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Danish People

Danish People
Photo by gnews pics

The total population of Denmark is 5,529,888 (as of July 2011), the majority of which has Scandinavian origins. Danish society is a very good example of an egalitarianism, where the rights of individuals are put in the highest position. Every individual can freely express himself/herself and have his/her own personality. The more unique you are, the more interested people are to meet you.

Although individuality is always welcome, ability to work and communicate in a team is extremely important for Danes. Usually group success is valued more than an individual one.

In general, Danish people are very relaxed and causal. They are always smiling and cheerful in their daily life. This is until you make a rude mistake. The high living standard of this country is partly due to its strict code of behavior, which everyone, including tourists, in Denmark should follow. These rules refer to every sphere of life.

danes
Photo by Jack Fussell

Although Denmark is located up in the North of Europe, its people differ a lot from their neighbors. If Swedish are similar to Germans, and Norwegians to Scottish, Danes share characteristics of all the above mentioned, both hot and cold nations. They surely follow the rules but they are also very casual in everyday life. If a Dane has to choose between the beauty and the comfort, s/he will prefer the comfort rather.

Danes have managed to acquire all the positive characteristics of North European nations. They are casual, but punctual like Germans and attentive to detail. While they can’t be considered hot-tempered as Spaniards, they are very friendly and balanced like the Swedish. You would have to do something horribly unacceptable to make a Dane go angry.

It’s important to remember that Danes are usually not very romantic. A decent dinner with friends may seem as romantic to them as a candle-dinner for two to others. However, this doesn’t mean they’re indifferent towards candles. Moreover, they are crazy about them. You will find candles wherever you go, hotels, restaurants and homes. There can’t be a better leisure time in Denmark than a gathering with friends.

Danish people are very caring towards their society. They always consider the social factor when taking up a new job or a project. Due to their sense of responsibility towards their nation Danes like to take care of people who happen to be unluckier then they. One of the main aims of Danish people is to leave no one behind and to build a perfect (or an almost perfect) society.

Behavior Etiquette

Danish Rules
Photo by Marionzetta

Even if there are no cars nearby, you should wait until the light turns green before crossing the street. Crossing it under the red light is unacceptable and will receive extremely negative reactions from the passers-by. Sometimes the red-light-crossing is acceptable if the street is off-center, very narrow, and there are no cars in the horizon.

Modesty is appreciated in Denmark, and especially by Danish women. Do not boast of your talents (no matter how objective you think you are), instead let the others notice them.

Introducing yourself is a ritual in every society, and Denmark is not an exception. Although most of the rules accepted here are the same as in other European countries like Germany and France, it is better to look through the following unspoken rules to make sure you fit into the company.

Introducing yourself is a complex system of rules all over the world. In fact, most of the intercultural personal conflicts are shaped in this very first phase. When introducing yourself in Denmark, shake hands with those present (women first) and tell them your first name (first and last names if the meeting is formal).

Shake hands with people when saying goodbye as well.

When you arrive at a house full of people you’ve never met before, don’t wait until someone introduces you to them as it’ll never happen. After greeting the host, visitors usually take a round and briefly introduce themselves to others. Make sure you don’t start long conversations at this point, just do a small talk to find out some common topics you can talk about later. When talking, make an eye contact. This is a sign of respect.

Both Danish men and women are known for paying a lot of attention to education, lifelong learning and self-development. This is why you should never explicitly express your doubts about their level of education and knowledge. This can be very offensive and result in a conflict. Danes think that every individual is unique and interesting in his/her own way.

Denmark is one of the leading countries promoting gender equality and providing it in every sphere, politics, workplace, social activism, etc. Therefore, you should be careful not to underestimate the abilities of men and especially women.

Making comments about men’s or women’s marital status is inappropriate. Many couples move in together and start a family without legalizing their relationship. Moreover, the number of divorces in this country is so high, it seems Danes get married just to get divorced later.

Children care is not only women’s responsibility in Denmark. Both men and women have maternity/paternity leaves for this purpose, and children care is divided equally between the mother and the father.

