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Culture in Denmark is influenced by both traditionally European and Scandinavian elements, with many Danes considering themselves both European and Nordic. Despite this, most have a strong sense of their own identity and, while 'Danishness' might be difficult to define, it affects how Danes relate to each other and to foreign visitors.
As a result, expats may experience some culture shock in Denmark – despite the ostensible similarities between Danes, other Europeans and Americans, the particulars of Danish culture are easily misunderstood.
Language in Denmark
English proficiency in Denmark is excaptionally high, and some large companies even adopt English as their company language. Public policy in Denmark is very much geared towards making expats feel as welcome as possible and many services are, at least in part, available in English.
It is therefore perfectly possible to get by in Denmark without learning Danish, but there are several good arguments for learning the language.
All foreign residents are entitled to free or subsidised Danish language teaching provided by their local municipality. Expats can connect and integrate with their hosts more easily if they make at least some effort with the language. It can also be quite stressful for expats to not understand what is going on around them – some familiarity with the language can alleviate this.
Food in Denmark
From the ubiquitous hot dog stands to the New Nordic food of Noma, food and drink play a big part in Danish life. One of the most characteristic dishes is the Danish open sandwich, smørrebrød, usually made with rye bread and topped with meat or fish and accompaniments. These are typically eaten with a knife and fork.
Hygge in Denmark
A key part of culture in Denmark is the concept of hygge (pronounced “hooger”). While there is no direct translation of the word into English, it involves being warm, cozy and relaxed, for example with good food and friends in front of the fireplace. Although difficult to define, hygge is important because its pursuit is considered by many to be a fundamental part of Danish culture.
►Learn more about the Danish work culture and business etiquette in Doing Business in Denmark
Are you an expat living in Denmark?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Denmark. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
Tom first visited Denmark more than thirty years ago and settled here permanently in 2008. During that time he has taken advantage of the excellent Danish higher education system by spending two years undertaking an MA, worked with some really interesting Danish companies, both large and small, and now runs his own coaching and change management company specialising in supporting expats and trailing expats. Website: www.changecoachdk.com
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