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Step Guide

I wonder why

As an international living in Denmark, you sometimes wonder why things are done the way they are. In this guide International Community's international staff has gathered some of the things they wonder about when they are out shopping, taking the bus, communicating with Danes, etc. 

Remember, this is our experience of Denmark and Danes. Some parts should be taken with a grain of salt, while other parts are factual.

When we started writing the guide we quickly found out that it is probably neverending! So feel free to send us suggestions to the guide to We will be happy to add your name to the tip if you like.

Moreover, visit our list of books if you would like to learn more about Danish culture.



"På beløbet"

"På beløbet?" is a common expression in the supermarket asked by the cachier when you are about to pay. The question is if you want to pay the exact amount of money or wish to withdraw cash with the transaction, because many people withdraw money when they pay.

Fruit & vegetables

When buying fruits and vegtables be aware that most of the discounts are not per kilogram, but per number of items. It is common to see "10 for 20", meaning 10 pieces of fruit for DKK 20. Sometimes and at some places, you do have to weigh the fruit, this is especially common with grapes if they are not in a container. 

Danes love liquorice

You can find liquorice in candy, gum, ice cream, and many other things in Denmark. 

Grab a beer

You can open a six-pack in the supermarket and buy just one beer.

Take a number

In some shops, like banks/pharmacies/post offices, you need to take a number when entering and then you wait for your number to appear on the screen. The number dispenser will be right at the entrance. 

No change

When an item costs 9,95 kr., don't expect any change. The smallest coin in Denmark has a value of DKK 0,5.

No self-rising flour

Self-rising flour does not exist in Denmark; you need to buy plain all-purpose flour and bagepulver/baking powder and add this to the all-purpose flour yourself.

Cold eggs

Danes keep eggs in the fridge (as opposed to other countries) – this can help you when trying to find the eggs in the supermarket. In Denmark you need to look in the cooler/fridge, usually close to the milk in the far back of the supermarket.


Traffic lights

Traffic lights change from green to yellow to red and from red to yellow to green; (in other countries it goes directly from red to green)

Look out for bikes

When you get off the bus, the first thing to do is to look on you left or right to check if there are bikes coming.

Use your hands to signal

When you cycle, you need to signal with your hands if you are turning left or right. You need to have lights on the bike, and you are advised to wear a helmet.

Self service gas station

When you need gas for your car, there is no service at the gas stations; you have to do the work yourself.

Riding the bus

Danes prefer to sit alone on the bus. Therefore, if there are two seats available you are expected to sit there and not next to a person. 




The expression 'good morning' is only used until app. 9.30. If you use it after this time, Danes will perceive it as being sarcastic, meaning that you refer to them coming late.

Hello Danes!

If you want to get to know the Danes, make friends or just chat, you often have to make the first move - go ahead and say hello. If you want to start a conversation with a Dane you don't know well, asking about travelling, books and food never fails. 

Calling the Danes

When Danes answer the phone, they usually answer with saying their first name only and not their surname.

Cool Danes

Do not expect confrontations from Danes. They are very patient and rarely lose control. If they get upset, they will tell the person in a cool and relaxed way.

Rød grød med fløde

Danes like to ask foreigners to say the most famous Danish tongue twister "rød grød med fløde". This is because it is extremely difficult for foreigners to pronounce it. So, you should expect to say it often. 

No please

Although Danes have very good manners, they do not have a word for "please". Instead they use "Tak" (Thanks).

Hello everyone!

When you enter a room full of a group of people, you are expected to go around and shake everyone's hands, saying, "Hi, I'm ...." Just keep going until you have shaken hands with everyone in the room, upon which time you can stop and talk to whomever seems interesting. Greetings are casual, with a firm handshake, direct eye contact, and a smile. 

Learn the basics

It is useful to learn some  basic words like "Tak" for thank you,  and "Goddag" (Good Day), it will be much appreciated. Saying hello is easy - it's just "Hej!!" (pronounced Hi!) Goodbye is "Hej Hej!" (Hi Hi!) 

