Mention Denmark to most people, and they may think of Viking raiders with horned helmets, looting and pillaging their way across Europe. Others may think of one of Denmark’s more famous exports—Carlsberg beer, or the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen. But of the Danes themselves they will probably know very little.
This talented, industrious people have made important contributions to European and world culture. They have created a social model that has been the envy of some and is an example to many, and are justifiably proud of their achievements. While the Danes may be difficult to get to know, they are a friendly, fair-minded, and civilized people who are most certainly worth knowing.
Here are 5 important tips and facts on Danish culture to help soften your landing.
HYGGE—THE DANISH COMFORT ZONE
An important term that is always associated with, among other things, the home, is hygge, or hyggeligt. It is very difficult to do the term justice in English, most commentators being satisfied with “cozy.” This is, however an inadequate translation as it does not encompass the scope of the word, which can be used to describe people, situations, and locations. The term hygge conveys, to a Dane, ideas such as intimacy, relaxation, hospitality, warmth, friendliness, geniality, harmony, and contentment, to name but a few. Perhaps one approach would be to think of it as anything that conveys the feeling one had, as a child, when getting a warm hug from a loving parent.
LEAVE YOUR SHOES AT THE DOOR
Danes remove their shoes before entering each other’s homes, and there are two reasons for this. First, it avoids dragging dirt from outside all over their host’s home. Second, most Danish homes make extensive use of wood flooring, which high or hard heels could damage with dents or unsightly marks. Many people bring soft indoor shoes to change into when visiting each other.
Don’t expect to be given a grand tour of the residence. Danes are by nature private people, and their home is the center of their private world. Remain in the room you are taken into. Never go wandering around the house unbidden, as it is highly unlikely that you would be invited again.
Punctuality is important to Danes, and also for the foreign visitor, as the Danes are unlikely to make allowances for cultural diversity in this area. If you arrange to meet a Dane at one o’clock, then that does not mean five to one or five past one. As a rule of thumb, if you are going to be delayed for more than five minutes then call the person you are meeting and let them know. This will make things a lot easier.
“TOEING THE LINE”
The Danes are a very orderly people. They like things to be organized. In many shops a ticket system is used to keep people in line. On entering the shop you simply take a numbered ticket and then wait until your number is called, at which time you will receive assistance. Try to bypass this system at your own peril.
HERE COMES THE SUN
Coming as they do from a cold northern climate, it is no surprise that sunny, warm destinations are a favorite among the vacationing Danes. Every summer Danish cars towing trailers and camping vehicles can be seen crossing the border like herds of migrating wildebeest in search of sunnier climes to the south. During the winter vacations travel agents do a brisk trade, sending Danes off to more exotic destinations in their quest for some winter sun.
Skiing holidays are also popular, particularly in Sweden, France, and Austria.
For more tips and essential information on Denmark, its people and their culture, pick up a copy of the new Culture Smart! guide to Denmark here! Use promo code NEWCS25 until the end of May for a 25% discount.
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