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LIVING IN DENMARK

Are these the 30 most ‘Danish’ things in existence?

Hot dogs with chocolate milk, tight dark suits, shops covered in Dannebrog flags for their 'birthdays'. These are some of the objects, foods, statements and behaviours our readers (and other foreigners) consider the most Danish in existence.

Are these the 30 most 'Danish' things in existence?
Is there anything more Danish than a pølse? Photo: Scanpix

You don’t have to be living in Denmark long before you start puzzling at some of the things that pass for normal, so, half in jest we asked The Local’s readers for what they think are the most “Danish” things in existence. This is what they came up with. 

The most Danish foods in existence 

Former Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen shows he is one of the common people with a hot dog and Cocio. Photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix

Pølser og cocio, or “hot dogs with chocolate milk” wins The Local’s choice of most Danish food. 

It turns out that Cocio, the chocolate milk brand now owned by Arla, began selling its milk through Denmark’s hot dog carts back in 1953. 

The collaboration was broken off in 2011, with the Sausage Sellers Association instead launching Pølsemandens egen Chokolademælk, or “The hot dog man’s own chocolate milk”. 

Many other suggestions were either hotdog or chocolate-based, with “gourmet hot dogs” and pålægschokolade, the thin slices of chocolate Danes love to put on bread for breakfast getting several votes, so the sausage and chocolate combination was the natural winner. 

Danish Rugbrød, or rye bread, of course came a close second as the most “Danish” food imaginable. As we recently wrote, most Danes eat it every day.  

Other contenders on the savoury side included frikadeller sandwiches from Føtex, remoulade, and stegt flæsk med persillesovs (pork with parsley sauce).

Lakridsis, or “licorice ice cream” is a strong contender for the most Danish ice cream, combining as it does the Danish love of licorice (which got many mentions as the most Danish food), and the ice cream that Danes consume in huge quantities from chilly spring to overcast autumn.

One respondent suggested “enormous ice creams all year round coated in chocolate dust” as something super Danish. 

While many mentioned “bakeries” and “delicious pastries”, the best contender for the most Danish of all confectionaries was probably Brunsviger cake, the vanilla and brown sugar slab from the Danish island of Funen, although Æbleskiver, the fluffy donuts which, despite the name contain no apple, came close. Others mentioned Feriekage. 

What is more Danish than a Christianiacykel? Photo: Viggo Lundberg

The most Danish things or places imaginable 

Two single quilts on a double bed, (or even two mattresses). As The Local explained in a previous article, while Danes like to be close to those they love, they also like to have some distance. 

Christianiacykel. Combining the Danish love of bicycles with Danish childcare, you will see these box bikes whizzing around Danish towns and cities every morning and afternoon, more often than not overloaded with children, shopping, and sometimes even the family dog. 

A summer house in the dunes by the sea. Danes love holidaying in Denmark and, according to several readers, nowhere could be more Danish than a house among the dunes in western or northern Jutland. 

Kolonihave. The combination of well-tended tiny gardens, abundant hygge, and a certain lack of flashiness makes these tiny getaway cottage allotment areas on the outskirts of cities uber-Danish. 

Lars Plougmann/Flickr

The most Danish ways you could imaginably behave

Shops covered in Dannebrog flags for their ‘birthdays‘. This reader suggestion sums up Danes’ wish to stick their beloved flag everywhere, particularly when celebrating birthdays, even if it’s just for the birthday of a shop.

“Let’s place tiny flags in front of the house as well, so people know we are celebrating a birthday but we did not invite anyone”, another respondent also complained wryly.

“Having plans for New Year’s Eve from 1st January”. Several respondents mentioned Danes’ obsession with filling up their social calendars months and months in advance, as well as their uncanny ability to know whether it’s week 33 or week 37 at all times. 

Danish respondents seemed to think “sarcasm and dark, biting humour” was particularly Danish, although this was a trait that seemed to strike foreigners in the country a little less. 

Waiting for the green man at empty crossings, even in the middle of the night on an empty suburb street, came up several times. The extreme aversion to jay-walking that Danes exhibit, stronger perhaps even than that of the neighbouring Germans or Swedes, demonstrates the rule-following qualities Danes hide behind their seemingly outspoken and free-thinking exteriors. 
 
Others mentioned Jantelov, the Scandinavian version of tall-poppy syndrome, as a very Danish phenomenon. This should be no surprise as Jante, the imaginary town from which the law is drawn, was modelled on Nykøbing Mors in the north of Jutland. 
 
