A Dane Abroad: Cultural differences

Living in a foreign culture is interesting for various reasons: Not only do you among others gain perspective on a foreign culture, however, also on your own culture. As such, I just had to write a post on going abroad as a Dane including personal experiences I’ve made on my abroad relocations. Because, it’s true, you don’t realize the extent of cultural differences before you travel abroad and see for yourself. In this sense, being a Dane abroad, you quickly realize that things are quite different abroad in some aspects, and that us Danes can be somewhat weird to foreigners. Let me elaborate on this by presenting you with 30 cultural differences I’ve experienced as a Dane living abroad.

Danish flag

  1. Foreigners are usually not as isolated, reticent and restrained as Danes
  1. Being approached with a ”how are you?” is just, simply, very weird for an isolating, cold Nordic person. I mean, we’re trained not to look strangers in the eyes let alone talk to them (Exaggeration, however, not far from the truth)
  1. ”The Law of Jante” is definitely not part of every culture, which is a good thing if you ask me (LoJ is not a law per se, rather a set of cultural norms)
  1. Nor is the concept of ”hygge”
  1. Vikings may not always be as popular abroad as back home – especially not in England
  1. Foreign countries rarely have rye bread – and when they do it’s just not the same
  1. Nor do they have smoerrebroed (rye bread with delicious, various and different toppings)
  1. In my humble opinion, they don’t have (proper) licorice outside the Nordic countries either
  1. With gained perspective, equality is far along in Denmark
  1. So is the environmental movement
  1. However, certain Danes could learn much from foreigners and their welcoming and open hearts (here, specifically considering the current refugee crisis)
  1. Bikes are not as popular abroad as in Denmark (except for in Holland/Amsterdam, of course)
  1. Students outside Scandinavia don’t go to college or university for free
  1. Nor do they get paid to go study
  1. They do, however, not have to pay approximately 50 percent of their salary in taxes as all Danes do
  1. The cost of health care abroad is expensive
  1. It’s just not appropriate to put your national flag on your birthday cake abroad
  1. … Or on the Christmas tree
  1. Christmas is not celebrated with dinner AND gifts on the 24th of December all over the world
  1. It’s not common to dance around the Christmas tree before opening gifts on Christmas eve either. In my experience, foreigners find this Danish tradition very strange
  1. Nor do foreign cultures burn witches every summer on the beach
  1. … Or ”shoot in” the new year on New Year’s day to receive candy (only children)
  1. … Or hide candy for children to find in the highly decorated garden for Easter
  1. In general, people abroad don’t throw pre-parties before going out partying/clubbing
  1. … And the bars and clubs close way too early – I mean the party doesn’t even start before 1am…
  1. Maybe it has to do with the viking genes, however, foreigners really can’t hold their liquor too well
  1. They are, however, way better at socialising without alcohol as the center of attention
  1. Foreigners generally speaking don’t find the Danish Band, Aqua, and their song, Barbie Girl, as interesting as Danes
  1. They do, however, seem to find the Danish LEGO pretty neat
  1. … And the fairy tales of the Danish author, H. C. Andersen (The Ugly Duckling, The Little Mermaid, The Nightingale etc.)

There you go… Some cultural differences (and facts about ’Danishness’) I’ve experienced abroad.
What about you? What cultural differences have you experienced on your travels?

xo P!


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28 thoughts on “A Dane Abroad: Cultural differences

  1. Hahaa! As a Finn, I can relate to surprisingly many of these (rye bread, how can one live without it? or licorice). It is pretty shocking sometimes to find out that the things I might see as self-evident, is something totally weird for people from another culture. Even the differences between Belgium and Finland can be huge… 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love all things Scandinavian, especially Danish, and the best trip I have had in ages was to Copenhagen. I want to visit again, this time exploring more of your beautiful country and, hopefully, getting to know some Danes!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ah! I love this! ^.^ I have been to quite a few places abroad, but being an American in a foreign country is generally quite different than being a European in another European country. (People either love or hate Americans… >.>)

    But I think it’d be cool to dance around the Christmas tree! ^.^ Sounds like fun. However, our tree is generally in a corner. So, we’d only get like… 3/4ths of the tree to dance around… :/

    We actually hide colorful Easter eggs around the garden/house on Easter instead of candy. Not sure why. Bunnies don’t lay eggs. Though… hiding baby bunnies would be quite hard… >.> (Totally would’ve loved a baby bunny on Easter!)

    I’m definitely one of those who doesn’t need liquor to entertain myself (I happen to be crazy enough without alcohol. :p)

    Please goodness tell me you don’t actually burn ‘witches’ in the summer. Like… people… 0.0

    Okay! I don’t understand why a lot of foreign countries celebrate Christmas with the gifts and everything on the eve. That’s so strange for me, as an American. We’ve ALWAYS celebrated with gifts and food on Christmas Day.

