5 Danish habits that surprised me
Living in Denmark as a French, there are a few things that never cease to amaze or amuse me. These differences between France and Denmark remind me that, although the countries share many common values, we’re not quite the same. Here are some of them:
1. The flag is everywhere
In France, we have a complicated relationship with our flag. But the Danes do not have that issue with their Dannebrog and link it to any type of celebration. It will for sure be on birthday cards and cakes, and outside the door to indicate the way to a party. But the flag is also used when shops are having anniversary sales or discounts, on Christmas trees or public busses for national holidays or just the birthday of a royal. They even have a day dedicated to the flag (Valdemarsdag), where they will of course raise the flags everywhere. The side effect of it is, that Danes have a very positive association to their flag. The majority of houses in the country side have flag poles, although you will never see a flag up at night (you don’t want to be celebrating the devil, do you?).
2. Salty liquorice to eat or drink
That one is the only thing I will never get used to. I believe salty liquorice is like Marmite, Vegemite, or strong cheese in France, if you didn’t grow up with it, you cannot like it. The proportion of liquorice in the candy aisle is astonishing, coming from France where nobody even likes the sweet kind. But Danes don’t limit it to candy. Liquorice alcohol is very popular in Denmark, especially among young people (it is the cheapest shots). That can explain why Danes unlike many other nationalities (and some French) enjoy Pastis drinks, as anis is similar to liquorice.
3. Couples sleep with two single blankets (instead of one double)
This is actually a really nice weird thing! If you have ever slept with a partner and suffered the nocturnal blanket fight, you will love the Danish way. We would never do that in France, as it would be seen as un-romantic, or selfish. But I have to admit I’m a fan of having my own blanket. It also improves your sleep quality. It is funny to watch my Danish boyfriend when we go on holiday to my French grandparents’, where not only do we have to share a blanket, but my grandma tucks the sheets in reaaaally tight, and he never understands why she does that.
4. Danes don’t date
Okay this one is maybe more controversial and it is not a weird thing they do, but rather DON’T do. However I have heard it many times, the Danes don’t date. The whole American-movie like concept of a first date, second date, etc. with unspoken rules doesn’t exist here. As in all other aspects of their life, the Danes are very informal in their relationships. In fact, it is not unusual for Danes of all ages to have sex before becoming a “couple”. I’ve heard from some Danes that if you’ve had sex with the same person 3 times, you can be considered a couple. It is probably linked to Denmark’s high gender equality, where women are not shamed for having sex on the first night and don’t have to be “earned” by a man. As a matter of fact, many couples split the bill at the restaurant.
5. They put mayonnaise on sushi
A little detail to finish, I worked in a sushi restaurant, and was amazed by how much mayonnaise variations the Danes like on their sushi. We would never do that in France, but would however have a choice between sweet or salty soy sauce. Danes put Chili mayo, wasabi mayo, garlic mayo, regular mayo, you name it. Of course they also put mayonaise and remoulade on their famous open sandwiches “smørrebrød”, hot dogs, fries… Yes they like mayonaise. And by the way in case you’re wondering, the fish is farmed-raised in Norway, often with a strong cocktail of antibiotics. Bon appétit!
Living here for a while, you start to get used to those things, and almost don’t notice them anymore. Did I forget anything? Is there something you found super weird arriving in Denmark as an international? Let me know below!