To walk or bike in the rain like it was just a normal sunny day. You might think that if Danes were put off by bad weather, they would barely go outside at all. But at the same time, respondents said that “complaining about the weather” was a particularly Danish thing to do, particularly moaning about the heat when it’s 19C outside. 
 
 
Danish politicians often seem to wear the exact same suit. Photo: Emil Helms/Ritzau Scanpix

The most Danish ways to dress

Grey, black and beige. “Dressing all in black 24/7, even when the sun is out,” is, one respondent suggested, very  Danish. He wasn’t the only foreigner picking up on Danes’ reluctance to wear colours, with many noting the popularity of grey, black and beige. It’s quite noticeable that Danish male politicians and businessmen all seem to wear the exact same slightly tight dark suit (see picture above). 

Short trousers (or even shorts) in winter. “Going for a jog in shorts no matter if it rains or snows or if it is way too warm,” struck one respondent as Danish, whereas another pointed out that Danes love “wearing pants that only go to your ankles no matter how cold it is outside”. 

Bare feet in the office. While they may be conventional, Danes like to be comfortable and informal. 

Sandals with socks was also mentioned as a distinctly Danish clothing combination. 

Danes will say “tax for mad” to whoever cooked or footed the bill. Photo: Robin Skjoldborg/Visit Denmark

The most Danish things you can say  

Tak for mad, thanks for the food, got a lot of mentions, obviously, although is thanking people for a meal really so unusual? Danes certainly do it a lot. 

Others zeroed in on the phrases hvad så eller hvad, meaning roughly “so what?”, as framing a particularly Danish nonchalance. 

The versatile interjection , which can mean anything from “please go on” to “aha!” through being an expression of mild scepticism, also got a mention. 

Some foreigners felt that asking Hvor meget kostede det?, “how much did that cost”, or inquiring about someone’s salary was particularly Danish.

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LIVING IN DENMARK

What are the hardest things about moving to provincial Denmark as a foreigner?

Foreign residents who have moved to lesser-known regions of the country share their experiences of life in provincial Denmark. 

Provincial regions of Denmark want to attract skilled foreign workers, but what are the biggest challenges faced by relocators?
Provincial regions of Denmark want to attract skilled foreign workers, but what are the biggest challenges faced by relocators? Photo: Signe Goldmann/Ritzau Scanpix

Editor’s note: there are of course also many positives about living in provincial Denmark, and people based in those areas were happy to share those too. Read what they said in this article.

When Lea Cesar moved from Slovenia to the town of Ringkøbing in 2011, she didn’t know much about the region of western Jutland. 

“In the beginning, I didn’t like how difficult it was to find a job as a foreigner in a smaller city,” Cesar told The Local. Back then she didn’t speak Danish, and that made it hard to find a job that matched her skills and qualifications. 

“I later took it as a challenge and started my own company,” Cesar said, opening a cafe and bakery called Baking Sins in central Ringkøbing. Once she’d taken things into her own hands, she thrived and came to love her town. 

“I love the small shops with handcrafted products,” she said, drawing a comparison to the big shops and chain stores of larger cities. “The culture here is totally different. Ringkøbing is a smaller town, but feels big enough for me.”

Considering the pros and cons of a life in lesser-known parts of Denmark has never been more relevant, as the Danish government amps up efforts to decentralise Denmark and municipalities look to internationals to balance out declining populations. 

READ ALSO: Is it easier for foreigners to find a job outside Denmark’s major cities?

There may be fewer job opportunities, depending on your industry and Danish language skills

Fewer job opportunities, Cesar said, is one of the primary differences between living in a town like Ringkøbing versus a larger city. 

“There aren’t as many companies here searching for employees that only speak English,” she said. “I think it’s important to speak at least basic Danish; otherwise it would be hard to come here.”

Antoniya Petkov, originally from Bulgaria, faced similar challenges finding work when she moved to Ringkøbing several years ago after her husband accepted a job at a wind energy company in the area. 

“Most of the job opportunities in my field in the area require a high level of Danish language, which I am still working toward,” Petkov told The Local. 

In the meantime, she continues to commute to Aarhus, where she works as a technical recruiter in systematics at a large Danish software firm. “However, there are a lot more opportunities for developers, engineers and people with a technical job profile where Danish isn’t required,” Petkov said.

Even in technical roles, Danish proficiency helps. 

Victor Balaban, originally from Moldova, moved to Vejle while working at Siemens Gamesa. Although he said there are plenty of job opportunities in the region, Balaban said his options would be significantly more limited if he didn’t speak Danish.

