There is a big event going on here in Denmark these days – the Olympic Committee is meeting up to decide which city gets the next OL. Copenhagen is filled up with prominent people – presidents and kings.
Oprah Winfrey is here – to support Chicago and to shoot a show about “the happiest people in the world”, Barack Obama is coming in tomorrow. Michelle Obama is already here.
So, with all this attention on Denmark and Copenhagen I thought it might be a good time for me to put out this list of 12 things you should know about Denmark and Danes – for business and pleasure. So here we go …
- We may be the happiest people in the world …
At least, according to many studies we are. 60 minutes also reported this in a special last year . But, its not because we are actually much happier than other people we are just more realistic about life than most. We simply don’t expect that much. We don’t expect to be winners, so when we win that makes us really happy. When we loose it’s expected.
- Not everything is for sale in Denmark!
Americans often think that everything is for sale for the right price. That is certainly not true in Denmark. Denmark is extremely incorrupt in comparison with just about any other nation. Expecting everything to be for sale here is taken as in insult.
- Do not speak to strangers in Denmark
Well, you can off course speak to strangers. We don’t bite. But culturally we just don’t speak much to each other in public. As an example, if you sit on the inner seat in a bus and need to get out you don’t say “Excuse me” or something – you just flicker your eyes in that “Danish” way to let the other person know you want to get out.
- Danes do not label irony
Danish humor is very similar to the British humor – we use a lot of irony. And it’s not the American way where you have to write … NOT in the end when its irony. Or preface your ironic blog posts with a disclaimer – such as this one. So watch out – very often we mean the opposite of what we say.
- In Denmark the first floor is the second!
Its true! Most of the world calls the first floor in a house … well the first. Logically. We call it “stuen” (which is really the word for “living room”). The second floor we call the first floor. It’s good to know this if you plan to visit people of want to find the right room at your hotel.
- No, drugs are not legal in Denmark!
Denmark is not Holland. Drugs are not legal here. Its more like San Francisco where most people smoke pot and it’s not taken so seriously – but if police stops you with any drugs you may get fined.
- We do not have nude beaches in Denmark!
The simply reason for this is that you can go nude on any beach you like. We simply don’t see nudity on a beach as a public offense. Most people don’t go nude, though, but you can if you want.
- Danes don’t “love” each other!
“Love” is a very big word here reserved for you wife, kids and maybe parents – but that’s about it. Most others we just “like” or “fancy” at various levels. So don’t tell people you “love” them unless you really want to get very intimate.
- We all have the same names
If you ever wondered why so many Danes have the same name its not by coincidence – it’s by law! Yes, it’s true! You are only allowed to name your kids one of the pre-approved names for girls and boys. You can see the official list of approved names here.�
- In Denmark we speak Danish!
Yes, Danish is in fact a language. Its close to Swedish and Norwegian but its not the same. There is no Scandinavian language and Scandinavia is not a country.
- We pay 50-60% in tax – and we like it!
Yes, its true! All studies I have ever seen show a close to 100% support to the well known Danish welfare system where we pay one of the highest tax rates in the world in exchange for things like free healthcare, free good schools (throughout University level – even some educations abroad), unemployment security, maternity leave etc. We do off course constantly argue – like any democratic nation should, if we should make adjustments to our system and how to spend the money the best. But the basic principles of our system are supported by the far majority of all people and politicians.
- We used to hate Americans – but we don’t any more
If you go a generation back – when I was a kid, we hated Americans almost as much as the Germans. I think it was probably due to Vietnam and all that. I am not sure – I was small and just brought up to hate you guys. But today most Danes realize the fact that Americans are just like everyone else – some are really nice and some are bastards. We have both kinds here too. Clinton was very popular here. Obama even more. Bush (both of them) was not!