For members


Five ways to make a good impression at a Danish home

If you get invited to a Danish home for the first time, there are a few small ways you can leave a positive impression.

Five ways to make a good impression at a Danish home
Photo: Jonas Allert on Unsplash

Although house invitations have been a little sparser, that’s probably the more reason to make the most of them when the opportunity comes along.

Besides, once Denmark (and everywhere else) gets to the other side of the Covid-19 pandemic, it will feel nice to be as considerate as possible on the many social occasions that will hopefully come our way.

Here are few small ways you can make a good impression as a Danish house guest.

Get there on time

Whether it’s a birthday celebration, konfirmation, Easter lunch, family get together or university reunion, Danes tend to arrive punctually. This is not the case in all cultures, so it’s worth aiming for the exact time you’ve been told the occasion starts, rather than interpreting too much leeway.

If you arrive ten minutes too early or too late you should be fine, but anything more than that will probably need some degree of declaring undskyld (sorry) to smooth over any awkwardness.

Bring a gift?

This one doesn’t apply to all occasions, but if it’s a birthday, for example, you should bring a present – just showing up is not considered a gift in and of itself.

The present doesn’t have to be expensive or a huge gesture – feel free to judge this on the nature of your relationship to the person who is being celebrated. But by bringing a gift – no matter how token – you are effectively thanking them for inviting you.

If you’re going to a more general gathering that is not a celebration of a particular person, you don’t need to worry so much about a present.

Eye contact

When glasses are raised and it’s time to say skål (cheers), do your best to look into everyone’s eyes, one person at a time. Making eye contact when toasting is an important way to be polite and show engagement with the situation.

Thank them for the food

The phrase tak for mad (literally, ‘thanks for the food’) is ubiquitous at the end of all Danish mealtimes, whether mundane or celebratory. But if you’re a guest at someone’s house for the first time, thanking them for the food is essential if you want to come across as thoughtful and polite.

Make sure you wait until everyone has completely finished eating before you say thanks. If you say it too soon, and people are still drinking their coffee or finishing their cake, it might seem like you’re in a hurry to get away. If you say tak for mad at the beginning of the meal, everyone will just think you’re a bit strange (I did this once having been brought up to say thanks as soon as food is served). Saying tak for mad is only appropriate once everyone is finished and about to leave the table.

If this seems like a tricky etiquette to follow, don’t worry – everyone is going to say tak for mad at some point, so you can just wait until someone else sets off the chorus and then join in.

Offer to help with the dishes

Danish culture is quite egalitarian and there’s no harm in asking the host if you can help with the dishes or where you should take your plates once the meal is done.

You might notice other guests take their dirty crockery and silverware out to the kitchen with them as they leave the table – if so, feel free to follow their example.

Although your offer to help with the dishes will likely be turned down, it will probably be appreciated and you certainly won’t be imposing.

Did you find these tips useful? Did we miss any? Are there any similar topics you’d like to hear about? Let us know.

READ ALSO: Here’s what I learned after two years living like a Dane

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For members


Why does Denmark have church tax and do you need to pay it?

Church tax in Denmark is voluntary but 72 percent of the population pay it. We take a look at why.

Why does Denmark have church tax and do you need to pay it?

What is church tax?

Income tax in Denmark is divided into a number of components. There are the two state taxes, basic and top tax (bundskat and topskat,); municipal tax (kommuneskat) and labour market tax (AM-bidrag).

There is also a voluntary church tax, called kirkeskat. The exact rate of this depends on the municipality but it averages at 0.87 percent.

You pay this church tax when you become a member of the national church in Denmark, the Evangelical Lutheran Church, which in Danish is called Folkekirken

How many people pay church tax in Denmark?

According to Statistics Denmark, there are 4,276,271 people in Denmark registered as members of the Church of Denmark (Folkekirken) out of a population of 5,932,654. That means around 72 percent of people in Denmark are members of the National Church and pay church tax.

Church membership in Denmark has remained high for the past ten years, despite several surveys showing less than a fifth of Danes see themselves as “very religious.”

However there was a spike in the number of people leaving the church in 2016 following a nationwide advertising campaign by the country’s atheist society.

What happens when you become a church member?

Anyone can attend a service at a church in Denmark but to hold an event, such as a baptism, wedding or a funeral, you must be a member of the Danish church and pay your voluntary church tax. When you are a member, you do not pay the church for a wedding or burial.

This is why many people in Denmark are members, as well as wanting to support the maintenance of the church buildings, some of which date as far back as the Middle Ages. 

At least one of the couple must be a member of the Danish church to be married there. You can usually only be buried with the presence of a priest if you are a member of the church when you die.

You cannot vote in or run for parish council elections unless you are a church member.

How do I become a member of the church?

You become a member of the Danish church, Folkekirken when you are baptised. If you are a member of an Evangelical Lutheran church abroad, you automatically become a member when you take up residence in Denmark. 

If you’re baptised from another church, you can become a member by filling in a form at your local church.

You don’t need to be a Danish citizen to become a member of the church, but you cannot be a member of both the Evangelical Lutheran Church and another religious community at the same time.

Young people aged 15 and over decide themselves whether to be baptised and become church members or leave the church.

READ ALSO: The complete guide to confirmation in Denmark

Denmark is divided into parishes, and each parish has its own church. If you wish to belong to a church in another parish, you contact the priest at the parish that you would like to join.

You can find your parish church here.

How does it affect my taxes?

Once the church has confirmed you as a member, it is updated on the national record, the central person’s register (CPR) and your church tax will automatically be drawn from your monthly salary and appear on your payslip as kirkeskat. The exact rate depends on the municipality but according to Folkekirken, it averages at 0.87 percent. It is calculated based on your total income.

Children and young people who do not pay tax do not pay for membership.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to understand your Danish payslip

Denmark has around 2,400 churches and 2,000 cemeteries. The church tax covers the running and maintenance of the churches in the municipality. It ensures that a service is held every Sunday in local churches across the country, as well as other events and community services.

What if I want to end my church membership?

You can decide at anytime to end your church membership and church tax. You can do this by submitting a form to your parish church. This can be done in person or in writing and you can find your local parish here.