Danes like to small talk. At the coffee machine, over lunch, over drinks, when meeting each other randomly. If we know each other really well, our conversations might be deeper, but if we are merely acquaintances, colleagues, distant relatives or the like, we have a few subjects that we mainly stick to. These subjects are also crucial for you to know, if you want to spark a conversation with a Dane without it being too formal or too personal. So, read along, start the chatting, and exchange views on the 7 things Danes love to talk about.
- The weather
If you’ve lived in Denmark for a while, or if you’ve visited our country, you already know that Danes love to talk about the weather, because we are never really satisfied with it. When it rains we get annoyed because we get wet, and we cannot do what we want. But when it is dry, we say that it is dry for too long, and that our gardens wither. If it is snowing during winter time we complain that it makes transportation difficult, and we have trouble staying warm, we easily get a cold, and we need to wear too much clothes. But if it doesn’t snow, we say that it isn’t a real winter. And we religiously follow the weather forecast and our ‘Hvid jul barometer’ (white christmas barometer) every christmas. We love the color of the autumn leaves, but we do not like the wind. We love when the beech is in bloom, but we dislike when it starts to rain in spring time. So our opinions about the weather change a lot according to our mood, but if you listen to the Danes that still have a little bit of viking blood in them, you will hear ‘Der er ikke noget der hedder dårlig vejr, kun dårlig påklædning’ (there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing).
Ever since the television become common property it has had a special place in our houses. If you see a random Danish living room, you will notice that all our furniture is faced towards the TV. We love our TV’s and we love our shows. Before we were able to stream movies and series, we also loved our flow TV. And most Danes still do. So if you want to start a conversation with a Dane, it is a great idea to follow the Danish shows – especially the ones on DR (they are also free for streaming, FYI). For instance our beloved Danish garden-expert Søren Ryge has been part of our lives for 28 years and his program DR Derude is the quintessence of slow TV. A more ‘recent’ show that has sparked some debate, and makes all Danes want to go hunting or to cook in the wilderness is Nak og Æd. A hunter and a chef hunts an animal and cooks it. But they do way more than that. The conversations, the atmosphere, the facts, the footage of the places they go, are the reasons why Danes watch it, and have been for 11 seasons. On the same channel you might also stumble upon Den Store Bagedyst (the great bakeoff). This one has some incredible ratings, and Danes just love to watch the drama that is baking. We even had an incident, where the contestants were supposed to bake a cake that sparked a lot (!!!) of tension and controversy across Denmark – just try googling Gunnargate.
As in all other countries, Danes love their children (even though they can be exhausting – am I right??). We also love talking about them, especially when they have achieved something, or if they’re not sleeping. A random conversation could be: Ohh I’m so tired today, my toddler did not sleep last night, and all I needed was a little me-time.’ Or ‘My son is leaving for Efterskole next week, and I am so excited for him, but I will miss him so much’. We share our children’s up’s and down’s with our colleagues, and we ask about other people’s children. Because we know it makes a difference, we know it makes the other person happy. Sometimes we share experiences and give out advice, if we see a parent ‘drowning’ or someone doing something really great. Especially for mothers the sharing comes natural, since already in the beginning of our maternity leave we are introduced to communities, Mødregrupper (mother’s groups), for new mom’s, where you are supposed to share, and talk about your children. So, you want to impress a Dane, ask about their children.
We like to plan and we like to dream. You can ask us at Christmas what we are planning on doing the following summer and vice versa. We plan ahead and we love to talk about our plans, especially if it involves going abroad. App. half of all Danes go abroad at least once a year, either during the summer holiday, at Christmas, or in the winter break. They book tickets well in advance to get the cheaper ones, and then they save up money so they will be able to splurge once they are on holiday-mode. Since they end up spending a lot of money on their holidays, they also want to talk about it, hand out advice on where to go and what to do, and maybe even show pictures. It is important though, to note that not all Danes can afford this, and being asked about it might not be that nice, so be a little careful, and ask open questions such as ‘Do you have any plans for the summer?’. This year, the year of Corona, most Danes have had a staycation, and I am sure that they would love to hand out recommendations for internationals living in Denmark (just like I have been doing at Yourdanglishguide on Instagram.)
Just like with the interest for TV, our passion for sports is crazy. But I guess it is the same across the world, especially for men. Here in Denmark the passion for sports is not limited to men though; we women love our football, handball, tennis, badminton etc. too. But our passion for sports sometimes creates problems, because it becomes almost like two nations fighting each other, and demeaning each other’s players. If you live in- or near Copenhagen you definitely know this to be true when there’s a derby between Brøndby IF and FCK in Parken. So if you want to start a conversation with a Dane (especially, but not only if it is a man) talk about Danish sports.
- How to save money
Denmark is an expensive country to live in. Our food is expensive, our taxes are high, and housing is incredibly expensive. Our monthly wages are quickly spent on fixed payments, making us constantly look for ways to save money. We go out of our way to find the cheapest option in whatever we need to buy, without it affecting the quality too much. For instance you could easily overhear two Danish people talking about that great offer they saw at Bilka, or the summer sale that is happening right around the corner. However, there is quite a difference between Danes living in- and out of the major cities on this one. If you live in Copenhagen you probably have no problem paying 45 kr. for a latte. If you live in a small city on the countryside that price for a cup of coffee is outrageous and you would never pay that much. The same goes for the prices on housing in i.e. Aarhus and Struer; In Aarhus you might get a 1-bedroom apartment for 1.000.000 (ish), whereas in Struer you could buy a house with 6 bedrooms for the same price (ish). The high prices on various items is a hot topic for most Danes, and we love to complain about just how high those prices have become – just take a look at the recent development with face masks, or housing prices in Copenhagen. Both have gone through the roof, and I cannot count on my hands how many times I’ve talked to Danes about this. If you really want to impress a Dane though, don’t just complain about the high prices, but offer solutions, or even better, tell them where to get it cheaper! But beware: This does not include our taxes. We love our taxes and it is only a minority in Denmark who want’s to pay less taxes (because of what that entails).
In newspapers, on TV, online, on apps, even on social media: news. All Danes follow the news in one way or the other, making it the perfect conversation starter. Do yourself a huge favor and follow the Danish news channels – if you’re still struggling with Danish, try www.dr.dk/ligetil : A media made especially for internationals learning Danish, and for Danes needing news to be a bit ‘easier’ to read. If you come across news about neglect in our welfare system (nursing homes, kindergartens, hospitals, schools etc.) you’re ‘in luck’, because that’s the perfect subject to open a conversation with. We discuss it, and we discuss it a lot, especially if it something we can be offended by, and especially if it within an area that is funded by our taxes – for instance (too) high wages in certain sectors, or the hiring of (too) many consultants in the public institutions, often referred to as Djøfisering in Danish – meaning that the people who belong to the union Djøf, i.e. political scientists, economics, sociologists etc. are hired in as consultants in areas where you don’t necessarily expect it – at least traditionally. It is used negative, by the way. So if you want to start that conversation, turn on the news and soak in all those stories – also the positive ones, of course.