Danish Culture and Language


One of the predominant components of Danish culture is language. Danish is the official language of Denmark, but there are several minority languages, including German and Greenlandic. Around 86% of Danes also speak English as a second language, and often a third language, German or French. About 13% of Danes can also understand Swedish.

Seldomly mentioned but difinitely moving fact is that Greenland also has its own language — Greenlandic. This is an Eskimo-Aleut language and around 57 000 people speak it in Greenland. The main dialect has been the official language of Greenland since 2009, a move to strengthen Greenlandic from competition with Danish, which is also spoken there. Greenlandic is the official language of education.

Danish Culture

The Danes are generally known to be open, easy-going and straight-forward. Most minorities and sub-cultures are broadly accepted, although strict religious adherence may be frowned upon in public. Most religious beliefs are generally accepted, however, but religion is considered a personal matter practiced at home or in the religious houses. For most Danes, going to church is more of a traditional custom, most often observed in the case of family events, than an act of religious adherence, and the Danish state church is considered one of the most liberal in the world. There are some districts in the major cities, however, with a strong Muslim presence, where religious adherence is more publicly displayed.

There are hardly any unwritten formalities to consider, even when visiting another person’s house. It is not strictly necessary to bring a gift to your host, although flowers, chocolate or a bottle of wine will always be welcomed and readily accepted. It varies from host to host whether shoes or tobacco are allowed inside the house, but it is always OK to ask.

The Danish kitchen has traditionally been heavy on pork, potatoes and thick gravies. However, since the 1970s a number of international kitchens have become increasingly popular, and in many cities today it will be easier to find a pizza or some sushi rather than a traditional Danish meal. The so-called New Nordic Cuisine, which bears little resemblance to traditional Nordic cuisine, was also founded in Denmark, and Copenhagen’s NOMA restaurant has been named Best Restaurant in the World three years in a row (2010-2012) offering innovative dishes based on earth(!), fermented grasshoppers, ants and even live prawns.

Danish society is generally quite flexible and family friendly, which also shows on the workplace. As such, many office workers only sit in the office 5-7 hours a day, leaving around 3PM in order to pick up the kids. Appearances can be deceptive, though, and it is quite common to take home the laptop, and work a few hours each night when the kids are asleep.

There is a vibrant theatrical scene in Copenhagen, and some activity in the major provincial towns. There are usually some English-language plays playing in the Copenhagen theatres, but you will have a hard time finding one outside of the capital. The Royal Danish Opera and Royal Danish Ballet, both of them based in Copenhagen, are known as some of the leading such houses in the world, but be aware that they are usually closed during the summer season.

Except for some children’s programming, all movies in cinemas and on television are shown with their original audio, and subtitling in Danish.

The most popular sports in Denmark are football and handball, although only a few of the top teams can draw a crowd even remotely resembling that seen in the UK. There is some rivalry between the fans of specific clubs, but watching football and other sports in Denmark is usually a family friendly affair.

National Holidays

  • 1 January – New Year’s Day
  • Thursday before Easter – Maundy Thursday
  • Good Friday
  • Easter Sunday/Monday 4th
  • Fridays after Easter
  • General Prayer Day — a collection of minor Christian holy days 39 days after Easter
  • Ascension Day – 7 weeks after Easter Pentecost — This is a Sunday 7 weeks + 1 day after Easter
  • Whit Monday – Danes celebrate two days of Whitsun
  • 24 December – Christmas Eve
  • 25 December – First Day of Christmas
  • 26 December – Second Day of Christmas

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