Danish People

What are Danish people *really* like? Danish characteristics, stereotypes and everything else you wanted to know

Denmark is one of those countries that everyone knows exists, but you probably don’t think too much about unless you visit. Your perceptions are probably of well-dressed blondes cycling through the rain. Are these Danish people characteristics truly accurate, though? 

Many people have a very clear idea of what Danish people look like. You probably group them in with the Swedes and Norwegians, but perhaps you think of them as having borrowed a couple of traits from the Dutch and Brits.

Denmark is quite a diverse country, and no two regions are alike; rural Jutland is worlds apart from the dazzle of downtown Copenhagen. 

Despite the regional differences, people in Denmark have a fair few shared traits. In this article, we’ll go through some of the most common Danish stereotypes and discuss whether they’re true. We’ll talk about Danish people in general before discussing a selection of gender stereotypes.

What are Danes known for?

Denmark is surrounded by countries with a huge landmass: Norway and Sweden to the North and Germany to the South. But despite this, people associate multiple things with the country.

So, what are Danes like? We’ll discuss the main things that Danish people are known for in the subsections below.

Copenhagen

Let’s face it — when most foreigners think of and talk about Denmark, their vision is pretty much Copenhagen with a few countryside castles.

The Danish capital’s stock has increased significantly in recent years, and it’s become a huge tourist hotspot — along with being known as one of the world’s most liveable cities.

Besides bikes (we’ll talk more about that in a moment), Copenhagen is known for its stunning and varied architecture and tourist attractions like the Little Mermaid and Tivoli.

Although Copenhagen is the largest city in Denmark, it only shows one of the country’s faces. If you live here for long enough, you’ll notice that other parts of the country are very different in several ways.

Danish People

Cycling

If you want to learn Danish swear words, the best thing you can do is walk in a bicycle lane. We wouldn’t necessarily recommend it, though, because you’ll probably get run down by someone on two wheels for your troubles.

Denmark is known as a country of bicycles, and this particular Danish characteristic is certainly true. Copenhagen has over 300 kilometers of designated bicycle tracks, many of which are just as wide as — if not wider — than the streets for cars.

You’ll also find an extensive bicycle network in Aarhus and Odense, plus other Danish cities.

Many Danes enjoy cycling for leisure, too. The country is relatively flat, making it perfect for getting around on two wheels — regardless of your fitness level. Cyclists get priority in most areas, and you will find bikes on almost every street corner in the Danish capital.

The art of hygge

If you only know one Danish word, it’s probably “hygge”. You cannot directly translate the word into English, but it’s something you will just understand if you move to Denmark.

A common misconception is that hygge means cozy. That’s part of it, but it isn’t the full story. Hygge involves appreciating the small things in life and feeling content, such as reading a book with a warm drink while watching the Danish weather do its thing outside.

Danish people use hygge in almost every area of life. Lighting in bars and restaurants usually evokes this feeling; if you travel abroad, you’ll probably complain about why everybody’s lights are borderline blinding.

It’s also clear to see in how urban areas are designed; Danish cities are largely built close together and just the right size.

Danish People

Taking life easily

One of the most common Danish characteristics is that many people here take life quite easily. The people of Denmark typically stop working for the week around mid-afternoon on Friday, and even their “full” working days are quite short.

Moreover, many people take most of — if not the whole of — July off each year.

The Danes are arguably the most laid-back people in Northern Europe, and they spend a lot of time on leisure activities. The focus here is very much on working to live, and you’ll especially see this in the summer when every public space is packed.

Even in Copenhagen, the pace of life can feel like you’re in a small town sometimes. If you’re from somewhere like New York City, you’ll probably find this a welcome relief.

The Danish sense of humor

If you’re from Britain and you plan to visit or live in Denmark, you’ll be pleased to hear that the sense of humor is very similar. The Danes are excellent at sarcasm and self-deprecating humor, which is sometimes difficult for people that didn’t grow up with it to understand.

Most countries are known for making jokes about neighboring nations, and Denmark is no different, especially when talking about the Swedes. Getting used to everything might take time, but you might find that you never go back from the Danish sense of humor once you do.

Danish People

Design

Considering that it’s cold and raining for most of the year — our on-the-ground writer is putting this piece together one week away from June with a turtleneck on — unsurprisingly, the Danes make their interior spaces look good.

Design is one of the most legendary Danish characteristics, and this stereotype is pretty true.

Denmark is home to several independent brands taking the country by storm, and you’ll probably have heard of brands that have enjoyed international success — such as HAY. Like many Scandinavian countries, Danish design is minimal and based on simple colors.

In addition to its interior design, Danish architecture has also started to capture international attention. Beyond the traditional candy-colored houses, more modern designs — such as Aarhus’ city hall and Copenhagen’s iconic Opera House — are well worth checking out.

Equality

Scandinavian countries are well-known for their progressive politics, and Denmark is no different in this respect. While an anti-immigrant sentiment exists among some people, that’s no different from any other country; most Danes are tolerant and welcoming.

