In America, people tend to forget about many of the smaller European countries. The ones that seem to be recognized the most are only remembered because of their royal families. A major country in this type of situation is a place known as Denmark, but if one digs deeper in their research, they will learn there is much more behind those crowns than money and jewels.
Denmark has a small population of 5,564,219 (2011). This is, of course, compared to America’s population of over 300 million. The entire country is only 43.098 kilometers (about 7,000 square miles smaller than West Virginia). Its capital is Copenhagen, which is also its largest city. The majority of the ethnic distribution of Denmark are danes while the immigrants and their decedents constitute just under 600,000 of the population.
The monarchy prefers the danes, although it cannot be enforced, to practice Protestant religious beliefs. Ninety percent of them claim to do so. Head of state, Queen Margrethe II, was accepted to the throne after her father died on the throne on the 14th of January in 1972; however, the head of government, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, was just appointed in October of last year. Despite the new addition of the office, it is still agreed that the religious views will stay the same.
Education in Denmark is slightly different that Americans are used to. First of all, danes start out receiving their “basic education” during pre-school, primary school, and lower-secondary school. One would graduate from this level at the age of 16. From their, the student should decide whether or not to further their education. In upper-secondary school, the students are expected to choose between trade school or going to what is similar to high school but includes a major. This lasts for 3 years. Afterwards, they can continue on to a University if desired. Just as in the United States, this does cost money.
The monetary system used in Danish culture is quite different than America’s as well as the lingo. Their bank is known as a bank, but that is about it. They call money “penge”, and their account is known as a konto. Things get quite complicated. Danes do possess debit cards just as American’s do though, also known as “dankort”. The taxes are quite high, making the prices of the goods high as well. There is a 25% tax, or skat, on everything in Denmark. The name of their national tax is the VAT or “moms”.
If one lives in Denmark as a visitor, and they plan on leaving, all taxes paid in the last 3 months of their stay can be reimbursed. To do so, one has to follow certain rules. First of all, the goods must be transported outside Europe within 3 months of purchase. Secondly, They have to cost at lease 300 DKK, $53.30. Lastly, one must take the purchases when one leaves the country, or have them shipped from the UK. There is another issue as well. The shop which them gets to decide whether or not the customer gets to receive the taxes back. If they decide against it, then the customer is just out of luck.
The Danish are not a very humble group when it comes to foreigners. There are strict “unwritten rules” to Danish society. Visitors say that there are nice Danes, but they will quickly correct you when you do something that they do not approve of. Danes will not pay attention for a second if one cannot speak fluent Danish. Foreigners are looked at as uneducated and dumb if they cannot understand this complicated language. Even if a Dane is nice, they will not hesitate to ask another to learn to speak Danish.
Danes are not people who cross work and home. At work, they are in strict business mode. When the clock hits five o’clock, it is time to pick up the kids, but they do not typically linger with co-workers after work. In the workplace, the managers seem to be quite young compared to other countries such as Paris and Japan, where all of the managers are typically over the age of sixty. The managers themselves make sure that all workplaces do not work over 37 hours. For example, if one stays for overtime at work, then they will be presented with time off on the next day to make up that time with their family.
The Danish do not appreciate it when anyone messes with their food. When at a buffet, they will quickly correct you if you do not make your toppings right on your bread. Just as everything else in Danish society, food is a traditional art form in which every meal is eaten at home, except for lunch. For breakfast, they eat rye or white bread with jam or cheese with coffee to drink while lunch is almost always at a restaurant. Lunch consists of cold items, usually buttered, rye bread topped with sliced sausage, boiled eggs, or liver paste. (This does not sound particularly appetizing to me.) Dinner, or “middag” (meaning “middle of the day” because of when it used to be eaten), is a family meal. In the mid 20th century it consisted of two courses daily. The first being fruit soup or meat broth, and the second being a fish or mean entree always with a side of potatoes and gravy. On Sundays, the first course was swapped with a pudding.
Since the 1960s things have changed. The first course has been taken out on weekdays, but potatoes and gravy and minced meat are still quite popular. Tomatoes have started to come around, but are still not particularly enticing to a lot of people.
In the 1970s, a new tradition started. The annual food festival of Denmark is country wide. Everyone travels to Copenhagen to feast on a whole ox that is roasted in the middle of town for over 24 hours. It is the beginning of a 10 day feast. The first occurrence of this happened with Christian IV’s coronation, and it has been happening ever since. It cost 75 for travelers to eat, and that only includes the meat and bread. Wine and other delicacies are also provided for a cost.
Most religious holidays in Denmark are religious. Actually, all of them are. Just as Americans, they celebrate New Years and Easter, but theirs is a tad different. For the Danish, there is a whole week to celebrate Easter known as the “Holy Week”. The Wednesday of that week is known as Spy Wednesday because of the betrayal of Jesus and that Thursday is Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday. Easter Sunday and Monday are also celebrated. In May, they have a general day of prayer which is a collection of all of the major holidays in the Christian religion. Abcension day roles around on the 40th day of Easter.
The next holiday after that is known as Whit Sunday followed by Whit Monday. This is the Festival of Pentecost. It is the 7th Sunday after Easter on which The Holy Spirit blesses the deciples. Lastly, the Danes celebrate Christmas starting on Christmas Eve during the evening. This goes on until the 26th which is known as the second day of Christmas.
Stroget, in Denmark, is one of the longest shopping streets in the whole world. In the 1950’s cars began to get quite common in Denmark, so every year the country would close down this road to help traffic in some fashion. In 1962, they kept it closed even longer than usual trying to disguise it as an extension of the holiday, but they never reopened the street. Many individuals did not agree with this taking place until it hit off. Now it is one of the most popular places to go in the world, and it has made a lot of money holding some of Denmark’s top clothing brands and stores. Over the years the shopping area has expanded so much that it is about 100,000 square meters. Around 250,000 people visit Stroget every day in the summer, but the number lowers to about 120,000 a day during the winter.
Copenhagen’s Tivoli amusement park is one of biggest and popular in Europe. Actually, it is one of the oldest amusement parks in the world. Once Walt Disney visited Tivoli, and he was so exited with it that later he decided to make something similar. As the result he built famous Disneyland.
Many famous people come from Denmark, even if you don’t think of them on an every day basis. The creator of the sail-like opera house in Sydney, Australia was an architect from Denmark. The Lego was also created by a Dane. (Since 1932, more than 320 billion units of Lego bricks have been sold. Studies show that every human being in the world is the owner of about 56 lego bricks. ) Hanes Christian Andersen is a famous fairy tale writer from Denmark. His books have been translated into more languages than any other, except the Bible. Just recently, in 1989, Denmark became the first European country to legalize same-sex marriage. It now offers the same rights to homosexuals as heterosexuals.
Denmark is a very small country, but all the same, it has transformed the world that we live in today. What would life be without the Australian opera house and your childhood without legos? But needless to say, I love America, and I don’t plan on going anywhere else.