united by one language. We include Kazakhs, Ukrainians, Tatars, and Russians, among others.”
The community is very active in the daily lives of Russian-speakers here. “We help each other integrate,” she explains.
African Network Esbjerg
This network, of course, represents many countries, including places as diverse as Sudan, Nigeria, and Congo. Namibian Amanda Ndorokaze is the admin, and says, “We are always willing to welcome more active members and organisers.”
Part of a larger global network, Esbjerg Toastmasters coaches members in public speaking and leadership and is usually represented on the International Day stage. Organiser Jette Holten Lützhöft says, “we’re all about diversity. Presently, we are 20 members from 12 countries.”
Filippinsk Dansk Integrationsforening focuses on celebrating both cultures. Both Fastelavn and Santacruzan are on their calendar, and their Julefrokost combines Danish and Filipino foods and traditions. Marirose Ginez-Linsbauer is admin of the group and says that “Esbjerg has become a melting pot of different cultures, where cultural diversity is respected.” However, she’s struck by the separation of particular groups into “so-called ghettos,” and she sounds an important note of caution: “To make Esbjerg a more cosmopolitan and truly global city, we must focus on a more open integration policy. Seeing a foreigner live side-by-side with a Dane is not a far-off idea.”
Clearly, this is just a small selection of the cultural diversity in Esbjerg; there are endless opportunities to connect and broaden our perspective. Check the list below for more, and bring some international hygge to your Esbjerg life!
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Find contacts for many more networks via New in Esbjerg: