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10 things to know about Denmark

by Anne Pedersen 4 months ago in europe
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Moving to the United States, I never knew it would be such a struggle to explain where I am from. Considering the melting pot that the U.S.A is, I figured the majority of them would know a little about the geographics of Europe. Nope!


So here are a few things I have had to clear up over the last 5 years and some bonus information.

  • Is Denmark really one of the happiest places in the world? Well, we do have free healthcare, get paid a livable wage, and have 6 weeks of paid vacation every year. Not to mention maternity/paternity leave for 12 months. Getting paid to go to college. Solid infrastructure. Oh, and we have relatively low expectations of life and a lot of happy pills (antidepressants). We don’t get much sun during half of the year.
  • That being said, Denmark is not a socialist country. People do fall through the cracks in our welfare state, and we have poverty and homeless people too. I think where the difference is, is how we handle those things. Yes, we have people addicted to drugs, but we provide them with safe spaces to do so, which decreases the risk of ODs. Prostitution is not illegal; it’s a job. But pimping is illegal.
  • Denmark is, in fact, its own country. Small as it might be (5.8 million residents), we are our own nation. Sure it’s a peninsula growing like an appendix off of Germany and several islands so close to Sweden that we are landlocked by a bridge, but still sovereign. Technically it also includes Greenland and the Faroe Islands; however, most Danes consider them their own entities, as they are autonomous territories. Denmark has been a unified kingdom since the 8th century.
  • We also have our very own Queen. Margrethe II. In 2022 she has been on her throne for 50 years. One of only two reigning queens in the world, she is surpassed in the longest-running for her job by her relative, Queen Elisabeth II, who celebrates 70 years on her throne in 2022. Actually, Queen Margrethe can trace her lineage back to the Vikings, making Denmark the oldest Monarchy.
  • Dannebrog, the flag of Denmark, is the oldest continuously used national flag. It has looked the same since 1219. Since legend has it, it fell from the skies during a battle in Estonia and helped the crusaders win an almost lost battle at Lyndanisse. Like most things from that long ago, it might have been paraphrased to fit with the events.
  • Danish is the national language. Not Dutch. The Netherlands is, in fact, nowhere near Denmark. It’s on the other side of Germany. A lot of Americans get those two confused. Yes, Danish is a complex language to learn (because it’s a tiny country), but it helps to remember when you try to speak it, to ‘swallow’ the majority of your letters. Or pretend you have a hot potato in your mouth. Danes are taught Danish and English in Kindergarten, and they are taught German in 5th grade. In 8th grade, they can choose French or Spanish as an elective.
  • Danish people are not that into color. Black, brown, white, the occasional blue…. Very minimalistic. It doesn’t matter if it is furniture, paint or clothes. Except when it’s on houses in Nyhavn near Copenhagen (the capital). Lots of colors there.
  • Wooden clogs, windmills, and tulips. While we have all those things, those are not what Denmark is associated with. Again, that’s the Dutch people. We have more pigs than people, and one of our greatest exports is bacon.
  • Hans Christian Andersen, Tivoli (the world’s oldest amusement park), and Lego originated from Denmark. As well as many designers, musicians, artists, and other creative people.
  • Denmark has one of the most comprehensive sex education lessons globally, which includes information on safe sex, prevention against sexually transmitted infections, abortion, contraception, puberty, sexual relationships, family life, gender and sexuality, and diversity. Sex education lessons are mandatory in all public schools (4th and 7th grade) and cover other health issues, including drug use and alcohol. Denmark used to be a front runner on a lot of political issues regarding people’s right to decide over their bodies: Denmark was the first country to legalize same-sex relationships. This was in 1933. Porn was legalized in 1969. Since 1973 abortion has been legal until the end of the 12th week of gestation. If needed due to medical emergencies, the Abortion Council can grant abortion after 12 weeks.
  • I left out a lot of things, so maybe there’s material for another round or two of these. Perhaps I’ll compile a top 7 foods (spoiler: it probably all is pork-based, see #8), 10 places to see if you visit, or 5 things to avoid when in Denmark.


    About the author

    Anne Pedersen

    Freelance writer, confident notebook carrier, procaffinator, and all-round neurodiverse Danish viking word nerd living in the United States.

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