As everything is getting more globalized, being cross-culturally competent plays a key role in an international environment like SDU – being able to chat with your mentor from China, to work on a project with a colleague from Spain or even to schmooze with a friend from the same country, but from a different study field. What might seem very similar to us at first glance actually turns out to be very different from us…

Studying in the US, the UK, Denmark, or in Germany has at least one thing in common: an international environment – more precisely, an international environment with its own global culture.

Students in the US, the UK, Denmark and Germany look – from a distance – quite the same. They are career-oriented, self-confident, assertive, flexible and all of them seem to have GSOH (= a good sense of humor). If it reminds you of the classical ‘American Dream,’ you are probably right.

So, when you study in Denmark, you may feel a student atmosphere which is very similar to the ones you can find in the US, the UK or in Germany, and broadly speaking, you live in the same international environment as anywhere else. But of course with a unique touch of Danish culture.

If we assume that students in Denmark (both Danish and international) are also career-oriented, self-confident, assertive, flexible, with “GSOH” who also follow a dream – either the Danish, American or their own (those students who are original and don’t copy standard national dreams) – and if we assume that students at SDU are also career-oriented, etc., then, however, there still are several distinct features that we should be aware of among “mainstream” students.

First of all, even if students mingle with each other (in)formally and thus national or cultural borders are possibly disappearing, national and cultural background still play a significant role for the student environment at SDU.

German students are typically hard-working and detail-oriented (Tip: join a project group with a German). Spanish colleagues are usually outgoing and emotionally expressive (tip: if you don’t want to get fed up while studying, join a Spaniard). French students tend to think holistically and be rather rude (tip: if you are in a project group with a detail-oriented German, you should also invite a holistically-thinking Frenchman). Danish males are rather feminine, females rather masculine and in general Danes use black humor (tip: if you are a masculine female, invite a Danish male; in case you are a feminine male, invite a Danish female, and if you don’t feel for any of these options, hook up with a Dane just for the laughs caused by their ironic – and supposedly funny – comments). Post-Soviet bloc students tend to be more humble than a typical Westerner, and they feel ashamed of their Eastern accent (tip: if you don’t have a German in your project group, Easterners will probably do all the dirty work without any objections).

Now, someone could, however, object that all of these characteristics are just pure stereotypes. Agreed – but as one is always told, stereotypes usually contain some element of truth.

Second of all, one thing is our cultural or national background, another is that a German student of macroeconomics might be just as lazy as the stereotypical Spaniard or Frenchman, just as a Danish student of business communication could be as much ashamed of his or her Danish accent as the stereotypical Lithuanian or Latvian. In other words: similar, but different.

And thirdly, as Danes have their own “hygge”-culture, students and teachers their SDU-culture or as ‘facebookers’ have their ‘always be positive’-culture, every one of us also have our own (yes, everyone is now original). So every time we enter a new environment, including that environment’s particular culture, it may seem familiar to us, but actually still is rather different, which could cause misunderstandings or collisions. To put it another way, do you also dislike it when someone tells you: “I know how you feel and what you think of”, without them asking any further questions about your real feelings and thoughts? In the end, it turns out that he or she was wrong, and you ultimately you feel sick of him or her.

To recap: an international student environment might be similar everywhere, but still is very different. Western students might seem career-oriented, self-confident, assertive and flexible with “GSOH”, but still career-oriented and so on in different manners and ways. All Danes might resemble the prototype of Dane, but actually they are very different. But don’t forget that for the main part though, all of them are cheerful.

So, what’s the outcome of this duality – on one hand, post-modern students appearing to be quite the same, but on the other hand being quite different from each other? That a good sense of humor should always come in handy…


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Ivan Pribičko

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