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The Privileged Immigrant | Kay Xander Mellish | TEDxOdense

have you ever dreamed of leaving the
place that you live now and moving
someplace new
a new city maybe a new community maybe
even a new country some of you out there
in the audience today haven’t done this
you have left the country that you grew
up in and you’ve moved to Denmark I’ve
done that I originally came from the
United States but I live here now
and let me tell you something that
nobody tells you about leaving your
place and going to another country you
become a foreigner the foreigner that is
the staple of every comedy act all over
the world the person that talks funny
the people that do dumb things I am that
foreigner I have done so many dumb
things good example good morning looks
standard thing in the world right say
good morning to people people do it
every place but in Denmark good morning
is good morn come on and it doesn’t last
the entire morning English good morning
you can say that on and on up to 11:59
you could say good morning right
not in Denmark you dance know this right
come on stop sit around about ten
o’clock right so if you see a colleague
at 10:30 and you say come on that’s a
little sarcastic that’s a little mean
where were you wakey-wakey little late
Gregor showed up I did this wrong for 10
when you’re foreigner you never get it
you never do you’re never quite right
I’m more than a foreigner I am an
immigrant but I may not be your
stereotype of an immigrant when we talk
about immigration and migration we often
talk about people coming from poor or
violent countries to safe wealthier
countries to start a better life but
there’s a different type of immigrant
that I want to talk about today
I call them privileged immigrants people
like me people who have an education
maybe they are skilled workers maybe
they’re scientists maybe they’re PhD
students and they choose to leave their
country of origin now I have a website
called how to live in Denmark the
lighter side of living in Denmark as a
foreigner and I also do a podcast so I
chat with these privileged immigrants
all the time they come from all over the
world from China from India from Brazil
from Eastern Europe from southern Europe
and I have noticed that since the brexit
referendum and the election of Donald
Trump I’m hearing more and more from
people in the US and the UK interested
in moving to Denmark why does someone
leave their country of origin and go
someplace else there’s many reasons you
know in some cases it is climate they
want to live in a wonderful warm climate
those are not the people that come to
Denmark I don’t know one comes to
Denmark for the climate sometimes it’s
very serious they need the freedom
perhaps they’re gay and they cannot live
openly in their country of origin or
they’re a woman and they are not allowed
to pursue their career in the country of
origin or sometimes they just feel more
in tune with the new country there’s
something inside them that matches with
the new places culture and they choose
to move but whatever the reason it is a
luxury it is a luxury to have a lovely
country and choose to go and live it
somewhere else now when we talk about
immigration I find a lot of the
discussion is what can the host country
do that
open up to be more diverse to let in
more people what can we do to make
Outsiders feel more comfortable but I
want to flip the debate today and talk
about the immigrants responsibility
particularly a privileged immigrant an
educated immigrant what are their
responsibilities to the place where they
choose to live I believe that if you are
a privileged immigrant an immigrant with
options it is your job to investigate
the country where you are thinking about
living and seeing if its basic values
are in line with your basic values to
see if you can fit into that country
without giving up too much of yourself
now when I came to Denmark I had to make
some changes to myself I had to give up
I have been living in New York City I’d
been living in Manhattan
those who visited Manhattan know it’s a
very intense place feel very aggressive
lots of sharp elbows right there are
eight million people in New York City so
even if you’re one in a million there
are eight more of you everybody wants
your job everybody wants your boyfriend
everybody wants your apartment everybody
wants your seat at the restaurant
everybody wants every single thing you
have so when I came to Denmark I had to
slow down competitiveness is not a basic
value in Denmark
equality is a basic value in Denmark and
this starts when we are children when
children are raised in Denmark in many
countries there’s a culture of the best
kid in the class China India the UK the
u.s. kids fight to be the best kid of
the class so they can get into the best
further school and have a great life in
Denmark there is no best kid in the
class it’s not discussed and it’s not
encouraged in fact if you are a gifted
student you are asked to slow down a
little bit and help the other students
catch up this continues into business
life in New York City job titles are
very important are you a VP or a senior
VP all right very very important that is
not true in Denmark in the u.s. if you