    What on earth is ‘Hygge’? Definitely don’t have Nor or Hygge in English… *feel so lost right now*

    Oh dear. No looking at people? I’m screwed. I smile at everyone I pass because it’s polite to acknowledge other people (in my opinion. Though, a lot of people don’t return my smile… -.-)

    Biking in America is a good way to get yourself run over. >.> Granted, we don’t generally have bike lanes, and our cities are too spread out to use bikes for appropriate transit. That and a lot of the people I see biking, bike like idiots (like they’re /trying/ to get run over. >.>) No. I didn’t hit any of them! 0.0

    HA! Free college! What a concept! Yeah… that’s definitely something I wish the world would embrace. Education should be free, or a very minimal amount. So many people can’t afford to go to college nowadays and that’s terrible!

    Okay. I’ll stop here. ^.^

    Liked by 4 people

    • What a lovely feed back, Melanie!:)

      Dancing around the Christmas tree singing Christmas carols is so much fun. Granted, sometimes you would wish just for a moment that you were deag, however, it is quite nice. But I can also imagine how fun it must be to wake up to presents in the morning of the 25th having a nice day at home.

      ’Hygge’ is this concept of total relaxation. Often, it’s related to food. However, imagine the feeling you have when you sit in front of a camin in your relaxing clothes with a cup of hot cocoa and some sweets with people you love. That’s hygge. That feeling.

      Haha! No, we don’t burn real withches at St. Hans here in Denmark. We ’build’ a witch out of whatever, ut clothes on her and put her on a bonfire. Then, as the Danes we are, we get drunk, dance around to the early morning and have fun.

      Haha! I’m glad to hear, you haven’t hot any people biking (yet) 😉

      I think college/university should be free as well. Considering the world we live in – in the age of information – why don’t we!?

      Again, thanks for stopping by. Have a lovely evening/morning in the US I assume.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh! You sing Christmas Carols around the tree? I suppose that’s something akin to people here who travel to their neighbors houses and sing on their front porch to spread Christmas Cheer. I’ve never seen it myself, but I have heard of people who do it. (I’m kind of scared to sing in front of people myself. :p)
        I do love waking up with Christmas presents. It used to be that Santa would fly during the night and drop off presents. (I always wondered when Santa dropped off presents to Europeans if they celebrated on the 24th…)
        AH! Fascinating how other languages have words that don’t translate, but are rooted in the culture. ^.^ Lovely!
        Is there a reason that you build a witch? I mean, why do you do it? Where do the festivities come from?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Interesting! The santa thing… I wondered the same – just the other way around. Haha.
        An interesting fact (maybe) is that the Nordic countries always celebrate holidays the evening before the actual holiday – thus, Christmas… and Sankt Hans (witch bonfire).
        Regarding Sankt Hans: This ‘holiday’ is related to pegan times and is celebrated due to the summer time. Of course, it was later used to spread Christianity here in Denmark:)

        Liked by 1 person

      • Haha! When does Santa come for you if you open presents on the 24th?
        Do you also celebratr Easter the day before?
        Huh. So many European countries have holidays to celebrate summer and they sound like fun! America seems boring in comparison… >.>

        Liked by 1 person

      • Santa actually come during the night and puts presents under the tree (just like in America – just one day earlier).
        Haha! Well, I feel the same about Aemrica: You have Halloween, Valentines day and Thanksgiving to name a few:)

        Liked by 1 person

  4. As an American I have to agree with Melanie above on those items. I ride my bicycle to work here in Orange County, CA and going just 2 miles is an adventure, I love the Scandinavian countries love of the bicycle. Traveling has left me with the desire to see more countries and delve into there culture and history. And yes we Americans see things quite differently than anywhere in Europe, but that is the enjoyment of travel. Leave your expectations and culture behind and really immerse yourself into their culture, it is so exciting. And yes I enjoy smiling at everyone, I am just hoping they will smile back and maybe start a conversation if they have the time.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Haha this is great! I love the fact that Danes dance around the Christmas tree, is there a reason for it or is it just a tradition that no one quite understands?


    Liked by 1 person

  6. Fortunately in the UK health care is still free! And way back when I was a student, I did get money to go to university. Now those days are gone…
    I do own an Aqua album, though, and I really enjoy their songs 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Two great things for me in your post–an inside picture of certain Danish cultural realities and second, you show a cultural understanding essential to traveling–knowing that when we are a guest in another’s country, our own cultural behaviors need to be kept on a short leash. Thank you for sharing

    Liked by 1 person

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