10 Things Not to Do in Denmark

Woman with a child walking near Rosenborg Castle , Copenhagen
Shaji Manshad / Getty Images

Overall, Danes are more concerned with the greater good of the group than about their own individual accomplishments. Everything works like a well-oiled machine in Denmark because they observe the rules. People tend to be punctual and precise and will expect the same common courtesy from those they meet. Play by these rules, and you will find Danes warm and welcoming.

  • 01 of 10

    Don't Be Sexist

    Woman in Copenhagen harbor
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    If you are a man, this does not mean you have to be a full-blown chauvinist for this rule to apply to you. Danish women do not like to be patronized, and they especially don’t like being called “darling,” “sweetie” or anything else that might come across as derogatory. Overall, Danish women are highly independent and are regarded with the same esteem in the workplace as their male counterparts. It is nothing strange for a working mother to balance a successful career and a family life, and Danish women are proud of this achievement.

  • 02 of 10

    Don't Break Rules

    City bikers, Amagertorv in Copenhagen
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    As mentioned, there is only one proper way to act in Denmark under most circumstances. Danes, in general, are disciplined rule-followers, so don’t dare try to jaywalk across a street. Courteous behavior is expected from everyone, be they, ​locals or tourists. If you break the rules, expect to be admonished in a most civil manner.

  • 03 of 10

    Don't Judge Family Values

    Family having cozy dinner en garden house
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    "Children should be seen and not heard." We often heard this phrase while growing up. In Denmark, things work a little differently. Danish children are encouraged to express their opinions from a young age and will be informed about more adult topics the moment they are old enough to curiously ask about them. To the less liberal among us, these open-minded family arrangements might seem a bit strange. Also, marriage is not a prerequisite and many couples with children live together without ever making the relationship “official” through marriage. This may be a beneficial relationship for both parties. It is not your place to question the family dynamic. Keep an open mind when at public events.

  • 04 of 10

    Don't Forget Hand Signals

    Cycling commuters in Copenhagen old town
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    It is a lovely day outside and you fancy a bike ride around the city. You’re pedaling happily away, taking a right corner without signaling. Who still uses hand signals anyway, right? Remember the point about rule breaking. Failing to signal your anticipated action in advance will result in a chain reaction of violent swerving and braking, and most likely a few Danish curses will fly in your direction.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Don't Expect a "Thank You"

    Denmark, Zealand, Copenhagen, city center, police horse riding
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    This might sound like a contradiction, considering how highly Danes value good manners. Make no mistake, Danes are polite and respectful, but the lack of social pleasantries might shock non-Scandinavian travelers. The thing is, the words for “thank you” or “please” in the Danish language are simply redundant when you're already constantly polite to each other. So when a Dane tells you to pass the salt, don’t glower at them and ask for the magic word. Just pass the salt and tell them to pour you a drink.

  • 06 of 10

    Skip the "How Are You?"

    Woman with a child walking near Rosenborg Castle , Copenhagen
    Shaji Manshad / Getty Images

    "Hi, how are you?" This is a source of great amusement to the Danes, asking about someone’s well-being without taking the time to stop and listen. It does not form part of the standard greeting that we have become so accustomed to. Only ask Danes how they're doing if you really mean it, preferably at a bar when you have to sit down. Remember, there is no such thing as small talk. This rule generally applies to the rest of Scandinavia as well.

  • 07 of 10

    Don't Forget the Three Ps

    Denmark, Falster, Marielyst, Blue sky boardwalk
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    Privacy, privacy, and privacy. Danes value their privacy highly, especially in the large city of Copenhagen. It forms part of their culture and who they are. People won’t ask about your health or your homeland because they assume that you would not like to be bothered with trivialities. If you make the first move and introduce yourself, however, they will respond warmly to you.

  • 08 of 10

    Don't Expect Confrontations

    Family toasting at dinner with candle lights
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    Generally speaking, Danes don’t lose their cool. If they get upset, they will tell the person off in a cool and collected way. As a rule of thumb, Danes are all about good vibes and comfort. There is even a word for it: “Hygge.” It is difficult to explain exactly what hygge is about, but it can relate to food, places, atmosphere and even people. If a person is "hygge-like," it means they have a good and relaxed presence about them. This will win you many friends during your travels.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Don't Ask for Decaf

    Ida Davidsen's Sandwich Restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark
    Getty Images

    You won’t find any decaf. It’s like asking a butcher for a vegan-friendly alternative. Danes firmly assert that there is no such thing as decaf. It might just be a conspiracy theory, for all they care.

  • 10 of 10

    Don't Be Surprised by Frank Opinions

    Changing of the Royal Guard in Copenhagen, Denmark
    Angelangelv2/Creative Commons

    Danes don’t sugar coat to win your favor. They believe an honest approach is the best one. If you ask a question, expect an honest answer. This does not mean that Danes are always serious and without humor. They are outspoken and lively once they warm up to you, but in serious conversations, they will not mince words.

While most Danes enjoy companionship and are generally laid back, certain formalities are observed and practiced throughout Denmark. There is an unspoken rule about privacy; Danes believe that everyone has the right not be pestered in public, and they enforce this right quite passionately. This is a world free of awkward social niceties and general inconveniences. They express themselves openly, and meaningful conversation is the central element of Danish culture.