The Danish Mentality

You cannot accuse me of topicality. The following was put on a government website two years ago. The reason I’m coming so late to the party is that I was looking at my region’s resources for newbies, including a link to the below article. In Danish (Funnily enough, a lot of the links go to Danish language pages, what on earth?)

This is what they wrote on about The Danish Mentality (The link does not work, at the time of writing, maybe the site is down?)

It’s obviously mostly bollocks (how could you hope to encapsulate 5 million people’s mentality into such a small space?), but there is some truth hiding between the lines. Especially the bit about friends.

What happened to Jante, do you think?

Danish mentality

Informal tone 
Most Danes value equality, cosiness, individuality and democracy. Danes’ tone is informal in comparison with many other countries. Friends, family members and colleagues are addressed with the informal “you” and their first name. It is also normal to address managers by their first name. The informal tone is also found in the educational system, where students address their teachers by first name.

Discussion and debate are fundamental aspects of Dane’s upbringing, both in society and in families. This means that many Danes have a fundamental awareness that it is possible to speak up and have an influence. In the business world, you will find the democratic process and structures that characterise Denmark. Associations also have a social, informative and democratic influence.

Cosiness and humour
Cosiness is a very important part of what one could call the Danish mentality. It can be difficult to translate the Danish concept of “hygge” (cosiness), but you will quickly realise that it is closely related to feeling good about one another and that food and drink are often involved.

Humour is also a significant element, and for many Danes, humour involves a large serving of irony. It can be difficult to understand this irony to start out, but it is important to understand if you wish to understand Danes’ mentality.

Friends and acquaintances
In Denmark, friendships often develop after a long period of acquaintance, and Danes generally distinguish between friends and acquaintances. In their private lives as well as in associations, Danes surround themselves with a network that is developed over a long period of time. A relationship of trust must be established before a Dane will enter into an agreement with a new business partner.

Social individualism
In Denmark, importance is placed on everyone being equal and having equal rights without regard to social background and origin.

Thus, one could be led to believe that Danes are anti-individualists; however, this is far from the truth. As in most other European countries, Danes have a fundamental belief in the rights of the individual and career, housing, etc are selected based on individual needs. Entrepreneurship and initiative are prized and self-confidence is generally high among Danes.

This ability to combine individualism with a focus on the welfare of the group is what one observer dubbed “social individualism”.

8 thoughts on “The Danish Mentality

  1. There’s hygge and there’s racist hygge.

    A lot of people blamed me for generalizing the Danes and I’m probably guilty of that, but isn’t it amazing that a flock of 5 million could say the same thing and do the same thing. If I talk about my lunch experience at Danish workplace with other foreigners who are working in another Danish company, (s)he would nod and confirm that (s)he has the same experience with me. The same conversation, the same kind of lunch they eat and what’s worse, the same BS – about how immigrants are pesky and need to be kicked out, but they obviously don’t mean YOU.

    A friend of mine just told me about her dinner with her husband’s family the other day, somebody from the Danish family suggested that she should join a sports club to get (Danish) friends. That reminds me of one of your blog entries here. The only reason I don’t get that suggestion, ever, is because my Danish family aren’t into sports club thing.


    1. Yeah, it’s really really creepy that so many of my friends have exactly the same stories. My Mum was suggesting it was a “selection effect”, like people who are likely to spill to me are similar in temperament/experience. But it seems to be way more widespread. WTF.


  2. I have been reading a lot of the blogs here and find them both amusing and pretty damn realistic experiences of how things are in DK. I’ve also got a friend wanting to move from the UK to DK and have whole heartedly recommended him to these blogs, as quite frankly – I couldn’t put it all better myself. :)


    1. Yes, these blogs and the archives of FiD are essential reading … unfortunately FiD is pretty useless now, but the archives have a lot of valuable insights. Too bad about the trolls who took it down.


      1. Yes, the censoring mod had a lot to do with it … it’s now just as dead as the other “official” expat sites.


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