5 rules for surviving socially in Denmark

While BBB is still a little young to pay too much attention to rules I do accept that she will have a greater chance of being socially accepted if her ‘crazy’ foreign Mother learns to blend into Danish social situations.  So at the suggestion of the Dane I’ve put together a list of 5 suggested social rules for embracing the Danish ways.  

Rule #1:       If you’re invited for Coffee (Kaffe) put aside 5 hours in your diary

Danes love coffee and have their own coffee culture built around this.  So if you’re invited to coffee in Denmark it most likely will be at home and not a cafe.  It’s more about the ‘hyggen’ of the coffee – that is the occasion, the gathering around with good friends and family and enjoying each others company and having good conversation.  A flat white costs nearer NZ$10 than NZ$5 in a Danish cafe, but that aside the Danes I think would probably still prefer to hang around the kitchen table and drink bottomless cups of coffee.   So great is the love for coffee that buying gumboot (English Breakfast) tea involves almost as much hunting as Talcum Powder (Baby Pudder).

Most importantly if you are invited for coffee in Denmark it will never be just an hour.  It’s more likely to be three hours, sometimes five.  Which of course by then it is time for the next course.  Lunch, Dinner, Midnight snack etc. This can lead to meal confusion but generally it’s best to just go with the flow & clear your diary.  And to keep your coffee warm?  You'll need a thermal coffee pot.

How to keep coffee warm for 5 hours

How to keep coffee warm for 5 hours

Rule #2:       Shake, shake, shake

When arriving at a social gathering you will be expected to go around the room shaking everybody’s hand and introducing yourself.  Literally.  Every.  Single. Person.  A Kiwi ‘Gidday’ , eyebrow raise or smile will not cut it and you’ll be likely marked as odd.

Rule #3:       Afternoon coffee most likely will include dinner

Refer point one.

Rule #4:       Be on time. 

If you’re invited somewhere you had better be on time.  Right on time.  Baby or no baby.  So it’s best to make like a Swiss Train and be where you're supposed to be when you said you would be.  I’m pretty good with my own timekeeping however even I’m finding the pressure of this one to be a challenge.  I haven’t quite worked out the best approach just yet.   To walk fast (I'm not allowed to drive in Denmark) or to go early and hover by the doorbell waiting for the agreed time.

Rule #5.       Chocolate on bread is socially acceptable for all ages

This rule is the best of all.  In Denmark you get to have chocolate on bread.  Little kids and big kids.  Chocolate is produced in thin sheets and is designed just to go on bread.  It is a staple (or at least a staple treat) in Danish homes. 

If invited for morning coffee (refer point 1) it will most likely include fresh bread and a few toppings.  Cheese and chocolate being the top two.  Genius.  I don't think New Zealand was thinking big enough when it created ‘Fairy Bread’

Even the Olympians eat chocolate on bread!

Even the Olympians eat chocolate on bread!

A couple of other interesting rules:

1.        Every house, apartment, home in Denmark must display the name of the residents on the door or letterbox.  Great when you forget your neighbours names.  Or in my case only mildly useful as I struggle to know how to pronounce written names.   I’m sure it doesn’t mean anything, but of interest is that my name comes before the Great Dane on our front door. Nice.

Every house or apartment in Denmark must show the names of who is living there.

Every house or apartment in Denmark must show the names of who is living there.

2.       It’s compulsory to wash yourself completely (sans swimming costume) including your hair before swimming in a public pool.  I tried to break the rule and was made to wear a shower cap on BBB’s recent Danish swimming excursion. #mummyfail

3.       When the sun shines in Denmark buy koldskål and get outside immediately.