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10 things you should know about Denmark

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Moving to Denmark is likely to be a thrilling experience – especially when you're aware of the basics such as the language, lifestyle, etc.. To help you understand Denmark better, Frederik Drost has compiled some surprising facts about his country.

Frederik Drost

Frederik Drost

Frederik Drost is a Dane who was brought up in France. After high school, he moved back to Denmark to study Multimedia Design and Digital Concept Development. Today, he's a graphic designer and blogger.

Danish is easy to learn but hard to pronounce

You've probably heard that Danish is a difficult language to speak due to its unique phonetics. This is true, even though there are many ways to learn the language, practice your accent and twist your tongue. In general, foreigners understand Danish, but very few manage to speak it fluently. Danes do appreciate when you make an effort to speak their language, but you can still get by with English only. However, if you want to make the most of your life in Denmark, make an extra effort to communicate in Danish. You could, for instance, practice with a few Dane friends before going public, or watch videos to grasp the pronunciation.

It’s hard to make Danish friends

Denmark's population is warm and friendly. However, it can be quite difficult to make Dane friends, but not necessarily due to the language barrier. Most Danes understand and speak English, even though an extra effort from your side would be much appreciated. Set that aside, Danes usually prefer a small group of friends to a crowd of people. They would rather settle for long-term relationships that short-term ones, especially if you're making a short stay in Denmark. Still, they can be very helpful and quite easy to engage in a conversation with. If you're looking to make Dane friends, try to get to know those who have recently moved to the city you are in. Social networks and expat forums can also be a good option. In all cases, you better be patient.

The Dane courtesy is legendary

This statement has a double meaning. Danes are well-behaved and never fail to say “please”, “thank you”, and “you're welcome” – which might surprise you. Courtesy seems to be a forgotten art nowadays when we are always on the go. Do not expect to see Danes queueing up for the bus or waiting for people to get off before boarding. They don't always follow rules, but be sure to be criticised if you don't! Also, avoid crossing the road anywhere, even if you don't see any vehicle around. Someone may just show up and start honking at you. You better be patient and wait for the lights to turn green.

It’s not as cold as you think

Snow in Denmark
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Most people believe that Scandinavian countries are covered with snow half a year and cold all year round. While it's true that it can be really cold sometimes for those who are not used to it, temperatures rarely go beyond zero degrees Celsius in winter – it's usually between zero and five degrees. Summer is short but with pleasant temperatures. The wind is perhaps the only thing you should beware of, and that's the reason you're more likely to feel cold. Remember to stuff your wardrobe accordingly.

Hierarchy is almost inexistent

Equality is deep-rooted in the Danish culture – both at professional and social levels. At work, all employees enjoy an equal treatment and communication is usually informal and humorous, even with your employer. Most offices are open-plan offices where the managers, employees, and trainees all coexist and collaborate. The same applies to the Danish education system where you are likely to address your teacher or professor by their first name. Janteloven is an unofficial norm in Denmark according to which you shouldn't think you're better than others. The Law of Jante is a set of ten fictional rules describing the group behaviour pattern of Scandinavians. Criticising people who strive is thus characterised as inappropriate.

Personal motivation wins over grades

If you're looking for a job in Denmark, there are some things to keep in mind. You'll probably start by updating your resume – which is not a bad idea after all. But there's more to it than the resume and a well-written cover letter. Dane employers will rather focus on your personality and motivation than on your grades and merits. So the famous Janteloven mentioned above applies here too. Danish companies also see their employees as a valuable asset so you're very likely to be rewarded in various ways for your efforts.

Cars are really expensive

If you're moving to Denmark from another European country, you will probably want to bring your car. Keep in mind, however, that importing your car can cost twice as much as its original price due to high taxes. Car prices are also very high due to weight and pollution taxes. You better think twice before deciding to buy a car in Danmark. At the same time, public transport can be a good option to move around.

Cycling is a lifestyle

Cycling in Denmark
 Len Rizzo / Shutterstock.com

Denmark is no doubt one of the most bike-friendly countries in the world. You can see people cycling almost everywhere and even in big cities where special bike routes have been built. Many people prefer to bike to work – be it the CEO of a company, politicians, or employees. There are twice as many bikes as cars in Denmark which makes it one of the most popular modes of transportation in the country. Second-hand bikes are available as from 70 euros, which definitely makes it a cheaper option to cars.

Danes like to party

Party and booze is another deep-rooted part of the Danish culture. Also, you're allowed to drink in public as long as you're able to behave yourself. Danes usually go out for a drink on Friday night after work, which can be a great opportunity for you to socialise with your colleagues. Also, did you know that the legal age requirement to buy liquor, beer or wine is 16? You will perhaps be surprised to see 12-15 year-old-kids drinking socially even though parents do their best to keep it under control.

Daylight is enjoyable all year round

Days are longer in the summer, so you might need thick curtains if you're the sleepy kind of person. In mid-summer, it rarely goes completely dark while in winter days are shorter and it goes dark at around 4 or 5 pm. If you have a bike, make sure to turn the lights on before it gets dark.

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