Danish culture guide for newcomers in Sonderborg

It’s always good to make yourself familiar with the Danes and their culture before moving here.

On this site we’ve gathered some useful information about Denmark, the Danes and Sonderborg.

The typical Dane

A typical Dane is often polite, tolerant, direct and honest, although they might seem reserved at first.

Humour and joking is a big part of Danish culture, where irony typically leads to many misunderstandings.

Danes like being on time – both in social and work-related settings – and will call if they are more than 5 min. late for an appointment. A Dane would not show up uninvited and will always keep an appointment, if one is made.

The Danish society

In Denmark, you often work 37 hours each week and have 5-6 weeks of paid vacation per year.

The work-life balance is highly prioritized, and men and women have equal opportunities and therefore also participate equally when raising kids, preparing dinner and maintaining a household.

In general, equality is a big part of the Danish mentality, where you are rarely formal. No matter your age, sex, education, salary, ethnicity, sexual orientation or sexuality – everyone is equal. Therefore, a manager will often ask the employees for their opinion before making decisions, while everyone is addressed by their first name.

In Denmark, almost 50% of your salary goes to taxes in order to have free education, free healthcare and free information (such as libraries) for everyone. Therefore, many foreigners say that it’s very clean and safe in Danmark.

And with relatively high salaries and working conditions, corruption is quite low, while life satisfaction is quite high.

Food and drinks

Danish food culture – and South Jutland in particular – is inspired by Denmark’s neighbouring countries. A traditional Danish meal will therefore often consist of sausages or meat, potatoes, sauce and vegetables.

It is important to say that Danish cuisine is influenced by the whole world as well – any café will serve burgers, salads and pasta. However, if you are on the lookout for something Danish, try our ‘smørrebrød’ (rye bread with cold cuts) or ‘stjerneskud’ (bread with salad, salmon, asparagus, shrimps and mayo).

Danes are notorious for their drinking, and we combine many social activities with alcohol. We are definitely a nation of beer and coffee drinkers.

Traditions

Easter

Before Eater arrives, you may find a ‘gækkebrev’ in your mail: a secret, handcut letter from an anonymous sender. You have to guess the sender before Easter or you will pay with an Easter egg.

Many parents hide Easter eggs in the garden for their children to find.

Christmas

The Danes love Christmas, which is celebrated on the evening of the 24th of December. Here, many attend church during the day, while the evening is spent eating duck or roasted pork with potatoes and sauce. For dessert, risalamande (rice pudding), where the guests try to find the hidden, whole almond.

Then it’s dancing and singing around the Christmas tree and then opening the presents.

Birthdays

If you’re invited in for a Dane’s birthday, it will typically involve cake and coffee, while you bring a present.

Children’s birthdays are usually for their whole class, maybe with a scavenger hunt during the day.

Fastelavn

Fastelavn is a Danish tradition in February for children. The children dress up and compete in a game with a candy-filled barrel. The take turns banging on the barrel and the one who takes it down, is crowned king.

Famous Danes and companies

  • Hans Christian Andersen (author)
  • Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (actor)
  • Mads Mikkelsen (actor)
  • Viggo Mortensen (actor)
  • Lars von Trier (movie director)
  • Helena Christensen (model)
  • Aqua (band)
  • D-A-D (band)
  • Tycho Brahe (scientist)
  • Niels Bohr (scientist)
  • LEGO (toy company)
  • Danfoss (refrigeration systems company)
  • ECCO (shoe company)
  • Mærsk (shipping company)
  • Lagkagehuset (pastries company)
  • Brian & Michael Laudrup (soccer players)
  • Peter Schmeichel (soccer player)
  • Bjarne Riis (cyclist)
  • Caroline Wozniacki (tennis player)
  • Georg Jensen (designer)