News Letter #1
Self Introductions - Danish Style
I'm not sure about you, but I make an effort to meet and chat to the majority of the guests when I'm at a party. But at the end of the night, I'm still caught between saying hello or goodbye to some of the guests. So, I was intrigued to learn how things work in Denmark. A Danish friend explained how when you arrive at a Danish party, you are expected to go around the room and greet each person. At the very least you say hello and shake hands with each person. Not to do so would be impolite.
My friend also told me that the next time you run into your host, you must be sure to say "Tak for sidst!", which means "thank you for the last time." What's more, you should also say "Tak for sidst" to anyone else who was at the party, since everyone contributed to the success of that party.
The wonderful thing about a Danish party is that by the time you have introduced yourself to 20 guests or so, your self-introduction will be crisp and confident. And you should have overcome any reluctance to talk about yourself.
My dip into Danish culture reminds me that I went through a stage of introducing myself to all my university students. I don't just mean by standing at the front of the class and pointing to my name on the whiteboard and telling them all about me. No, I went around the whole classroom and shook hands with each and every student. A full-handed handshake with good eye contact and an upbeat, positive tone of voice. "Hi, I'm Tim, Tim Kiggell." Likewise I encouraged my students to give me their names slowly and to repeat their names. (Why is it that even those students who agonize over every single English syllable insist on saying their Japanese names as quickly as possible?) Few students have had any chance to practice a firm confident Western handshake with full palm contact, and as a result most of them offered a limp lettuce leaf and winced at my crushing grip. (In fact my Japanese boss at the time - a wonderfully confident English speaker - never did master a really good handshake despite all his time dealing with foreign businessmen.) By practicing the handshake at various times throughout the university year, I did notice a big improvement in the firmness of the grip offered by my students. It's a simple thing to incorporate into any lesson, and the results are easy to see. Your students will gradually get used to shaking hands with their classmates - and of course with you. Try to shake hands regularly with your students and encourage a full palm-to-palm handshake, confident eye contact and a cheery tone of voice. When a lesson calls for pair work or speaking practice, you could take advantage of this and have students walk across the classroom and introduce themselves to a classmate they don't usually talk to. You might just underscore the importance of the self-introduction by explaining the old adage that 'first impressions count for a lot.'
As my old boss demonstrated, an effective self-introduction is not something that comes naturally. Neither is it something that can be studied online. Where better to practice than in an English lesson! Over the years to come, your students will thank you time and time again for your practical demonstrations.