Danish people are known for being pretty liberal on a global scale; gay marriage has been legal here since 2012, and Copenhagen is known as one of the most LGBT-friendly cities on the globe.

Thanks to its relatively high taxes, income inequality in Denmark remains quite low. Parents get generous leave when they have children, and almost everyone has access to high-quality healthcare. Moreover, Danish citizens can get paid to study at universities in the country; their tuition is free.

A love for the flag

One of the most unmistakable sights in Denmark is its national flag, the Dannebrog. You will see it *everywhere*, especially on major public holidays. The Danes are rightly proud of their country, and flag-waving is not seen as xenophobic here.

Danish flags feature at birthday parties, dinner events, and even at the airport when people welcome their loved ones back to the country. Our advice? Stock up on Dannebrog flags when you move here, so you’re well-prepared.

They sometimes look differently at each other’s regions

Danes are joined together by several national values, but each region differs wildly from one another. If you go to Jutland, it’s easy to feel like you’re in a different country — until you step foot in Netto to buy rye bread, then you realize you’re still right at home.

As is the case with most countries and their capital cities, many Danes outside of Copenhagen look at Copenhageners — and people from the island of Sjælland — as snobby. On the flip side, people from Jutland are viewed by some as… basic.

Of course, all of it is friendly digs — it’s the same as how Londoners and Northerners view each other in England.

Excellent English speakers…

If you’re worried about a language barrier when visiting Denmark, don’t be. The Danes are excellent English speakers, and you’ll have no problems receiving help in English if you can’t speak Danish.

In key areas like airports and train stations, many signs have English translations alongside the Danish signs. Some Danes are shy English speakers, though, so learning the local language will only improve your experience.

… Which is good because D anish isn’t the easiest language to learn

If you believe the Danish stereotypes, you’ll agree that they all speak a language that is utterly incomprehensible to anyone outside of Denmark — even to the other Scandinavians. Is there some truth in that? Well, yes — sort of.

When learning Danish, you will effectively need to learn three different languages. Written Danish isn’t too different from English, but you’ll also need to learn how to speak it.

Speaking is trickier because you’ll have to learn lots of glottal sounds that aren’t in English and then learn to put them in a conversation.

You will also need to learn how to listen, and it’s sometimes tricky to combine spoken Danish; you’ll sometimes understand what’s said, but you’ll respond in English before realizing what you should have said in Danish five minutes later.

But while Danish is tricky to learn, it’s not as tricky as many people make it out to be. Sure, it’s more time-consuming — but you’ll achieve a high level if you’re consistent.

Having a stylish wardrobe of black clothing

Living in Denmark has plenty of pros and cons, and one of the cons is how expensive everything is. Case example: Having to upgrade your wardrobe when you arrive with everything having 25% sales tax slapped on top of it.

Not that it matters to the Danes, though; one of the most common stereotyped Danish characteristics is that everyone here has a stylish wardrobe of black clothes.

Is this true? Not quite; they have shades of gray and beige in their stylish wardrobes as well.

But yes — if you visit a Danish city, you will notice that many people wear black. During the summer, expect earthy colors as everyone brings out their wild side.

The good news is that when you move here, you will learn how to layer up and look good — even after cycling through sleet for 20 minutes.

Danish People

The happy people

It’s impossible to talk about Denmark without mentioning how happy everyone here supposedly is. And while Finland has finished top of the World Happiness Index in recent years, the Danes always feature close to the top.

If you believe Danish characteristics, you’ll think that everyone here is constantly grinning from one cheek to the other. While the Danes certainly smile more than the other Scandinavians and have more of an inclination to smile at strangers, that isn’t true.

Many Danes are content with their lives; they earn good salaries, have supportive loved ones, and are covered by the state if anything happens to them. However, you shouldn’t expect to see everyone in Danish cities constantly grinning.

Casual work attire…

If you’re from the US or the UK, you might be used to wearing fancy suits (that deep down you hate and know are uncomfortable) to work. But if you’re going to Denmark for a work meeting or a job interview, you’ll probably want to ditch that — unless you’re working for a really formal company.

In most Danish workplaces, the most serious work attire you’ll see is white trainers paired with well-fitted black trousers — plus a collared shirt and wool sweater. To put things simply, yes — this stereotype is 100% true.

… But very easy to do business with

“Dress for the job you want” rings true in many countries, and you might find the Danes’ approach to workplace uniform quite sloppy. Even if that’s what you think, don’t mistake that for thinking that nobody gets things done here.

Denmark regularly ranks as one of the world’s best places to do business. Thanks to its flat hierarchies and the Danes’ rational approach to solving problems, doing business here is a breeze. Danish people do not beat around the bush, which helps ensure that things get done quicker.

Food

You probably don’t think of Denmark when talking about the world’s great cuisines, but you certainly know the cinnamon Danish.

Tough luck that isn’t actually Danish; known locally as Wienerbrød (Vienna bread), the pastry was introduced to Denmark by Austrian bakers.

