I did a little crowdsourcing for this week’s podcast. I asked some of our listeners, and some people on Facebook – what were some of the small cultural mistakes – the dos and don’ts, the faux pas – you made when you first arrived in Denmark?
I got a whole selection of answers. Don’t keep your shoes on while entering someone’s home was one thing. Don’t arrive even a few minutes late was another. The 8:00 meeting is not an 8:05 meeting. Trying to bum a cigarette – not done in Denmark. Telephoning a friend after 9:30 in the evening or so – if you’re beyond university age, this is not done in Denmark. Dropping by to see a friend unannounced – not done in Denmark. Danes like to plan in advance – and they are proud of their homes, and don’t want you to see them messy.
One girl mentioned that she had eaten the last piece of cake on a plate. You should never eat the last piece of anything in Denmark, at least without asking every single person present. If you don’t want to do that, the proper etiquette is to slice the piece of cake in half, and take half. And then the next person will slice that half in half. And so on. In the end there will be a little transparent slice left to shrivel up in the middle of the plate.
Some British and Irish respondents had tried to give transport tickets with leftover time on them to others – apparently that’s common in the British Isles. Not done in Denmark.
The Americans had trouble with the chained-together shopping carts. We don’t have this in the States, but in Denmark, you have to put a 10 crown coin or a 20 crown coin in the cart to detach it and drive it around the supermarket. I didn’t understand this, so on my very first day in Denmark I asked some guy who was leaving the supermarket if I could have his shopping cart. He wasn’t too pleased. Only if you have 20 crowns, he said menacingly.
Supermarket etiquette is a big thing in Denmark. When you get to the cash register and put your items on the conveyer belt, it’s very important to put the little divider between your stuff and the next person’s stuff. If you don’t, you’re likely to get a little huff – hmph! – from the next shopper.
Now, I personally have made so many faux pas that it is difficult to count them.
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Image mashup copyright Kay Xander Mellish 2023