New Danish teacher with a critical eye on his native country

After ten years in the USA – at, for instance, UCLA and the University of Minnesota – Claus Elholm Andersen has now settled down in Finland. He is the new teacher in Danish at the University of Helsinki.

New Danish teacher with a critical eye on his native country

– It was a position I applied for, was accepted to and just couldn’t resist. After ten years, I felt I’d seen enough of the U.S. and that it was time to come home to Scandinavia, says Claus Elholm Andersen.

Since the topic of his writing and research is Danish culture and politics, he preferred moving closer to Denmark, although not actually back to the country. He wants to preserve a perspective from the outside on Danish culture, politics and identity.

During his years in the USA, Elholm Andersen professes he became both more Danish and less so.

– You tend to stick more to traditions the longer you stay abroad. On the other hand, I feel pretty much an outsider when I visit Denmark, because it’s no longer the same country where I used to live.

Elholm Andersen says he has gradually become increasingly critical towards Danish society.

– In the Denmark that I carry in my mind, people are open and welcoming. In combination with other elements in society, the Danish People’s Party has unfortunately shifted the atmosphere towards narrow-mindedness and isolation.

Of the Nordic countries, Claus Elholm Andersen is least familiar with Finland.

– In many respects, Finland is like Denmark. The two countries have quite similar political structures. The political debate in Finland, however, is more low-key and consensus-seeking than in Denmark. With regard to, for example, economy and taxes, most Finnish parties think very much alike, says Elholm Andersen.

Elholm Andersen is less familiar with other aspects of Finnish culture. He had visited Finland once, 25 years ago, before his interview for the position in Helsinki last December.

– Finnish culture has given me a positive surprise. Finns are much more friendly and open than they are reputed to be, says Elholm Andersen.

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Text: Nadine Aschan
Photo: Linda Tammisto
Translation: AAC Global
University of Helsinki, digital communications

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