Arctic Yearbook 2014 - Page 39

39 Arctic Yearbook 2014 The cultural differences greatly enhance this tendency. Speaking one’s mind and debating are ingrained in the Danish culture, something most have learned from childhood, unlike in the Greenlandic tradition where discussions and disagreements are something to be avoided. The Greenlandic cultural restraint is historical – in small communities, disagreements can be unfavourable (Lynge 1977; Hendriksen 2013). This response pattern is still an ingrained part of the culture of Greenland, and especially for the population not from the bilingual elite and for those from the smaller settlements. This response pattern has been reinforced by the fact that for generations Danes made most of the decisions, and decisions even today are often made from a Danish frame of reference. Many Greenlanders have resigned to this fact rather than trying to change it, because of their cultural reluctance to engage in conflict. It can be said that this cultural pattern has been and continues to be extremely useful in several contexts, but it is often a disadvantage in the interaction, or rather the confrontation, with the Danish culture. Furthermore it is a barrier in the modern based educational system not at least in the engineering education, where the ability to argue is evaluated highly. When the majority of Greenlanders are silent or withdraw, the Danes, or the Greenlanders who more easily use the Danish frame of reference, end up setting the agenda. Thus the cultural differences reinforce the Danish students becoming dominant in the classroom. It also poses important challenges for group work, because the Danish students experience that they lead, and as they are usually best at writing in Danish, they also soon take over large parts of the writing process. Overall, it means that the Danish students often feel that they do most of the work, and by dominating in the classroom and in group work, they may also be ‘taking’ a greater share of the learning. On the other hand, based on our interviews with Greenlandic students, most of them feel that the Danish students control and decide everything, and if they try to raise any objections to the decisions, they feel that the Danish students are more persistent in their argumentation and thereby overrule their inputs. When the Greenlandic students experience this on a continued basis they have a tendency to resign and withdraw from the dialogue and from the group work, which reinforces the negative spiral. This issue is something that we try to focus on and deal with. Not because the Greenlandic students must uncritically learn the Danish cultural frame of reference, but because the Greenlandic and Danish students should obtain an understanding of the cultural differences and challenges present and in a constructive way seek to work with them as basic for shared learning and synergy (Kahlig 1999). This is not just important for all of them in their further education at DTU in Denmark and in their future engineering work in Greenland or elsewhere in the Arctic, where they will constantly run into challenges and conflicts arising from the interaction between different cultures. It is fundamental for developing an integrative engineering practice that is able to deal with the Greenlandic context. In addition to the linguistic and cultural challenges of adapting to a foreign system in their second language, some of the Greenlandic students are also burdened by the social and personal problems Hendriksen & Christensen