Respect for privacy

Danes value privacy very highly - it's part of their general attitude of tolerance. Neighbors, for example, may not ask you where you come from, thus respecting your privacy. If you smile and introduce yourself, most people will respond politely.

Honesty over courtesy

Danes value honesty over courtesy. You’re also expected to voice the mistakes you make, hiding them is unacceptable!

At the workplace


To make an appointment for a meeting, you have to call beforehand. Do not try to schedule meetings from mid June to mid August because most Danes are on holiday in this period. Before the meeting, send an agenda and follow it without deviation. Presentations should be well-organized and concrete. Use facts, figures and charts to support statements and conclusions. Keep eye-contact while speaking. 


When a Dane asks you in a work relation to have coffee, you should perceive this as an invitation to an official meeting where business will be discussed and decisions will be made. It will not be an informal meeting as the question could suggest.

Birthdays are celebrated at work

Within the concept of Danish ‘hygge’, you celebrate your birthday at work with your colleagues. Typically you bring something to share, either bread or rolls (rundstykker) served with butter, cheese or marmalade, or cake. You serve the rolls in the morning with a cup of coffee, whereas the cake is served in the afternoon. It is an important part of the Danish workplace culture to do so.

Be punctual

If you have a meeting at 10 at a Danish office, your colleagues will expect you to be there at 10:00.00 sharp. Arriving at 10:05 is considered as bad manners, and at 10:10 you will find the meeting room door closed, with a lot of sour faces when you open it.

Trust & homogeneity

People who are similar trust each other more than people who are different (socio-economically speaking). That explains why Danes (who are an extremely homogeneous society) trust each other so much, and why they can make business with people they don’t know or they don’t really like. 


Many companies have showering facilities for the employees, e.g. if you have been cycling or running to work, you can take a shower.

Danish Culture

No love for umbrellas

Even though it is raining almost every day, most Danes don't use umbrellas, because it is often too windy. 

Take your shoes off

When visiting a Dane, take off your shoes in the hallway and enter the room. It's also a good idea to bring a bottle of wine or a cake when you visit a Dane.

How to make friends

Denmark is a small country, and many people still hang out with the people they grew up with. That can make it hard for a foreigner to make friends. Get to know people at your work or study group. It's easier to do things in groups than one-on-one. Asking people over for a dinner of some of your native food is a great way to make friends, or bring some native sweets to your office on one of your national holidays.

Candles and "hygge"

Danes love candles. They light candles at home throughout the whole year, and it is considered ''hyggeligt'' - cozy.

Collective society

Most Danes are modest about their own accomplishments and are more concerned about the group than their own individual needs. Students are encouraged from early age to take part in group activities and projects. 

Danes love the flag

Danes love their national flag. You can see it on many occasions and it is not considered a political symbol. For example, you definetely see the flag at birthdays: on the cake, on the wall, on napkins and candles, etc.

Unisex toilets

In Denmark you will often find unisex toilets, where there is no distinction between toilets for ladies and gents.

Daily Life

There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing

Most Danes carry a backpack/bag with different types of equipment to challenge the weather, e.g. raingear, hat, gloves, etc. You never know what type of weather you're going to get; one day may have sun, rain, hail, and snow

Visiting a Dane

When visiting a Dane, take off your shoes in the hallway and enter the room. Furthermore, it's a good idea to bring a bottle of wine or a cake.

Be punctual and call in advance

Danes tend to be quite punctual and precise in both social and professional situations. Therefore, if you are running late - call and let them know. Moreover, no unexpected visits, as Danes like to plan. They love to make plans far in advance and they are very good at sticking to those plans. 

