Twenty ways to be more Danish
Alright let’s get to the point. I know why you’re here: you love the Danes. Yes, they aren’t perfect and Danish society is flawed like any other, but when you see a gorgeous black clad, blonde haired, Danish woman pushing her snowsuit ridden, blue eyed children on a bike to school I know you’re only thinking one thing… I. Want. To. Be. A. Dane.
I get it. I get it. Its three months into my semester in Copenhagen and at this point, we’ve all been there. This isn’t an intervention, it’s an opportunity to indulge yourself for a minute. This is the blog post you have been waiting for. Your ticket to Danish royalty! Your only way to expedite that visa (just kidding, can’t help you there). Drop what you are doing and follow my simple 20 step plan to becoming more Danish, and watch as you begin to seamlessly manage to fit into the homogeneity of this tight knit, Viking, Scandinavian country. No need to thank me…
1. Bike. Everywhere.
Leave that pollution enhancing and money sucking motorized vehicle in the garage - better yet, sell the dang thing - and get your booty on two wheels. Not only is this the best way to get in great shape (as all Danes magically appear to be) but it’s much faster than divining, and no need to worry about traffic or finding the perfect parking spot. Join the flocks of bikers that ride enough to circle the globe 31 times a day in Copenhagen alone, and eventually you might even look as cool as they do while doing it! (maybe).
2. Buy some candles
True fact: Danes buy more candles per capita than any other country in the world, and you’ll really need some when it starts to get dark around 4pm in late October. Don’t worry though, they are SO easy to find. Huge aisles in the grocery store hold candles upon colorful candles, and you’ll see those little suckers everywhere: in coffee shops, window sills, and perched upon restaurant tables. Get burnin.
3. Drop the last syllable of every word
Danish is HARD to learn. Like so hard. None of the words are pronounced the way they look like they should be, there are completely new letters like Ø and Æ, and I am constantly being corrected by my Danish friends for trying to read Danish words with English syntax. A general rule of thumb? Don’t pronounce your words, and kinda trail off at the end. If it sounds like you just swallowed a big bubble, are going underwater, or are about to throw up, your pronunciation is probably getting close. Keep at it, and when in doubt just listen to the voice on the metro announcing the next stop. It sounds nothing like the way it’s written on your transit map, but at least you’ll know how to tell people where you live without sounding like a complete kook!
4. Drink Oat Milk
When you go to a coffee shop, make sure to order your latte with oat milk. Danes LOVE that shiz. Oat Milk is the Danish counterpart to soy milk, and that which shall not be named – DAIRY. Although you can get “regular” milk everywhere, there is a huge push in Denmark towards more sustainable and healthy alternatives like oat milk, almond milk, coconut milk, and soy milk. You can find these options even in the cheapest of grocery stores, and you won’t be dubbed as a dietary diva when indulging in that dairy free latte.
5. Better yet, Ditch meat all together
Honestly, while you’re at it with the oat milk, you might as well get your veggie on. Its super easy to find vegan options in the grocery store, trendy plant based restaurants and cafes, vegan bakeries, and plant based weenies at some famous Danish hot dog stands. I have even seen an advertising campaign across the city and on public transportation promoting a “quit meat hotline”, flaunting the tagline: “maybe it’s time to stop.” So ditch that hamburger dude, if you want to look like a Dane it’s time to become a lean, green, veggie eating machine!!
6. Get tatted
Yep, you heard me. Start daydreaming about that sick ink you’ve always wanted and throw mom’s caution to the wind, because if you want to be more Danish – tattoos are a must. Don’t worry about finding a studio, they are everywhere in Copenhagen. Can’t decide where to do the honors? Head to Tattoo Ole on Nyhavn, as the oldest operating tattoo shop in the whole wide world, they are sure to do a good job. They’ve been at it for a while now…
7. Celebrate Christmas as early as you possibly can
With no Thanksgiving to curb that holiday enthusiasm, you can break out those ugly sweaters and get your jingle bells rockin as soon as the clock strikes midnight on November first. Stroll through the Christmas markets, drink some glögg, peruse the massive Christmas sections in the grocery store, go ice skating in one of the city’s seasonal parks, or visit Tivoli all dressed up for the holidays. No one does Christmas quite like the Danish.
8. Get a bunch of tiny Danish flags to decorate your life
Is it your birthday? Decorate with Danish flags. Welcoming a friend at the airport? Bring a Danish flag. Throwing a party at your Kollegium? You BETTER hang one of those darling little Danish Flag garlands or I just. might. scream. Moral of the story: Danish Flags will be your best friend when it comes to decorating. This emblem is more synonymous with birthdays and celebration than toxic nationalism or obnoxious pride (haha @America) so don’t feel weird about hanging that puppy everywhere!
9. Hang out in Cemeteries
Sounds creepy, right? It’s actually a lot of fun! If you want a fool proof way to spend a Danish Saturday, buy a bottle of wine and some picnic snacks, toss them in your bike basket and pedal to one of Copenhagen’s park-like cemeteries. Instead of avoiding them like the plague, Danes enjoy spending time in the green space provided by these burial grounds. Urban cemeteries are Copenhagen’s hidden gems: places to watch life unfold where people sit and chat on blankets, leisurely walk their dogs, push carriages, or jog through the tree canopied home of the dead. If you want to be Danish, you’ve got to accept that death is a part of life, and learn how to coexist with that reality.
10. Drink. A lot.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Did you know that Danes LOVE their liquor and beer? Well, now you know. With sixteen year olds drinking beer, and eighteen year olds sipping on spirits – the Danes start ‘em young and never really quit. Unless you can think of a better way to stay warm in the cold, dark, harsh winters, it’s time to buy a six pack of Carlsberg and get with the program.
