7 cultural conflicts when arriving in Denmark

  1. Greetings
    You see a Danish person you kind of know. You wanna say hi. You’re leaning in to give that smooch on the cheek. The Dane gets confused about all that kissing, tries to avoid the obvious awkwardness, but by accident touches the lips. You are now kissing on the lips. The situation is awkward. Really awkward. The Dane, being shy, moves away, and you will never see that Dane again. Oh well, 5.602 mio. other Danes to try the greetings on. Yes, this is a stretch. But, Danes are generally private people. We like our personal space, and our greetings typically consists of shaking hands, or if you know each other, a hug. When in doubt, just say hi, and wave a little with the hand. Maybe do the queen’s wave. If you want to make an even more awkward scene…

  2. Being invited to a Dane’s house
    You meet a Dane at lunchtime at your workplace. She tells you about her child’s baptism she is planning at the moment. You wait patiently for the invite. It does not come. You look up and down yourself, check your armpits, blow in your own hand and smell it, but no. You look fine. You’re not too sweaty. Your breath is like a thousand roses. So why don’t you get invited for this party? Well, again Danish people are private people. We do not invite random people to our house, and especially not to our family celebrations. But do not fear; get to know us. Talk to us. Hang out with us. And after a short while, invite us to YOUR house. You’ll see, before long you will be invited to a Dane’s house.

  3. Taxes
    You hate them. We kind of love them. Well, our relationship is a bit complicated. Of course we don’t love that our salary is magically reduced by 37%. But, we love having a wart checked for free at the doctor’s, we love being able to go to work fairly fast on our highways, we love being able to afford a 9m2 room when we study, we love that everyone, no matter economical background, can do any kind of studies they want, we love that getting a serious diagnosis ‘only’ hurts the body, not the wallet, we love that we do not have to take care of our annoying mother-in-law when she gets old, we love to see our beautiful windmills around the country, we love that we help where help is needed in the world, we love that we can feel safe in our country, we love that we are not dropped on the floor, if we loose our job, and so on and so on and so on. If you think about it, you kind of love it too, right?

  4. Alcohol
    If you have visited one of the bigger Danish cities during the summer, or even when just one ray of sunshine gets out between all the clouds, you will have witnessed at least a handful of Danes sitting outside on sidewalk café’s drinking an ice cold draft beer, and looking more happy than the day their first child was born. Sun and cold beers go hand in hand. Some thirty years ago, lunch also meant a beer and a snaps. However, nowadays alcohol is often prohibited at a workplace, meaning that the Danish equivalent of mac’n cheese: beer and snaps, is restricted to weekends or the older generation. We love our beers, we love our snaps, and if you are invited to a Danish Christmas lunch or Easter lunch, you will definitely see it at the centre of the table, and yes, you will be offered both. But, it’s 100% okay to decline.

  5. Danish
    Try saying Rød Grød Med Fløde. Or maybe Mad Bad Glad Fad – quickly! And remember, the D is soft, not hard. Danish is a difficult language, no doubt about that. Not the grammar, but the lack of grammar, and the pronunciation. But I promise you, if you insist on learning Danish, take classes (no, Duolingo is not enough), listen to podcasts, listen to music, read small articles, watch Danish TV, interact with Danes, and get the courage to actually use the language you have been taught, you will learn it. And you will be great at it! But it takes work, like everything else. Most importantly: speak speak speak speak! And I assure you, Danish people love it when you are willing to learn our language.

  6. Babies sleeping outside
    You see a stroller on the sidewalk. Inside it is a small child sleeping. It’s winter. Your nose is running, your hands are cold. You are minutes away from calling child services. But dear expat, fear not. The parent is not neglecting its child. The child is not suffering. The child is taking a nice long nap, while breathing in that fresh natural winter air. Danes are recommended by health professionals that the children sleep outside, since this helps their sleeping and is very good for their general health. Exceptions: No sleeping outside if the child is sick, no sleeping outside if it’s really cold, no sleeping outside in extreme weather and so on. When in doubt, let the child sleep inside, and use common sense. And remember to dress the child according to the weather.

  7. Bicycles
    Dear internationals: be careful on the bicycle lanes. If you’re on a bike, get on the lane, but if you’re on foot, get off the lane. Bikes are in Denmark used for transportation, not only for exercise. People need to get to work on time, and they need to feel safe while riding their bikes. They will not smile and ask you politely to get off the lane if you are taking a selfie in front of that famous shop. They will yell, they might push you, and they will not feel sorry about it. Exactly like a driver would behave, if you suddenly stepped out into the road in front of a car. For your own safety; get on the bike or get off the lane.

4 thoughts on “7 cultural conflicts when arriving in Denmark

  1. I love everything about the blog! So informative and engaging! Looking forward to the next post 😉

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