There are a lot of theories and speculations about the social behavior of the Danes and the ways you have to use in order to approach them. The most widespread comment you will hear from people who have lived or visited Denmark is that Danes are closed and reserved.
Rumor has it for a reason, but if you get a closer look you will realize that Danes are more discreet than reserved, and ‘closed’ is a characteristic that changes with a higher concentration of alcohol in their blood. Here you can find few observations of the Danish social behavior and some tips so you are prepared when you actually meet the Danes.
I smile, you smile back
If you walk or bike through the streets of Denmark you will cross with many Danes. Most of the times, you will be impressed by their looks. Working out is part of the Danish educational system and mentality while going to the gym is a must, especially for the gay Danes. When the weather is good and the mood of everyone better, you will catch yourself staring and smiling to handsome Danes; they will almost always smile back to you. Before you get excited, you should know that Danes in general smile whenever you look at them, something that can be probably explained as kindness or shyness.
Instead of you smiling back and forward, make the first move and ask something or make a clear compliment. If they answer back you have high hopes, if they just smile or they look scared, take your bike and leave.
Make the first move before I move
Something that Danish men are not famous for is making the first move. If you see someone you like at a bar or at any place, be fast and make the first move or somebody else will do it before you. This first move has to be clear and kind when they are sober and effusive when they are drunk.
Get out of my personal space
A key word in human relationships in Denmark is the personal space and you must respect it if you want any kind of relationship with the indigenous. The meaning of personal space is quite flexible though and it changes depending on the person, the place and again the alcohol percentage.
Crossing the personal space can have many meanings in Denmark; it can be talking within a very short distance, touching while talking, talk loud at a public space or even ask questions, personal or just many. Again depending on the context, a certain action can be considered appropriate or not.
Something else that can surprise you in Denmark, if you come from a different culture is what people consider very personal information and what kind of information they don’t have any problem sharing it, even with strangers. Therefore a question as ‘Where do you live?’ can cross the boundaries whether ‘How long is your penis’ is answered with no hesitation under the right context.
Is this a queue or are you just happy to see me?
Like in most of the Nordic countries, queues are very popular in the Denmark. There are queues in supermarkets, bus stops, ticket offices, any offices; there are even queues in order to get a number and stand in another queue. Danes respect queues; do the same if you want locals to like you. Danes do not complain when the queue is long and it may take a lot of time. They will not complain either, at least not verbally, if someone tries to jump in front of the line but their angry faces and depreciation looks make such an act not recommended.
When you are in a queue try to respect the rules and do not look at them intensely, Danes will probably get more uncomfortable then flattered.
Nice to meet you, how about a coffee in a couple of weeks?
Something that all Danes have, besides a bike, is an agenda to organize their schedule. Technology made it easier with all the smart devices including electronic agendas but it is still hard to get some of their busy time. Danes love to plan and they plan everything in advance. Summer vacations are booked on autumn and Christmas dinners with colleagues and friends are planned with months in advance.
Meeting a Dane spontaneously is hardly an option as they usually have something pre-booked. Therefore in case you meet a cute Dane and he/she proposed a plan for the same night seize the opportunity, probably next day they do have other plans.
Talk to me dirty
A golden rule when you travel abroad is to learn some basic words to communicate and approach the locals. This rule is also accurate in Denmark and Danes melt in front of foreigners trying to pronounce their language.
You are not supposed to speak fluently Danish before you visit the country, but some simple words will do. Some useful and easy words are: Ja (Ya=Yes), Nej ( Nai= No), Hej (Hai= Hi), Tak (Tac= Thanks), Unskyld (Onsculd= Sorry), Øl ( El= Beer) and Skål (Scol= Cheers).
Danes generally speak very good English and they love to practice it with foreigners. They also speak other languages and if you come from a Spanish-speaking country, they will definitely try to talk with you even if they only know how to order a beer in Spanish.
If you hook up with a Dane and you have fun, remember to say Tak (Thanks). It’s easy to pronounce and your effort will be double appreciated.
Wave my flag
If you go to a bar or a restaurant and see Danish flags on the table don’t be scared, it’s not a meeting of the nationalist Party; someone of the company has birthday. In Scandinavia it is very popular to wave their flags as a form of celebration and they celebrate quite often. You will see Danish flags for birthdays even in parks marking where the party is, at shops when they have anniversary and all over the city (even on buses) if a national team wins a medal or someone of the royal family has birthday.
If someone you like sits on a table with Danish flags just go and say ‘Happy Birthday’ or ‘Hurra’! They will appreciate it and you will be probably invited to a shot or more.
Are you up for a drink at my place?
If you meet Danes and they propose you a drink at their place, it is not an indirect for sex. They actually mean it and you are going to have a drink or many more, regardless if sex will follow.
In general Danes have the fame that they drink a lot and if you visit any bar or bodega on a busy day you will understand why. If you don’t like to drink at least pretend so or else you will feel excluded and they will probably take someone else home; someone who can keep up with beers.
Thank God It’s Friday (and tomorrow Saturday)
The busiest days to go out in Denmark, as in many other countries, are Friday and Saturday. Danes start to drink early on Friday, right after they leave work and many times they start drinking at work. There is a tradition called ‘Fredagsbar’ (Friday’s Bar) and it is exactly what the name reveals, an improvised bar in companies, offices and universities on a Friday afternoon.
Later on, people continue drinking and partying at the pubs and bars of the center. You can find drunk people quite early on a weekend but almost everyone will be at least tipsy later on. As the night goes on and the glasses get empty and refilled, you will notice the behavior of the locals changing. They become chatty, louder, touchy and easier to approach and talk with.
If you like to chat before you hook up, go and talk to them a bit earlier, if you are more of a direct type wait until they have some more beers.
Happy New Year!
If there is one day, just one day that Danes change so much their social behavior, then it’s New Year’s Eve. In New Year’s Eve people in Denmark dressed up fancy put funny hats and glasses on and party with their friends like no other day of the year.
It is not proven if it’s because of the fireworks, the champagne or the resolutions for the New Year, but they get completely euphoric. If it happens for you to be on New Year’s Eve in Denmark just go to anybody you like and yell ‘Happy New Year’. They will at least hug you and wish you back if not kiss you as well. And then maybe it is going to be a happy year indeed.
Author: Evangelos Ialos | Photo: Gemma Amor