11. Locate your closest Flying Tiger
In the mood to shop? Head to Flying Tiger to purchase literally ANYTHING you would ever need. From home goods to school supplies, Halloween costumes, spices and snacks, toiletries, hats and gloves, or a llama shaped sparkly pair of slippers. These Danish stores are a strange marriage of a Claire’s accessory boutique and a Target superstore, and flaunt an alarmingly large collection of items. They are everywhere in Copenhagen, and as far as Scandinavian prices go, most things are dirt cheap. It’s easy to get lost in their colorful mazelike aisles and you always leave with things you didn’t need - ah yes, consumerism at its finest.
12. Wear all black…
Your angsty black clad inner teen is rejoicing, because black is the new black here in Scandinavia. In Denmark, no one will judge you for that black on black on black outfit. Rather, the judgement will flood if you wear bright colors and funky patterns. Think of how easy dressing yourself could be when you don’t need to wonder what shirt will go with your mustard colored khakis and bright salmon shorts. Getting dressed in the dark? No problem! You might look like a ninja, but embrace the ease that comes with only rocking one color and dive in.
13. …and some denim for a little POP of color
Denim is as prevalent as black in the streets of Copenhagen, and this western icon is a fashion must have. If all black feels too edgy for you, stop at one of Copenhagen’s many vintage stores and buy yourself a pair of high waisted Levis, overalls, a denim jumper, or a sick jean jacket. They won’t be hard to find, but be prepared for a hefty price. Thrift shopping ain’t cheap in these parts, and ironically American football t-shirt really sells for a pretty penny. (go Titans??)
14. Dress nicely, but wear sneakers
Once you’ve got all your black on black on denim on black ready to roll, don’t forget to accessorize! Danes love scarfs, wool coats, and leather jackets. No matter what the occasion is, you will always be outdressed by the Danes, so come prepared for a constant fashion show. Not unlike a mullet: it may be business up top, but there is always a party down below when it comes to your footwear. Don’t fret about finding trendy boots or stilettos, a pair of cool sneakers will do. Filas, Nikes, Vans, New Balance, and Adidas can be seen strutting the streets paired with tight jeans and flowy skirts. With all the biking and walking you are going to do (since you have sold your car by now) some comfy kicks are the way to go.
15. Never talk on the train
Danes keep to themselves. Especially on public transportation. If this isn’t obvious from riding the metro or bus during rush hour, check out the “no talking” zone on the S trains. Set at the front of most trains, this car is an introverts dream. (I can speak from experience…it ROCKS). Light chatter is usually accepted in the other cars, but leave the party back home. If you are laughing too loud, getting overly excited, or yapping on the phone you are sure to attract some unpleasant looks. Why? because the Danes hate fun. Just kidding - they love fun, just not on the bus…ok?
16. “Sit down. Be Humble” – Drake (probably a bunch of Danes too)
Although Drake was the first one to sing a hit song about it, the Danes value humility and conformity as well. So much so in fact, that they even have a term for it - Janteloven - and a manifesto to back it up. In Denmark, no one believes that they are better than anyone else, and even some of the most successful businessmen and women are extremely modest. There is little to no power distance among corporal hierarchies in businesses, and this mentality also trickles into their socialist welfare state. Unemployment benefits and universal healthcare emphasize citizens’ feelings of equality and community. If you want to be Danish don’t diverge from the group too much; you’re not that special, but don’t worry neither is anyone else.
17. Eat rye bread…
To hang with the Danes, you’ve got to eat like a Dane. top by your local Netto, Irma, Fotex, or Bilka to pick up this local staples. Danish rye break is not the swirly weird cinnamoney loaf you would buy in America, on the contrary my friend. Rye bread in Denmark is a dense, decadent brown loaf, often gluten free and filled with seeds. It’s amazing honestly, and is served as the base of smørrebro, on the sides of salads, and with classic Danish breakfast platters. You can find it at any sandwich shop, grocery store, and bageri.
18. …and black licorice
While you’re at it with the rye, it’s time to develop a taste for black licorice. This eclectic candy is usually frowned upon in the U.S. and it’s always the last jelly bean left in the bag, but it’s a staple in the Danish candy aisle. If you want to start off slowly, maybe try some licorice fudge, or treat yourself to a lakrids pipe: a traditional Danish candy shaped like a fisherman’s pipe. If you are feeling adventurous, jump right into the deep end and try some salted black licorice. Before you know it, you might even like the taste of it! Or maybe not…
19. Leave your children outside
Remember how I just mentioned Denmark is a welfare state, it’s also a very high trust society. These two things go hand in hand. Another apparent correlate to this relationship is the acceptance of leaving your stroller filled with an infant children out in the freezing cold while you shop, eat dinner, or get coffee. If you see an abandoned stroller with a sleeping infant in it, don’t call child protective services. It’s a completely normal practice here in Denmark, and it’s hard to believe until you see it. It’s believed that the cold air is good for the infant’s respiration, and there must be a universal “no baby stealing” bro code written into the Danish DNA, because once you start looking for it you’ll find babies, babies everywhere.
20. Get your Hygge on.
Last but not certainly not least, once you’ve become an expert at the other nineteen tasks, it’s time to relax – Danish style. Hygge is a Danish word that most closely translates to “coziness.” Hygge mean something different to everyone, but the best way to get your hygge on involves dark lighting, warm blankets, cake, tea, friends, and lots of lots of candles. You can find hygge in coffee shops or restaurants, in outdoor Christmas markets, or in your own your own living room. Hygge is time spent with family and friends, or a cozy night in – drinking tea and reading a book. Warning: once you go hygge, you may never go back…but why would you want to? You’re a Dane now.