Punctuality is a very important asset. If you have an appointment with someone and are running late, let them now about it beforehand. In case of 5+ minutes you should make a phone call and warn about your being late.

Dining Etiquette

Dinner Etiquette
Photo by danishwindindustryassociation

Never take more than what you can consume. It’s understandable that seeing lots of dishes that look delicious and unfamiliar is tempting but make sure to play safe, take enough from what you can definitely eat, and just a little from what you want to try for the first time. Food waste is the last thing Danish people want to see at the table.

On the contrary, you can always ask for more if you liked the dish. This way you’ll not only avoid food waste, but will also complement the host and implicitly tell him that the meal is very good.  

Do not start eating until someone, usually the host himself/herself announces a toast. When you hear the word ‘Skol,’ which means ‘Cheers’ in English, at the end of the toast, it means you can start eating. Along with the toast the host will most probably explain what is on the menu as well. During casual dinners you can start eating as soon as everyone is ready. Avoid raising business topics when at a friendly party. Danes like to keep their personal and business lives apart.

Of course you can improvise about what gift to bring to a dinner party, but the most accepted variants are a box of chocolates, flowers or a bottle of wine. Remember, if you are invited to a dinner, bring at least something with you, otherwise this might be regarded as disrespect towards the hosts. If you have arrived more than 15 minutes earlier, wait in your car or take a stroll before knocking on the door.

Cooperation

We already told you that team work is valued very much in Denmark. While foreigners might understand team work in the context of jobs, projects and other assignments, Danes input this method everywhere. It is thought that cooperative work is more positive and effective. This is why Danes are not egoistic and will gladly help anyone who is lost in the city or needs information.

Danes are not only cooperative with friends, family and strangers, they like to work in teams with their opponents as well. This is probably why democracy is successful in this country. They think it is possible to learn something new from a team, regardless of who is your teammate.

The Danish Flag

Danish Flag
Photo by Pragmagraphr

The National Flag is precious in any country, Danes have an even special attitude towards their flag. First, almost every house in a village or a small town has the Danish flag in the center of the garden. Danish flag can be found on doors and fridges in big cities.

Danes even have lists of holidays, when their flag must be especially visible from outside. In fact, Danes were the first football fans in the world to paint their faces with flag colors. Despite the love towards their flag, Danes are far from being nationalistic. They respect other cultures and flags, but demand the same attitude towards theirs.

Danes as Eco-Friendly Nation

This nation is one of the first in the world to take care of the surrounding nature. They will not only disapprove but will also ruthlessly criticize those who will behave inappropriately on this matter. Therefore, there can’t be a word about throwing garbage in the streets, and it doesn’t matter if you’re a tourist and are in Denmark for the first time in your life. You have to save the nature, at least while you’re on their territory.

Besides this, Danish people construct their homes and organize their household in a way as not to harm the nature. They prefer to have thicker windows rather than an excessive electrical heating, and so on.

Danes and Religion

Danish Religion
Photo by caspermoller

The official religion of Denmark is Christianity, and the official church is the Evangelical Lutheran Church. However, the level of its true followers depends on the regions. Jutland is known for strong religious traditions.

The rest of the country doesn’t attend churches very often. Although very few claim an obvious disagreement with it, many Danes maintain their membership to the Church, and even pay a religious tax for services the Church offers. The most common services the Danes enjoy are four significant life events: baptism, confirmation, marriage, and funeral.

“Excuse me” and “I’m sorry”

In some countries, like the USA, you will hear these words very often. Sometimes Americans will apologize for things they haven’t done. This is not the case in Denmark. Danes will never apologize if they don’t feel guilty. This shouldn’t be taken as a sign of disrespect, as they will never avoid apologizing when there’s a need for it.

In fact, this even raises the value of phrases like “Excuse me” and “I’m sorry.” The less you use them, the more meaningful they are. In addition to this, they will very seldom speak with hints. Instead they will put their words exactly as they think on every topic, without exceptions.

