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Why are Danes so ... peculiar? 37 new interpretations

First impressions of the strange kind: We asked a large group of newly arrived international exchange students what they think about Denmark

Arriving into a new culture always involves a little adjustment. A couple of years ago, we gave new exchange students permission to speak freely and asked – what’s strange?

We repeated the experiment in 2014 with this semester’s new students (see some pictures of them here) at an introductory orientation meeting at the University of Copenhagen. So this is their first take on Danish life:

So weird

• How can you like the rain? Is that the reason why the buildings are so fancy?
• Leaving babies outside of shops in the cold
• Square pillows – why do you need so much extra height? People’s heads aren’t that tall!
• Overwhelming hospitality
• Breaking and making cultural stereotypes at will – this leads to contrast, surprise, and confusion
• Spending time on many meetings and talking about many things at work and at study places without reaching an immediate conclusion
• Monarchy
• Blossoming flowers in my neighbour’s garden
• The combination of social welfare state and personal freedoms
• EU membership without using euro
• klippekort (ten-trip transportation card)
• Bananas taste unripe
• People on the street play beautiful music

And then there is the food

• They forgot to put the top piece of bread on their sandwiches – what’s up with that?
• Every restaurant sells pizza, regardless of ethnicity, e.g. Indian take away and pizza
• No turkey meat, hardly any chicken
• The word for carrot – gulerødder
• Yoghurt in milk cartons

The bikes

• All the bikes! Everybody cycles, instead of driving a car
• No one wears bike helmets
• How the bike is still the number one transportation, whenever it rains, snows, or is windy
• People don’t seem to get cold (like ever!). Who else bikes in the rain?

Crossing the road…

• When crossing the road, always waiting for the green man, even if the road is clear!

The darkness

• Candles everywhere, even during daytime
• The time of sunset. It’s not weird, but it’s special
• Gets dark around 4pm
• Feels like midnight at 5pm

The fashion

• Danes wear sports shoes with otherwise formal clothing
• People wearing bright coloured running shoes with otherwise fancy black outfit
• All people, well most of the people, wear black!

The language

• No way to say please
• The word for carrot – gulerødder – is a bit odd. But also a bit fun
• The language sounds completely different from how it is spelled
• Not pronouncing letters
• The pronunciation of the Danish language (a like German, but with potatoes in your mouth)

The money

• That you can spend the equivalent of AUD 23 (DKK 90, ed.) on wok in the box
• The coins
• Hearts on danish money

And those good-looking Danes

• That there are only good-looking and well-dressed people on the street
• Everyone is a babe

Do you agree, not agree? Or do you have anything to add? Explanations of all this strange Danish behaviour? Comment below!

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