Danish winters are gray and cold, it’s always raining and there’s nothing Danish people love eating more than licorice. Did you already know this? Learn about a wide array of details that characterize Danes. From secrets of their tax system, to more well-known facts, some of these points are sure to be eye-openers.
- The Danes are recognized as the happiest people in the world
An unlimited number of surveys and studies have established the Danes as the happiest people in the world. No matter how happiness is measured, the results continue to be the same. No wonder! If you spend some time in Denmark, you soon realize how relaxed the people are. No one hurries from appointment to appointment, instead they take time to enjoy the moment. This can be explained by some of the facts that will be shared about the working life and social system.
2. There are no mountains no matter where you look.
Want a hiking holiday in Denmark? This unfortunately won’t happen for you. In Denmark you can keep looking but won’t find any mountains. The highest points, Yding Skovhøj and Ejer Bavnehøj are 172 meters and 171 meters respectively, both found in Jutland. The country is flat which leads us to the following advantage for our next point.
3. Biking is amazing
Shallow land may not be a winter sports fan’s dream, but it is ideal for getting around by bicycle. It should come as no surprise that Denmark was voted the most bicycle-friendly country in Europe in 2013. The 10,000 kilometers of cycling network with sign posts, stretches across all of Denmark and stands out with a stunning landscape with fantastic coastlines on the North Sea and Baltic Sea. Denmark is the place to be for cyclists. There are over 2.4 million more bicycles than cars in Denmark. There is still a daily rush hour but, you can enjoy the fresh air in the meantime. Great for everyone with a 9 to 5 job, anyone who would like to be more active and more environmentally friendly. A great example that other countries could try out.
Picture 1: Nørrebrogade by Thomas Høyrup Christensen via Copenhagenmediacenter
- In Denmark you literally jump into the new year
Most countries have special traditions for New Year’s Eve. The Danes jump quickly from a chair right before midnight. The idea is that it brings good luck. The celebration begins early, with the national address by the Queen. The program is completed by an airing of “Dinner for One” and the bell going off at Copenhagen City Hall.
5. The Danes are extremely trusting
The Danes are relaxed and trusting towards their fellow human beings. It’s not unlikely that a stroller with a baby in it stops in front of a café, while the mom catches up with other mothers inside, leaving the child unsupervised.
6. Credit cards are needed everywhere
You will be hard pressed to find Danes who actually keep change in their wallets. Everything is paid for by credit card. From the supermarket to the nightclub (including the wardrobe), to the flea market. The majority of Danes use mobile pay. Here you can transfer money back and forth via an app – it works in most restaurants and shops.
7. Everything is electronic
Everything runs without cash and electronically. Receipts can be requested online and sent. This eliminates the hassle of waiting and saves time.
8. Health care and education are free
Well, almost: health care and education are made possible by the typically very high taxes that Danes pay for everything (food, alcohol, electronics, cars). Students receive monthly financial state support simply for being enrolled in college. This means that in Denmark, everyone, regardless of career, has the opportunity to receive excellent health care as well as education. A national system that should serve as inspiration to other countries.
9. The Danish lifestyle is all about “HYGGE”
The word “hygge” is unique to the Danish language and describes the feeling of coziness and warmth that you feel when you spend time with valued people and enjoy life together. The concept became widespread in 2016, partially because a book came out dealing with it. In Denmark, it’s the everyday standard. Especially prevalent during winter months.
10. Surrounded by sea
Denmark is made up of many small islands. As previously stated, there are hardly any mountains. This also means you are never further than 52 km from the sea. So, it takes maximum one hour to look over the horizon and on to the open sea.
Last but not least a few fun facts:
- If you aren’t married when you turn 25, you will be pelted with cinnamon.
- Danes eat an average of 42 sausages per year, these are available everywhere and in all shapes and sizes. Hotdogs are particularly popular.
- Danes can drink milk with any meal, including lunch. Since it binds Vitamin D so well, it’s especially useful in the traditionally dark Danish winters.
- LEGO was invented by a Dane and can now be admired with the whole family at Legoland in Billund.
- There are more pigs in Denmark than humans.
- Danes are addicted to coffee - according to statistics, they drink an average of 4 cups of coffee a day.
- There are 18 different shark species living in the Danish waters.
- Denmark is home to the two oldest amusement parks in the world. This includes the Tivoli Gardens in the heart of Copenhagen.
- The Danish language has no word for "please".
- Denmark is considered the least corrupt country in the world
You’ve made it through the list, we hope you are now wiser about the great Danes.
Danes are known for many things:
From design, to handball, to their level of coziness that is so high, it has its own name – “hygge”. If you spend time digging even deeper into Danish culture, you’ll discover that they have the reputation of being modest and reserved to the extent that it is bordering on aloof. Just like there’s a special word for feeling cozy in Danish, there is a term for the unwritten law governing behavior in Denmark. You’ll want to read about the Jante Law. It has been challenged lately by for example athletes inclined to believe they are the best. But can something so deep-rooted really change?
History of the Jante Law in Danish culture
The Jante Law comes from a Danish novel from the 1930’s – ‘En flygtning krydser sit spor’ (a refugee crosses their track) by Aksel Sandemose. In the story, the people of Jante, a town inspired by Sandemose’s hometown of Nykøbing Mors, follow 10 behavioral commandments. These boil down to how you are never above anyone else. They include (translated from Danish):
- “Don’t think you are anything”.
- “Don’t think you are smarter than us”.
Are Danes so traditional that they live by a book from the 1930s? Perhaps it is more likely that Danes always behaved like this, and this is what inspired Sandemose to write the story.
In the Danes’ defense, it is embedded below the surface rather than something people talk about frequently. There are no secret Jante Law meetings to decide if outsiders are behaving in an acceptable way.
The best thing about the Danish way:
Whatever the Danes are doing, it seems to be working, they are consistently on top of the world happiness index. It’s gotten to the point that publications have expressed disappointment when Denmark “only” come in third on the list.
Here’s the deal:
When you are as humble as the Danes are, life is simple. Enjoying ‘hygge’ and everyday pleasures with people who are worth your time is characteristic of the Danes. The Danish lifestyle is so celebrated that “hygge” is being exported and the balance of Copenhagen is inspiring design include Nordgreen watches.
Elite and they know it
One of the challenges to the law as documented in Danish newspaper Berlingske is the rise of elite, youth-athletes. Those that feel it’s OK to say, “I’m the best”. To say, “I don’t want to be second place”. While this type of thinking is typical in other countries, it seems Danes are coming around too.
If we accept that being modest about saying you’re good at something has its charm, the next question is then how do you break the ice with the Danes?
Those aloof Danes
Notorious for being slow to open up socially. The coziness Danes love is shared with people in their inner circle, who they are already comfortable with. Get out of your comfort zone and approach a Dane today – they are very friendly once you get to know them. If you are an expat, a visitor or anyone else spending extended time with Danes, know that you will get through to them eventually. They really are quite great.
What’s the bottom line?
Understanding Danes is the first step to getting them to open up and the Jante Law is embedded into society and permeates all aspects of life. Happy and humble, these are the friends you want to have, don’t let their aloof first impression discourage you! Now you know that when they keep a safe distance, it’s nothing personal. They’re just being law-abiding citizens.
Stay tuned for more Copenhagen content!
London-based artist Sophieteaart, is partnering with Nordgreen on an exclusive Danish coastline inspired piece, as part of her charitable initiative.