Friendship and foreigners: a lesson from Denmark

Sarah Owens 04 Oct 19

Internationals and how you can best serve/befriend them

As someone who now lives in another country from the majority of the people who have loved and known me best, I’ve gradually become more aware of the absence of these people and the need for such relationships. Obviously, my friends and family from home haven’t disappeared, but it’s very different speaking to someone over the phone once in a while versus sharing every day life together - as a musician; who will cheer me on in the concerts now?

Foreigners in an unknown land

Arriving in Aarhus, I had questions about residence permits, CPR number, doctors, dentists, accommodation, bank accounts, study plans, getting around etc, you get the picture. Fortunately I was allocated a mentor who could help me with most things and within a few months I was “sorted”. But then what? As a Christian, I am grateful to be able to find community with people who also follow Jesus and share my life perspective. Yet, as tribal creatures, we often retreat back into our own kind because it’s easier/more comfortable/enjoyable... Although life in any new place eventually becomes normal, it still provides its challenges and internationals are still foreigners in an unknown land. Think of the Israelites in Egypt. Of course they needed God, but they also had each other, and during the good times and the bad (and there were plenty), they were in it as a family, tribe or nation. I find myself needing and searching for deeper friendship, or at least friendship that supports and cares for me, filling that gap that was left when I moved abroad. This tangible friendship may require an active decision, or it may come naturally, but I implore you not to underestimate the value of your act of friendship and kindness to a foreigner. Even basic gestures can mean a lot! 

What you can do in welcoming international students

Here are three things I have really appreciated from my friends:

  1. Attending concerts: my parents have always been so supportive watching me in many concerts over the years, supporting my progression and aspirations. Of course, it’s not so easy for them to just pop over to Denmark now, so I’m always grateful if any of my friends make the effort to enjoy the music I’m offering to share!
  2. Offering to translate/explain stuff: language and cultural norms can be alienating, and it’s often tiring to keep asking what on earth is going on, so if there’s something that could be a bit niche or confusing, don’t hold back with offering an explanation! You may even learn something interesting about the equivalent word/norm in another country...
  3. Dinners together: particularly if eating together as a family is a common tradition at home, sharing food at someone’s home can feel really special. Perhaps with a family or by creating your own gathering of friends, this is a cosy and heart-warming activity, and can be super fun if you all make a classic home dish to share.

Our closest friend of all

To round off, I recently learnt that Jesus is my closest friend of all. All that I search for in other people, He is able to fulfil perfectly. It doesn’t always feel tangible - thus the need for physical people - but it’s comforting knowing that He cares about us, He protects us, and above all, He loves us.

Please be praying for:

  1. Continued joy in Christ, knowing He cares for me.
  2. Meeting other Christians at RAMA (Royal Academy of Music, Aarhus) - I know there are more but I haven’t met them yet!
  3. Brexit and future possibilities to stay in Denmark


Thanks!

Sarah

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