The 8:00 meeting is not an 8:05 meeting: Faux Pas in Denmark


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.

Supermarket etiquette

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.

Hear all our How to Live in Denmark podcasts on Spotify and on Apple Podcasts (iTunes).


Get the How to Work in Denmark Book for more tips on finding a job in Denmark, succeeding at work, and understanding your Danish boss. It can be ordered via Amazon or Saxo.com or from any bookstore using the ISBN 978-743-000-80-8. Contact Kay to ask about bulk purchases, or visit our books site to find out how to get the eBook. You can also book a How to Work in Denmark event with Kay for your school, company, or professional organization.






Want to read more? Try the How to Live in Denmark book, available in paperback or eBook editions, and in English, Chinese, and Arabic. If you represent a company or organization, you can also book Kay Xander Mellish to stage a How to Live in Denmark event tailored for you, including the popular How to Live in Denmark Game Show. Kay stages occasional free public events too. Follow our How to Live in Denmark Facebook page to keep informed.

Image mashup copyright Kay Xander Mellish 2021

Previous Post Next Post

You Might Also Like


  • Avatar
    Reply LC September 21, 2014 at 9:12 pm

    Thanks for the great pod casts.
    Unfortunately, I have had many Danes bum cigarettes off of me and stop by my apartment unannounced.
    My faux pas—– I have learned to keep any comments about daycare or child raising to myself 😀

  • Avatar
    Reply Kamihack September 22, 2014 at 6:10 pm

    Thanks for including table and dinner etiquette as part of this week’s podcast 🙂


  • Avatar
    Reply Emily September 23, 2014 at 11:22 pm

    If Danish people are so “polite” by putting the divider for the next one in a line, why is it so hard for them to put a divider for a person in front of them? It is a big mystery! 🙂

  • Avatar
    Reply Judy September 24, 2014 at 2:19 am

    I lived in DK for several years. Even if you take the same bus, train to work with the same people for 50 years, for the love of God, do NOT make eye contact and never smile and say hello. Not if you do not now them personally.

  • Avatar
    Reply Oznur Kocaman September 24, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    I am living i denmark for 5 years. I can not communicate with people from different country Latin America, England Italy , USA Irak.. Men danish people is hard to be friend. If you are foreing it is so hard to find place..They are so close. I am not generalise them but I and my friend had many experience.

    • Avatar
      Reply Oznur Kocaman September 25, 2014 at 1:08 am

      Sorry there is a mistake in my comment. Actually I meant i can communicate with other people from different country..

  • Avatar
    Reply Vetro September 24, 2014 at 8:21 pm

    I’ve lived here for a little more than two years and I have managed to get to know one Dane on a personal level.
    My pet hate is that Danes almost never confirm receipt of emails, even if one specifically asks them to do so.

  • Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.