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China in the eyes of a Danish girl   [Copy link] 中文

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Post time 2013-5-21 09:54:49 |Display all floors
This post was edited by zhangjudy at 2013-5-21 09:55

Author: Rebecca Lin      Source:

Sofie Grube comes from Denmark (丹麦), a Scandinavian country which boasts a privileged social welfare, developed clean technologies and humid climate.

Probably because of her mother’s Mexican origin, Sofie is not as tall as most Nordic people, and a sweet personality makes the 25-year-old appear to be dainty and feminine at first sight, although a deeper communication reveals her valued qualities of independence and enterprising spirit.

Photo: provided by Sofie Grube.

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Post time 2013-5-21 09:56:10 |Display all floors
I’ve always cared about the society.

Currently Sofie is attending a Sino-Danish college in Beijing for a master’s degree in public management and social development. She belongs to the first batch of students of the college co-sponsored by eight best Danish universities and Chinese Academy of Sciences.

“There are 80 students in total, half from Denmark and half from China. And we are divided into four different programs, though all are environment and administration-related. My study is about the development of welfare states to solve  social problems,” she said, explaining that in the class, they would discuss about how states have developed in Europe, especially in Scandinavian countries, and how could their experiences be applied to China in addressing China’s societal problems.

“So the program aims mainly to help with China’s problems, right?” the reporter asked.

“Not quite. We know we are quite a small country and our system may not be able to apply here in China. And there are some provinces in China that may have done something interesting that we could learn. So, the subject, in my perspective, is to discuss about how things are done around the world to help out society—to build the society.”

Then Sofie specified some drawbacks of their system. It seems under their system of high-level welfare and social security, people or businesses which are capable of making more money may choose to leave. The reason is the more you earn, the more you have to pay in taxes, so apparently, there would not be many incentives for starting a business there.

“But we believe in our government. We could see they’ve done a lot of things beneficial for us and also we don’t need to be worried if we were jobless or got sick. And, it is said that in the US, people always complain about paying high taxes but not knowing where their money had gone.”

Clearly, she is quite drawn into the subject she is studying. And when being asked why she chose such a major, Sofie revealed that she had always cared about the society.

On the other hand, she majored in business administration and economics in college and then learned finance and statistics for a couple of years. Now, tired of learning about all these materialist things, she hopes to get an overview of how these things interplay with each other—market, state and civil society.

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Post time 2013-5-21 09:56:26 |Display all floors
This post was edited by zhangjudy at 2013-5-21 09:57

China is quite different now, with so many cars and skyscrapers.

“What makes you choose China as a destination for studying abroad?”

“A lot of people in the rest of the world are forming opinions about China. Like China would become the next ruler of the world because it’s developing so quickly and meanwhile, they complain about having to make agreements with China for controlling pollution and global warming. And there are some societal problems that affect the rest of world. So, I would like to come and see for myself how things are, how things work and how the people are.”

“Now, after nearly one year’s learning, do you have confidence in China’s smooth transformation into a new economy?”

“Yes, definitely. History has a tendency to repeat itself. I mean if you look into the history of China, I believe one thing China has been good at is changing its system from one period to another. For example, first you had Mao Zedong (毛泽东), and then you had Deng Xiaoping (邓小平). Actually, I think the change is more promising here than in Europe. Europe now is in a huge financial crisis which started in 2007. People now think it may not be able to change till 2020, for that there have been too much talk and too few actions. In that sense it is a positive thing to have one decision-maker.”

Sofie recalled her first trip to China about 13 years ago when she was still a kid, accompanying her father on a business trip. “It was in the mid-1990s, and now things are quite different, with so many cars, skyscrapers, and fashionable-looking people.”

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Post time 2013-5-21 09:57:09 |Display all floors
I’m compromising my health by living here.

“Do you feel disturbed by the heavy air pollution in Beijing now?”

“I think I wouldn’t be living here in Beijing if it’s going to be like this all winters. It was too much. I feel that I’m compromising my health by living here. And as far as I know, foreigners are now either leaving, or thinking about leaving, asking their companies if they could be transferred to somewhere else. Especially for those families with kids, they don’t want to be in Beijing any more. But I think most people have very ambivalent relationship with Beijing—a love and hate relationship—some things they really hate and other things they really love.”

“What about Denmark?”

“The most polluted street in Copenhagen, the capital city of Denmark, has a PM2.5 reading of about 46 when it’s the worst. Denmark is a quite green country which makes a lot of green solutions. We have a lot of companies specialize in these kinds of areas. Actually back in the 1970s and 1980s, the pollution level in European countries like Denmark and Britain was also quite high, and that’s the reason they became the first group of countries in the world which made laws against polluting industries.”

Sofie told the reporter that these years, China has been trying to learn from Europe’s experiences in addressing environmental problems, although it definitely would be a long process.

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Post time 2013-5-21 09:57:59 |Display all floors
It takes a million errors to learn a new language.

“What are the prospects of your future career?”

“I hope I could work with public or private businesses toward addressing societal or environmental issues. I think that could be interesting. And I hope I could use my language advantages in my future work."

According to Sofie, her real talents lie in learning language or language-related subjects. Now, she could fluently communicate in English, French and Spanish, besides her mother tongue, Danish.

“Most Chinese people feel shy when it comes to communicating in a foreign language. Do you feel the same way?”

“Yes, definitely. For example, I was so with French. I was born in France and lived there till I was five. Then, I forgot about it because I was taken back to Denmark and had to learn Danish. At first, I would say I could not speak French. Then, I’m learning little by little. Until now, even if I could communicate in it, sometimes, I still feel a little bit embarrassed. But you know, the way to learn a new language is to “not care”. You have to make a million errors before you could speak a foreign language, and it actually takes a million errors for people to speak a new language well. So, we should just practice and practice.”

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Post time 2013-5-21 09:58:52 |Display all floors

It’s funny that they call themselves “indoor Chinese宅男宅女”.

“Do you socialize with your Chinese classmates after class?”

“We actually have a social committee for arranging social things for both Chinese and Danish students. And we try to find things that would be interesting for all of us. But we have different incentives for why we are here. We want to experience China as well, but for Chinese students, they already know China. So, they hang out a lot in their dormitories together, playing video games or something like that. We want to go out to eat or have a drink. Chinese students are not used to that. But, you know, they are actually very funny--one of my classmates once told me there is a phrase for that, which sounds like “indoor Chinese宅男宅女”.

“Have you ever considered finding a Chinese boyfriend, or husband?”

“I’ve not thought about that much. It is not like I would not like to talk with nice Chinese man. But, I just don’t think they would be able to understand me, by which I mean my future expectations. I want to change something in the society. I want to do something with my life. I don’t only want to be a mother, a housewife. I think most Chinese men would expect his wife to clean, make food and take care of children. In my idea, the chores should be divided fifty to fifty.”

“So, do you think people from your culture would be more tolerant to that?”

“Yes, in Denmark, we have an equal society; sometimes it’s a little bit too equal (laughing). My ex is a kindergarten teacher, you know. And I believe there is a tendency that more men in the west are beginning to accept the idea of stay-at-home dads.”


Photo: provided by Sofie Grube.

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Post time 2013-5-21 10:11:07 |Display all floors
Chinese society is like a old dusty chest, beneath the cover lies a treasure of life, living and great learning.

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