Going swimming

In Denmark there are no individual changing rooms at the public swimming pools, in general there are two large changing rooms: one for men and one for women. You often need to bring a DKK 10 or 20 coin for the locker. You undress and shower with soap. After that you put on your swimming suit. Usually there is a sauna in the changing room, where you (sometimes) enter naked and sit on your own towel. 

Speak Danish

If you really want to become a part of Danish society, you have to learn the language. This can be very challenging, but it’s not impossible. 

Going out

If you are a party person you need to know that in certain bars and discos there is an age limit. Moreover, some night clubs require a certain type of dresscode and do not allow people with sneakers or hoodies to enter.



A typical Danish breakfast consists of cereal or oatmeal, yoghurt, white bread slices or rolls with various toppings, such as cold cuts, slices of raw veggies, white cheese, butter, and jam, and/or eggs.

If you buy breakfast at the bakery, e.g. rolls (rundstykker), it is also common to get pastries (wienerbrød). 


For lunch it is typical to eat "smørrebrød". In general, smørrebrød is buttered rye bread served open faced with a variety of "pålæg" or toppings. This can include cold cuts, liver paté, fish spreads, laks (smoked salmon), frikadeller (danish meatballs), cheese, pålægchokolade, etc. Danes include a substantial amount of veggies in their lunch, too. Sliced red pepper on top of smørresbrød, raw, whole carrots, cucumber slices, and tomatoes are all popular. 


The majority of Danes eat dinner at 6:00 p.m.  A typical dinner  would consist of pork roast, boiled potatoes, brown sauce, and steamed green beans. Fish, seafood, and meat are prominent parts of any traditional Danish dish. Cod, eel, herring, salmon, and shrimp are popular, as are other types of fish used to make fried fish for smørrebrød and fish frikadeller (fish cakes). In terms of meat, Danes consume a lot of pork, beef, and poultry.


Pålægschokolade is a thin slice of chocolate you put on bread. Remember that this type of chocolate cannot be used as a present.

Fun Facts and Quaint Danish Traditions

Suttetræ (pacifier tree)

When going along the Brabrand pathway, you might notice one tree standing out from the rest. It is commonly known as a ‘suttetræ’ (pacifier tree), and the tree’s branches are hung with hundreds of colorful baby pacifiers. As a rite of passage, the toddlers give their pacifiers to the local suttetræ, when they no longer need them. It often has a note attached asking the tree to take good care of the pacifiers. These trees exist all over Denmark.

The cake man/cake woman at children’s birthdays

Children’s birthdays in Denmark are, as in many other countries, marked by special birthday traditions. One tradition is the kagemand/kagekone (cake man/cake woman), which is a birthday pastry, formed and decorated with sweets so it looks like the birthday child. Before eating the cake, the birthday child, or a parent, will ‘cut the throat’ of the cake man/woman, while the guests and birthday child scream – this tradition is unexplainable, but nevertheless, a tradition.

Read more about the Danish children’s birthday traditions here.


If you have ever participated in a Danish wedding, you have surely noticed the many quaint wedding traditions. Throughout the evening, the guests usually arrange some kind of entertainment for the bride and groom – it could be songs, games or different surprises. When the guests (carefully) hit their glasses with their knives, the bride and groom will kiss standing on their chairs, and when the guests stamp on the floor, the bride and groom will kiss underneath the table. At 12am, after the newly wed couple’s first dance, it is normal for the friends of the groom to catch him, take off his shoes and cut off a piece of his socks.

Read more about Danish wedding traditions

Cinnamon and pepper

You might have seen puddles of cinnamon on the streets and wondered. Here is the explanation: In Jutland, there are some special birthday traditions for the 25th and 30th birthday involving either cinnamon or pepper. If a Dane isn’t married on his or hers 25th birthday, the friends will give him or her cinnamon – either as an ingredient in a cake or pastry, but usually cinnamon powder will also be thrown at the birthday boy or girl. The same goes for someone turning 30th, but then the cinnamon is replaced with pepper, and this tradition is more unusual.

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