On One Year in Denmark

I haven’t been here for a long time.

I have been planning this post for too long; the plan was to write something on the lessons learned from the first year I live alone in a foreign country. At some point I got tired of planning and here’s the result..
This year was one of the best and I’m sure everything that happened will be vivid in my memory forever..

I experienced myself, my limits, my capabilities and most of all my weaknesses. Being Egyptian in the land of the Vikings was interesting but there are some ..uhmm Cultural habits or ways of thinking that need change.

1- Learn to say NO: Egyptians can’t say “No” when someone asks to borrow something or asks for a favor we just can’t turn him down. We end up doing something we didn’t want to do or settling for something we didn’t want just to please others, and the funny part is that we expect others to do the same for us.. WRONG!! Just say that you don’t feel like going out, or you don’t want to share your sandwich, a Moroccan girl taught me that being super honest is much better than being miserable. Kind of a YOLO thing.

2- Don’t be TOO nice: so I’ve been told (repeatedly) that I was too nice to the point that people misunderstand me. Being nice isn’t a bad thing but it got me into a lot of trouble so it’s not always good either. Think very carefully about the people around you, maybe you even want to categorize them in circles and be very decisive about it. Remember, only special people deserve special treatment.

3- Be Flexible: don’t hold on to ideas or thoughts rigidly. Be prepared to change your opinion or experience something new or look at something from a new angle. Don’t be confined to the limits of what you know because believe me what you know is never enough.

4- Just ASK: as I said in a previous post, asking can solve lots of problems. Whether it is asking for directions, favors or just random questions, you will end up learning something new. Being shy isn’t really sexy.

5- Ask yourself “am I trying to impress someone?”: This lesson is the most efficient, this question has really been a blessing for me. Every time I worry too much about how I look or the way I eat or a stupid thing I said, I ask myself this question; the answer is usually no and that gives me the confidence to do what I want and really be myself and you have no idea how liberating that feels.

6- Look for the silver linings: As humans we have a natural tendency to amplify anything bad that happens to us and use it to erase anything good. How many times did you pick a fight with a friend and started pouring everything bad he did for the past 10 years and forgot all about the nice things??? This is just sad, be fair and objective to yourself, others and other things, or prepare yourself for a shitty moment when you will say “I wish I appreciated … more”.

7- There’s more to you than you think: When I went back to Cairo, I was telling my mum about random things that happened during my stay in Denmark. The woman was shocked, she said “I can’t believe you have been through all this”. Don’t define your limits, test them and trust me you will be amazed.

Those are the seven lessons I learned this year and plan on working on for the next one. As for Denmark, it will always and forever have a special place in my heart, it’s the place where I got to know my real self, met amazing people and created memories that will last forever. I’m sure it won’t be the last time we meet Denmark..

Vi Ses snart 😉

denmark

With all my heart I do

 

 

Advertisements

“Sometimes all you have to do is ask”

You know when you’re in this amazing place and you’re really dying to take a photo but you don’t want to ask anyone because you’re…shy? (or you had the best guest lecturer ever and wanted a group photo for your class with him but thought they’d kill you if you ask? no? just me then)

You know when you wanted to try something but felt embarrassed and made up a story to yourself about why you shouldn’t? or when someone asked you if you practiced “piloxing” ** and you said “SURE, I love it” not even knowing what the hell that was?

One of the people who influenced me in a million ways was Randy Pausch, his book “The Last Lecture” literally changed my life. In one chapter he tells the story of how he took his father and his son to Disney World and his son wanted to sit at the front of the monorail with the driver (the grandpa did too :D) anyway, they both said “too bad they don’t let regular people sit out front”. (PS: they made that up not to feel sad about it).

So Randy here said he knew a trick that could solve it, he went up to the driver and asked if the 3 of them can sit out front and the driver said “Certainly sir”.  

Don’t be afraid to ask, Can I? what is it? can i try it? … No one was born “knowing it all”. These questions don’t bite and there’s a chance the response will be rewarding, at least with a new piece of info.

As Pausch puts it  “Sometimes all you have to do is ask, and it can lead to all your dreams coming true.”

**in case you’re wondering, piloxing is a combination of pilates, boxing and dance; some sort of weird exercising !

Image

    Thank you Randy ❤

 

“You’re not to think you are anything special”

Believe it or not ladies and gentleman, this is article one of a social law in Denmark called the law of Jante (Janteloven in Danish). It’s Not a real law (the one that your lawyer can use to get you in/out of jail) but a kind of traditional widely adopted rules of equality used to undermine any personal or individual achievement. This law, developed in the 30s,  is very popular in Scandinavian countries.