introduce yourself in a business context
you will use your job title yeah hi I’m
Kay Zander Mellish I’m an author I’ve
written a few books I run a podcast and
I’m a speaker I’ll be your speaker today
context right not in Denmark in Denmark
you introduce yourself not with your job
title but with your name and probably
just your first name hi I’m Kay this can
cause some embarrassing situations
I am a public speaker and I was at a
company a few weeks ago and as I arrived
I met several of the employees very nice
I’m ADA IO I’m nice to meet you maida
nice to meet you hi Kenneth Kenneth oh
it’s very nice to meet you nice to meet
you Kenneth Nicolai oh it’s so nice to
meet you Nicolai it was a little thirsty
so I said Nikolai I’m so sorry would you
get me a glass of water Nikolai and he
did he went out came back nice glass of
water lovely it was only later that I
found out that Nikolai was senior vice
president for Europe with 600 people
working for him and a salary of at least
a million dollars a year but he said
nothing right he said any other country
he would have told his assistant go get
her some water
not Nikolai he did it himself because
since Denmark we see equality as a basic
value status is not encouraged so if you
are the sort of person that loves status
its you’ve got a hunger for power that
you want to be the king Denmark’s the
wrong spot for you your values are not
in line with Danish values now that’s a
very basic value equality it’s very very
important there’s also a lot of trivial
values like for example what people wear
right now we all know people in
different countries wear different
things right we’ve all done it in the
line at the airport right long security
line that guy’s Italian yeah definitely
look at the trousers he’s Italian she’s
from California yeah yeah the sandals
right you can tell here in Denmark
people dress to match the colours of
so we see a lot of gray we see a lot of
blue we see a lot of black and brown and
for the adventurous beige but what I
talk to immigrants you know they say oh
you know how much do I need to fit I’m
saying that’s a trivial value it doesn’t
matter what you wear you can wear beige
you can even wear pink so if you are
considering to moving to a new place a
new community a new city a new country
how do you find out what those basic
values are well blogs like mine or
helpful podcasts like how to live in
Denmark so is fiction and not deeply
meaningful already fiction but but
ordinary mysteries written by local
authors children’s books are good TV
shows who can give them subtitled movies
from the area you want to find out what
people in this country care about what
makes them happy what makes them angry
and you can get that by consuming the
media that they consume another good
place our social media groups and
there’s a lot of those so here in
Denmark expats in Copenhagen I’m sure
there’s the same when Danes go abroad
Danes in Japan because with these social
media groups you can ask our people like
me welcome here am I going to be able to
make friends because whether or not you
can make friends is gonna have a big
doing your research can also keep you
from idealizing the new place too much
we are all human beings and it’s so easy
to say things are not going well for me
here but if I lived over there I would
be happy particularly in Denmark in
Scandinavia where we’re told it’s the
happiest place in the world so people
come here and they get off the plane and
they’re like I’m happy now yeah in the
happy place and then they get a dark
cold winter day
or dark cold spring day or let’s face it
a dark cold summer day and they say
where is my happiness you needed to find
that out with research research the
place you hope to live one of the
negative things about the social media
groups is that is where you will find
the complainers these are privileged
immigrants these are people who have
chosen to come here or to come to any
place and they don’t like it don’t like
that people don’t like the food they
don’t like the taste of the water they
don’t like anything these people are
poisonous there is no way that you
should go to somebody else’s country
that has welcomed you as a privileged
immigrant and bitch about it because you
are poisoning the waters for people who
come after you and they might need the
hospitality more than you do so to sum
up if you are a privileged immigrant if
you have the luxury of being able to
choose to live in another place
you also have an enormous amount of
responsibilities you need to research
the place to make sure that your basic
values are in line with that cultures
basic values and you also need to think
about what you can give to that
community not just take what you can
give to the people who are already there
John F Kennedy who as you know is a u.s.
president who is the son of immigrants
once said ask not what your country can
do for you but what you can do for your
country if you choose to live someplace
else think about what you can do for
that place and do your best to fit in
and be a positive contribution to that
place because as an immigrant your daily
life might be somebody else’s dream
thank you
[Applause] [Music]
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