Thava Nielsen

Four years ago, after 29 years in Denmark, I travelled back to Sri Lanka for the first time, but I was detained at the airport there and accused of being one of the terrorists who had left the country during the war so many years ago. I was questioned for a couple of hours before they let me go. It was an upsetting experience, but it confirmed that I do not return home when I go back to Sri Lanka, but that I in fact leave my home in Denmark to visit the country I grew up in.

Two years ago, a new and more friendly, open government came to power in Sri Lanka, and since then I have started visiting once a year. I see it as a holiday resort, and I am of course pleased to have the chance of getting to know my country again. But even if you look like a local, dress like one, speak the language, walk around and chat with people, and do your best to blend in, local people can immediately see that you come from elsewhere. I get charged tourist prices when I go out in town, and people ask me where I come from, because I smell different.

I think it is nice and cozy to sit in a large group and eat together, but after some time I need time to retreat and be alone for a while. Most Sri Lankans find this quite strange. Thirty years in Denmark leave their mark and change you in ways you don’t even register. I have changed enormously without noticing, and I am no longer one of the locals where I was born.

55 years / male / in a relation / children / health care assistant / Hillerød / from Sri Lanka / came to Denmark in 1984 / residence permit same year