These rules are regarded as the ten commandments (not as abiding though..huh? 😀 whatever) they encourage focusing on the collective effort and the WE more than the I. The articles of the law are as follows:

  1. You’re not to think you are anything special.
  2. You’re not to think you are as good as us.
  3. You’re not to think you are smarter than us.
  4. You’re not to convince yourself that you are better than us.
  5. You’re not to think you know more than us.
  6. You’re not to think you are better than us.
  7. You’re not to think you are good at anything.
  8. You’re not to laugh at us.
  9. You’re not to think anyone cares about you.
  10. You’re not to think you can teach us anything.

Some people believe the Janteloven promotes social harmony, thinking we’re all equal and no one is special and the fact that it survived all those years suggests they maybe right. However, others disagree, the YOU is important and individuality is something no one could ever undermine.

My opinion lies somewhere in between those two; YES, you are important and you have to focus on developing yourself but in the end, part of it (if not all) should go to the benefit of the WE. I think the law goes too far though; articles 1,9 and 10 are just too much.

This law suggests being humble is much appreciated in Scandinavian communities, but being humble shouldn’t reach the level of undermining your own abilities, you know what they say “sometimes you can be your own worst enemy”.

YOU ARE to think you are special …. because YOU ARE.

or-me-d-Children-деца-Kinder-friends2sexy-nice-fechas-Monika-اطفال-hi-Mette-you-are-special-and-cute_larg

“You focus on the race, not the horses next to you”

He said these words on television. Sounds like trying to be wise, but he really was. I thought about this sentence for a long while, he was absolutely right.

How many times did your mother compare your grades to those of your cousins? how many times did you compare the car you have to that of your friend? your salary? how smart your kids are?…and the list goes on.

Comparing yourself to others only ends up in being stressed out and working hard to  achieve or have things that maybe unsuitable for you or even beneath you.

You need to focus on you being YOUR BEST. Have a mission or a plan and challenge yourself to fulfill it and when you do set a higher goal and work on it. Don’t limit yourself to the abilities of others.

Don’t look around for how far other horses have come. Win the race.

(The wise words of M.N.)

Image

“5 Things You Should Know Before Dating a Journalist”

Posted on Wanderlust by  (It made me feel very good about being a journalist)

So, you’ve been eyeing that smart, attractive journalist you’re lucky enough to know personally. You’re intrigued. Your journalist is smart, funny, confident. Visions of Clark Kent taking off the glasses and ripping off his clothes to reveal a perfectly toned body in blue spandex coming to save you run through your head.

Who can blame you? Journalism is a sexy occupation.

But journalists aren’t like the bimbos you usually pick up at the bar. Nor are they the assholes you ladies continually fall for. No, journalists are different beings (which is why you’re attracted to them in the first place), and you should realize — before jumping in — that this isn’t going to be a run-of-the-mill, boring, lame relationship you’re used to.

Here’s what you need to know:

1) We can figure things out. Understand, we’re paid to dig deep, find the secrets and wade through bullshit. We can pick up on subtleties, so what you think you are hiding from us won’t be hidden for long. Sure, we’ll act surprised when you eventually tell us you starred in German porn as a freshman in college — but we already knew.

We don’t take shit from anyone, so don’t lie to us or give a load of bullshit. We spend all day separating fact from fiction, listening to PR cronies and dealing with slimy politicians. If you make us do the same with you, you’re just gonna piss us off. And don’t think we’ll be quiet about it. We’ll respond with the vengeance of an Op-Ed page railing against society’s injustices — and we’ll enjoy doing it.

Just tell us the truth. We can handle it.

2) At some point, you will be a topic. Either through a feature story or an opinion column, something you do or say will be a subject. Get over it. Consider it a compliment, even if we’re arguing against you in print.

Think about it: we live our lives writing about life. If you’re a part of our life, we’re going to write about you, your thoughts or a subject springing from one of the two.

Don’t be upset when an argument against your adoration of Hillary Clinton turns up on page A4. We’re not directing the writing at you, personally — your ignorance was just our inspiration (there, doesn’t that make you feel better?).

3) Yes, we think we’re smarter than you. In fact, we know it. Does that smack of ego? Absolutely — but that confidence is what makes your heart go pitter-patter.

