When I first moved to Copenhagen for an internship, followed by a semester in Odense, the only thing I knew about Denmark was that they have a »Little Mermaid«. I was pretty sure that it wouldn’t be much different from Germany as it was so close – Oh, how wrong I was.
Denmark is quite a unique country with a culture and traditions and perks quite different from the German ones. It was confusing first, but in the end I had it all figured out and Denmark started to feel like home to me (although I never felt at home as much as I did in Cape Town).
Here are a few things that I discovered while living in Copenhagen and later Odense. Some of them felt pretty odd at first and I wish I knew the before moving there. So maybe you can use it as some little pieces of advice before moving up north yourself.
- You don’t tip. I am serious – it’s included in the bill already
- Don’t expect too much of the little mermaid when going to see it, because well – it’s little
- You will develop a serious kanelsnegle-addicition. But don’t worry, you can train off all these cinnamon buns by biking everywhere
- Don’t bother buying an umbrella – it’s raining often but it will be too windy to use it
- Bring a bag for grocery shopping as supermarkets charge you extra for plastic bags
- Restaurants will charge you for tap water. Better bring your own bottle
- The cheapest wine you can get for around 30 kroner is not as bad as you might expect it to be
- Danes are really fond of meat (especially pork) so it’s sometimes not so easy to find a vegetarian restaurant or take-away option
- You can buy everything licorice – ice cream, shots, bagels, bread, candy. Just give it a try, it’s quite good
- Always watch out for bikers: Copenhagen residents go 30 kilometers per hour on their bikes while talking on the phone, chain smoking, listening to music and drinking expensive caffe latte – all at the same time
- You do not cross a right light. Like never. Not even at 4 in the morning when there is no car in sight
Meeting the Danes
- Danes and drinking is something that’s hard to get used to: When they get drunk, they do it so hard they can’t even walk anymore
- Also, they will only talk to you when you’re drunk. Sober again on Monday morning they might not even say Hi
- Although that doesn’t apply to all Danes. Once you get to know them (sober) and really get to talk, you might just find a new friend.
Best talk about: sports, partys, traveling.
Don’t talk about: politics, foreigners, the royal family
- Danes are crazy sporty and fit people. When they are not talking about the gym, they are on their way to either the gym or a run in the park. Parks will always be crowded with runners, no matter what time of the day
- Danes are not very friendly and use »thank you« very seldom. That’s nothing personal, it’s just how it is (and in fact there is not even a Danish word for »please«)
- People are not dancing at parties. People are listening and getting drunk
- Sneakers, Sneakers, Sneakers – there’s barely no other kind of shoes Danes are wearing
- Equality is important. That’s why most Danish guys don’t open the doors for a girl or take her bag if it’s heavy (come on guys!)
Things that will become normal to you
- You are using your bike literally to go anywhere and everywhere and every weather because public transport is ridicously expensive (and we are not even talking about cars yet)
- Apartments in Copenhagen are usually tiny. And the bathroom is the tiniest room of the apartment. Shower, sink and toilet fit in but your shampoo, towel and yourself probably won’t
- When you’re biking and someone wants to overtake they are screaming: BEHIND. Make some space or you might get run over
- You go grocery shopping mostly on the weekends because of the shops’ weird opening hours
- Everything’s crazy expensive in Denmark due to their 25 % VAT so you will be trying to buy things in bulk and share it with all your friends and neighbours
- There will be babies in strollers left on the streets while their parents are shopping. Don’t be shocked or panicking, it’s completely normal
- Hygge is the magic word for everything that’s nice and cosy. Danes are addicted to their hygge and once they invite you into their home, you know what the hype is all about