However, Denmark is very good at baking things; its cinnamon buns are top-class, and you can find countless variations of rye bread throughout the country.

And in recent years, an influx of immigrants and the New Nordic movement have made Copenhagen one of Europe’s most compelling culinary destinations.

Don’t forget the coffee, either

Look, it’s dark in the winter and the sun hardly ever peeks through the thick gray clouds. Sometimes, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do for an energy kick.

Like the other Nordic countries, the Danes are proficient coffee drinkers. You’ll find plenty of excellent cafés in Danish towns providing shelter from the wind and several variations of your favorite coffee styles.

The sociable Scandinavians

People from the Nordics typically look at Danish people as the sociable, loud versions of themselves — effectively Southern Europeans with blonde hair.

If you’re from Southern Europe, on the flip side, you’ll probably wonder why everyone’s so miserable.

But regardless of your stance, the Danes are pretty sociable — especially when they’ve had one or two pints of Carlsberg. And while talking to strangers is still rare, it’s certainly more common than in the other Nordic countries.

Danish People

What are Danish people like? A deeper dive into Danish personality traits

We’ve discussed a couple of things that Danes are known for in general, but we’re now going to dive deeper and identify typical Danish personality traits that people from this part of the world are known for.

Polite

The Danish language doesn’t have a word for “please”, but you will notice that the Danes say “tak” *a lot*. And while they might seem unapproachable in public, many Danish people are easy to talk to and will help you when you have a problem.

Efficient

The Danes’ 37-hour working week is one of the shortest in the world, and you’ll notice that your Danish colleagues are very good at getting things done. People typically focus on, well, work when at work — meaning that they get more done in less time before heading home.

Direct

If you’re not used to brutally honest opinions, settling into Danish life will probably take a bit of time. The Danes do not do small talk, and you’ll typically get a straightforward answer to any questions you ask.

Once you get used to it, though, you’ll appreciate the Danes for not wasting your time. Getting honest feedback can also help you grow as a person, so it’s not something you should take personally.

Respectful

One of the nicest things about living in Denmark is that people are very respectful of one another. The Danes will respect your personal space, and they’ll stay out of your business unless you’re clearly causing harm to someone else. All that’s expected is you do the same to them.

Danish People

Are the Danes friendly?

Despite those stern facial expressions, the Danes are an incredibly friendly group of people. Getting to know them is difficult on a personal level, but you have a friend for life once you do.

In social settings, you’ll notice that the Danes are very talkative — though you will often need to learn Danish if you want to fit into friendship groups.

Danish men stereotypes

Now that we’ve discussed some of the main Danish stereotypes in general, we’ll break them down into male and female. Below are three common Danish male stereotypes.

Danish men have very similar haircuts

You’ve probably got a very particular image of a Danish guy in your head, and that probably involves someone with a side parting or a short back and sides. And for many Danes, yes — that stereotype has an element of truth.

Of course, it’s important to remember that Denmark is more of a mixed society these days. As such, some people will opt for more “individual” styles.

Danish men are tall

Another stereotype is that Danish men are tall, and this is something that is probably a result of being grouped with other Northern Europeans. Is that true, though?

Well, yes — sort of.

The average Danish man is just over 5’11 tall, while the average height for everyone is around 5’8. According to Business Insider, that makes the Danes the fourth-tallest people in the world.

Danish men have blonde hair and blue eyes

This stereotype is common for all Scandinavians, and while you’ll notice a lot of blonde Danish men, you will see plenty of other hair colors — notably brown and ginger hair. So, this stereotype isn’t entirely true.

Danish women stereotypes

Now that you know the main Danish male stereotypes, we’ll discuss some of the most common Danish women stereotypes as well.

Danish women are also blonde

Again, this is somewhat true; you will notice a lot of blonde Danish women and probably more blonde women than men. However, you will see Danish women with different hair colors too.

With Denmark becoming more international, you’ll also notice people of different skin colors in general as well.

Danish women will split the bill

Good luck trying to pay for two people in a Copenhagen restaurant and not have your wallet scream at you for how much you’re paying.

Danish women will pay their half for a meal, and it’s not expected that the man pays for everything. You can offer, but don’t be surprised if your offer is rebutted.

Danish women are sporty

Danish women like to keep active, and you’ll see plenty playing handball and football in their spare time. Of course, many of them cycle — and running is another popular activity (for men and women alike).

So, what are Danish people like?

Despite being quite a small country, you’ll see multiple stereotypes associated with Danish people. The Danes have a very specific way of living, and it’s one that some foreigners fit in with, but others can’t adapt to.

Then again, is that different from any place on the planet?

Some Danish stereotypes have an element of truth, but a lot are somewhat exaggerated. The Danes are an interesting group of people to observe from an outside perspective, though, so our top recommendation is for you to come and join the fun.

The Danes are an interesting bunch to observe; so, get your bike and join the fun!

And, if you’re ready for your Danish adventure, you might want to consider living somewhere outside the capital. Our article on the best Danish cities will help you pick the right home.

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