We have a strong, working knowledge of how the world works. That makes us great in conversation. We can delve into the intricacies of zoning laws, local and national politics, where to find the good restaurants, what’s happening with pop culture, where the good bands are playing and more.

But there are pitfalls.

Guaranteed, when you say “towards,” we will automatically say “toward” — “towards” is not a word. We’re not trying to call you dumb (even though you don’t understand the English language), it’s habit. The same will happen when you say “anxious” when you mean “eager” and when you answer “good” when someone asks how you are doing.

We carry ourselves with a certain arrogant air. Embrace it (that’s what attracted you to us in the first place, after all). Don’t be surprised if we’re not impressed when you say, “I’m a writer, too.” No, you are not. The fact that you sit in a coffee shop wearing black while scribbling in your journal does not make you a writer. Nor does the fact that you “wrote some poems in high school” or that one day you want to pen “the great American novel.”

Look, we’re paid to write. Every day. What’s more, our writing matters. It changes opinions, affects decisions and connects people with the world around them.

We’re not spewing our angst or trying to fabricate an aura of creativity. We write about the real world — with real consequences.

Our words go through three or four cranky editors who make us rewrite before it’s printed a few hundred thousand times and distributed all over town. You don’t do that unless you’re confident, even egotistical.

You may have some great journal entries, poems and rudimentary short stories — good for you. Just don’t assume we’ll accept that as on par with what we do (unless you’re really hot, then hell, you’re a better writer than I).

4) You’re not less important than the job — the job is just more important than anything else. One doesn’t become a journalist to sit in an office from 9 to 5 Monday through Friday.

We do take our work home. If news is happening, we’ll drop whatever we’re doing — even if it’s with you — to cover it. We’re always looking for stories, so yes, we’ll stop on the street to write something down, interview a passer-by or gather information for a lead.

On that same note, don’t get upset if you call us on deadline suggesting some afternoon nookie and we say, “I’ve got to put the paper to bed first.” That could mean hours from now, but we’ll have plenty of time to put you in bed later.

5) You won’t be disappointed. Journalists are intense, driven, passionate folk. We carry those same attributes into our relationships, making it an extremely fun ride well worth the price of admission. Our lives are never boring and each day is different.

If the pitfalls are scaring you away, consider this:

The fact that we’re inquisitive means we’ll listen to you. Even if it does seem like an interview, we’re paying attention to what you have to say (see rule No. 1).

We’ll write about you or your thoughts because you’re an important part of our life and we care about you (see rule No. 2).

Our brains are a great resource. Ever go on a date with an attractive person and wind up wishing you hadn’t because everything they say is just, well, stupid? That’s not going to happen here (see rule No. 3).

Yes, it may seem that we put the job ahead of you, but we’re driven. You’re not with that loser whose life is going nowhere and who’s completely content being mediocre (see rule No. 4).

There you go, five things you should know before dating a journalist. Feel free to add to the list, point out where I’ve missed something or leave a comment. And yes, ladies, I’m single (see rule No. 5).

Image

“Most importantly, You’ll get to know yourself”

I read the card a few times trying to understand what she meant by this sentence; she gave me the card at my farewell party that my friends arranged before i flew to the Vikings’ land.

When i asked her, she said that being on your own helps you understand yourself better, “you’ll get to know what kind of person you are and what matters to you when you have no one to depend on but yourself”

With everyone around helping you, influencing your personality (Relax..you can’t help it) and taking care of everything with you, you hardly ever give a chance to “the real you” to surface.

That’s usually why “what are your points of strength and weakness” question in any interview comes out as pointless and confusing (you mostly come up with what you THINK is correct about yourself.. they hardly ever are).

Now when i look back on what she said, i realize how right she was. I definitely know myself better now and it’s easier for others to understand me as well. I can confidently say that i am at peace with myself.

On this kind of journey you’ll be fascinated by the stuff you will discover !!

Thank you Sarah Wahby for your words.

Image

“The Shadow of a Man”

The shadow of a man still scares me.

When i walk alone and see it behind me, when i am on the bus and someone tries to pass, when a group of two or more guys are walking towards me, i get that chill.

Though here in Denmark it’s perfectly safe to walk alone even late at night and i haven’t heard of any harassment incidents, but the culture that is embedded in me refuses to leave me alone.

The sad thing is, many of my colleagues from different countries feel the same.

Shame.

Image

Photo from AFP