Shoes

As already said Danes value comfort more than anything, so it’s natural that high heels are worn only during official events. Streets and sidewalks are very inconvenient for high heels, in the first place. On the other hand, Danes won’t share their thoughts on how uncomfortable those shoes are if you’re wearing a pair. In any case, Danes usually ask to take the shoes off when entering a house, regardless of their being high heels or casuals. This is because they don’t want to get their carpet and floor dirty or damaged.

The Happiest Nation on Earth

Happiest Nation
Photo by NASA Videographer

It’s undeniable that there are perhaps too many rules, which is why a lot and foreigners have to be extremely careful and sensitive to be understood correctly. Perhaps all those rules form the Danish social system, where everyone, almost without any exception, is happy.

It turns out Danes have been officially claimed to be the happiest nation on Earth by not one, but many studies. In one of them the one and the same questionnaire has been handed out in all countries of the world, surveying millions of people, and every time asking the one and the same question “How happy are you?”

Denmark registered the highest results and took the top position on the happiness scale. The reasons for the overwhelming happiness is not difficult to guess. Danes get what they give. All their lives they pay 50-70% income tax, which is one of the highest percentages in Europe, 25% VAT, religious tax and so on. In the next step of the circle, the Danish government designs a great number of social programs, meant for the elderly, children and generally everyone.

Denmark is probably the only place in the world where people choose their profession and not the amount of money they will receive with that profession. Children, who wish to become lawyers, painters, musicians, doctors, ice cream truck drivers, have equal opportunities to reach their aims and fulfill their lifetime dreams. In a society, where an ice cream truck driver and an accountant receive almost the same salary or at least have equal opportunities, people focus on the essence of the job, not on the material reward.

Danish people are happy with what they have, because they have what makes them happy. Denmark is the Happyland of the world. Taking all the pros and cons of this nation, you should remember that Danes know about them too, and particularly about the pros. They consider their country one of the best in the world and singular in regard to implementation of democratic values.

Famous Danes

  • Hans Christian Anderson

Hans Christian Andersen
Photo by cryjack

One of the most famous Danes both for children and adults is Hans Christian Anderson (1805-1875). Andersen’s poems, stories, essays, and especially fairy tales have long joined the rows of classic literature.

There is probably no child, who is a fan of fairy tales and doesn’t know Anderson’s works almost by heart, either in written form or by movies and cartoons.

Names among his works ring the ears of those who’s childhood was full with fairy-tales, some of them are “The Snow Queen,” “The Little Mermaid,” “The Streadfast Tin Soldier,” “The Ugly Duckling” and so on.

Hans Christian Anderson died of liver cancer in 1875. One of the greatest storytellers of all times is buried in Assistens Cemetery, Copenhagen.

  • Viggo Mortensen

One of the most popular actors Viggo Mortensen is also of Danish origin. Mortensen is most famous for his role in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy as a brave warrior named Aragorn, his other movies include “The Road,” “A History of Violence” and so on. He currently resides in the US.

  • Lars von Tiersen

One of the best and original filmmakers of today’s film industry is Lars von Tiersen. His most popular works are “Dancer in the Dark” and “Dogville.” The latest film of  Tiersen “Melancholia” has proved the filmmaker’s talent and unique style once more.

  • Ole Kirk Christiansen

It turns out that LEGO’s motherland is Denmark. The kids’ favorite toy brand LEGO was invented by Ole Kirk Christiansen in Billund village, Denmark in 1932. If you’re going to Denmark, this is a great gift idea for your kids.

  • Helena Christensen

Those who are into fashion and especially Victoria’s Secret will easily recognize Helena Christensen at first glance. This hot model and photographer is also Danish and was born in Copenhagen.

  • Literal Danes

Some of well-known literal heroes of Danish nationality are King and Prince Hamlet, the Little Mermaid, Beowulf and so on.

Quick Facts

Danish population — 5,529,888 (as of July 2011)

Origin — Scandinavian

Official religion — Christianity

Church – Evangelical Lutheran Church

Appreciated values – democracy, comfort, eco-friendly attitude, team work, respectful

Happiness scale — #1 happy nation in the world

Famous Danes — Hans Christian Andersen, Viggo Mortensen, Lars von Tiersen, Ole Kirk Christiansen, Helena Christensen, Hamlet, Beowulf

 

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