Candice Progler-Thomsen, an American living in Lolland, said Danish proficiency is “almost essential” to find a job in the municipality. “There will be greater job opportunities here for individuals who learn Danish,” she told The Local. 

And, because it’s a smaller area with fewer employers, Progler-Thomsen said people may need to be willing to commute or otherwise expand their job search.

READ ALSO: Why (and how) Danish provincial areas want to hire skilled foreign workers

On the other hand, there may also be less competition for jobs in lesser-known parts of Denmark, said Mariola Kajkowska. 

Originally from Poland, Kajkowska moved to Vejle in 2019, where she works as an employee retention consultant. “There are often fewer applicants for each job, which increases your chance to be selected for the position,” she said.

Speaking Danish is important, professionally and socially

When Petkov first moved to Ringkøbing, it was challenging that she didn’t speak Danish. It was hard to do daily tasks, like communicate with workers at her children’s daycare or chat with her neighbours.

“People were distant at first when we bought our house in a typical Danish neighbourhood,” she said. 

It was very different from Aarhus, where they had lived before moving to Ringkøbing. “Aarhus has a huge international community,” she said. “We were always able to find friends and it was easy to get by speaking English.”

Petkov also missed the variety of English events and activities available in Aarhus. “But, we compensate by going to international events in the municipality,” she said.

Balaban, who established baseball clubs in both Herning and Vejle, said being a part of the community and getting involved is integral to building a social network and making friends in Vejle. “You have to be an active part of society,” he said.

Although learning Danish was a challenge, Petkov also saw it as an opportunity. “I’m not sure I would have learned Danish if we were living in Copenhagen or Aarhus,” she said. “You just don’t need it much there.”

Now, she’s learned enough Danish to engage in small talk with her neighbours. “Once people got used to us, we felt very welcome,” Petkov said, “though I don’t think we will ever blend completely.”

Chris Wantia, also a resident of Ringkøbing-Skjern Municipality, has found Danish to be integral to life in rural Denmark. 

He lives in the village of Bork Havn, population 300. “When I walk out of my house, I don’t expect my 65-year-old Danish neighbour to speak to me in English,” Wantia told The Local.

“English may be fine in the big cities, but speaking Danish here is important,” he said, adding that it would have been very challenging to purchase and renovate the two homes he and his wife, Janine, own in the municipality if he didn’t speak Danish. 

A second silver lining Petkov has identified is that living in Ringkøbing has also enabled her family to engage more deeply with Danes and Danish culture, adding that most of her friends are Danish. 

“If you really want to dive into Danish culture, a place like Ringkøbing is amazing,” she said.

There’s less to do, depending on your interests (and you might need to drive)

“You can count on one hand the number of good restaurants within 50 kilometres of Bork Havn,” Wantia told The Local. Although that wasn’t a dealbreaker for him and his wife, Janine, it might be worth some consideration before moving to a village like Bork Havn. 

“If you want many restaurants, parties, or meeting new people all the time, this isn’t the place for you,” he said. “It’s quiet here. Some people might not like that, but it’s perfect for us.”

Vejle, though much larger than Bork Havn with a population of 113,000, also isn’t a very lively city in terms of nightlife, according to Balaban.

“I’d say it’s a mature city,” he said. “It’s a quiet city that attracts a lot of families and people who are more settled down.”

Ultimately, having ‘things to do’ nearby depends on which activities you prefer. 

In Lolland, Progler-Thomsen said it’s “a bit of a sacrifice” to not have easy access to the cultural activities the family had in Copenhagen. 

READ ALSO: Are provincial parts of Denmark a good option for international families?

In exchange, her family has access to activities it enjoys that weren’t available in Copenhagen, including many outdoor activities and sports. “We love the Safari Park that’s only a 7-minute drive from our house,” Progler-Thomsen said. 

That’s something else to consider, though: driving. 

Kajkowska, in Vejle, said driving will play more of a role in one’s life, living in these parts of Denmark. “I was at a party the other night and two cars had driven one and a half hours from Sønderborg to come to the party,” she said.

READ ALSO: What benefits does life in provincial Denmark offer foreign residents?

For the most part, Petkov said she doesn’t feel like she’s missing out by living in Ringkøbing.

She enjoys several favorite cafes in town, an Italian restaurant where they are regulars and enjoy chatting with the owners, exploring the beaches and woods, and escaping to the wellness hotel near their house for mini-breaks. “In the summer, it feels like living at a resort,” Petkov said. 

“Ringkøbing is a great place for our family,” she said. “The benefits outweigh the drawbacks for us.”

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