Weeks ago I wrote ‘7 don’ts in Denmark’ to make you aware of what to avoid when living in Denmark. However we also need to be a little more glass-half-full’ish and share the do’s in Denmark so that you know what we actually do like. The following 7 points are also great conversation starters, when you are heading out into the Danish world and trying to build those crucial cross-cultural friendships. So please, take my advice and try to incorporate them into your own life – maybe with a mix of the do’s from your home country? Here are 7 do’s in Denmark:
- Be polite
If you have taken Danish lessons, you probably already know that in Danish we do not have a word that covers ‘please’, unfortunately. This does not mean that we are impolite, though. We are polite in your actions and by using other words and phrases, such as tak (thank you), hvordan går det? (how are you?), and ha’ det godt! (be well!). So, if you are learning Danish, please do not forget to say tak – it is better to use it ten times too much than to use it too little. As a Danish teacher I always tell my students that after (almost) every sentence in a dialogue there should be a tak, with all greetings there should be a hvordan går det, and with all goodbyes there should be a ha’ det godt.
- Ride your bike
If you live in the bigger cities in Denmark or if you visited one, you will know that we Danes love our bikes. Biking is not just a form of exercise, but more an alternative form of transportation to cars. We ride our bikes from a very young age until we are no longer able to. Then we might get a bike running on electricity, and we’re back on that saddle. In the past years cargo bikes have become very popular, not only in Copenhagen, and we even put our newborn babies in them and explore our cities. So, if you’re ready to start your Danish journey, get up on that bike and start pedalling.
- Trust the authorities
In many countries and cultures across the world there are continuous disputes between the people and the authorities, especially the police. Of course we also from time to time have our problems between the two, but in general there is a big trust between us. Typically you will see the Danish police practicing dialogue and positive communication rather than using force (depending on the situation, of course). So if you are being pulled over by Danish police, fear not, they mean you no harm and are only here to help.
- Celebrate traditions
In all cultures there’s a lot of different traditions, and we all celebrate our traditions differently, using different rituals. Denmark is no exception to this. We have a lot of traditions that are celebrated on the minute every year. Some of them you probably already now: Christmas lunch, Skt. Hans, and May 1st. But did you know that we dance a wedding waltz before the stroke of midnight when we get married? Or did you know that we ride around on a truck wearing sailor-like caps when we graduate gymnasium? Or have you heard about the song school kids sing the last day of school before the summer break? We celebrate all our traditions – some more than other – and we celebrate them with our family or our friends. Some people adjust the traditions to fit into their way of life, others keep them as they are. But if you live in Denmark and really wanna live that Danish life, you gotta start celebrating our traditions with us. If you don’t know how, ask any Dane – if there is one thing we like to talk about, it’s our traditions.
- 1-2-3 HYG
This should come as no surprise: Hygge. The most important word in the Danish language. What does it mean, you ask? Well, it is also the one word that we cannot translate, because it is more like a feeling than anything else, and the beauty of it is that it means whatever you want it to mean. To some people hygge means candlelight and warm cocoa, to others it means cold white wine and a barbeque, and some might even find hygge in situations other people find stressful. To go full Danish, you have to find your own way of hygge. 1-2-3 HYG!
- Help your neighbor
When you grow up in the countryside of Denmark you are raised to trust your community, and to help your neighbors when needed. It can be anything from borrowing a cup of sugar, to water your plants when you are out of town. The point is that you trust your neighbors to have a key to your house (if you ever lock the doors), and they trust you the same way. This was especially made clear during lockdown, when people at high-risk needed help to grocery shop and the like, and the community rose to the occasion. We love helping each other, and we consider it our duty as members of the Danish community.
- Pay your taxes
This one is a bit controversial, especially because many people don’t share our love for our… taxes. We may not love that 37% of our monthly salary is taken from us, but we do love our well fare system, which is funded by our taxes. We all pay our taxes, we all contribute to our community, and we all benefit from that. This also means that we do not take it lightly when someone is not paying their taxes. Cayman Islands has almost become a curse word in Denmark, and multinational corporations refusing to pay our taxes have suffered the same destiny. Of course how hard we judge the people avoiding to pay taxes depends on where we stand politically.