Danes are very easy-going and there aren’t many things that can ruin their peace; like every country, however, there are several unspoken rules for tourists to follow and respect. This article offers an introduction to Danish culture and 12 things not to do while visiting Scandinavia’s coolest country.
While walking around Denmark, tourists will notice locals patiently waiting for the green-traffic light before crossing the street. That may not feel weird unless it’s 4 am, it’s snowing, and there are no cars to be found in a foreseeable distance. Danes never jaywalk. It’s a lesson they are taught from an early age and make sure to remember later in life. After all, that’s why rules are for; to be followed. They know that they live in one of the best countries in the world and this is partly because everyone respects the rules. Plus, jaywalking can and will earn violators a fine of 700DKK (€94.12; $108). Want to avoid an extra expense and locals’ judgmental looks? Make sure to stand on the pavement until the green-traffic light comes on.
Don’t Ride a Bike Before Getting Familiar with the Rules
Exploring Denmark on a bike is undoubtedly the best way to discover the country’s hidden spots. Before riding the two-wheeled vehicle however, make sure to understand the norms. Due to their strong-biking culture, locals use their bikes from an early age and follow specific rules in order to avoid any mishaps. Copenhagen in particular is now facing a bike-traffic problem which means that thousands of bikes fill the city’s streets daily. Foreigners will often find themselves panicking while in a cycle lane among dozens of bikes. It’s a good idea to first practice on a smaller alley to get familiar with the hand signals before setting off for the traffic-heavy city center.
Don’t Drink and Bike-Ride
Another important rule concerning bike riding to keep in mind: riding a bike drunk can cost you 1500DKK (€201.69; $231). There isn’t a legal limit for alcohol intake, but if a policeman believes a rider is not sober enough to properly ride a bike, that person will not only get a fine but will have to leave their bicycle and walk home as well.
Don’t Assume Weed is Legal
Most travelers have already heard of Freetown Christiania and look forward to visit the famous-hippie district where open weed trade takes place. Keep in mind though, that possessing or smoking marijuana is illegal all over Denmark, including Christiania. Those planning to get a taste of Christiania’s goodies do so at their own risk, especially if they decide to take some with them after leaving the colorful neighborhood.
The Rules of Pusher Street
At the entrance of Freetown Christiania, visitors will see a sign with the district’s rules. Sometimes foreigners don’t notice it or just ignore it but pay close attention. The sign clearly stresses that running and taking photos on Pusher Street isn’t allowed because running causes panic and Christianites prefer to not have pictures taken of them. Take as much photos after passing Pusher Street, but at that little part of the district, it’s best to keep the camera in the bag.
Don’t Interact with Danes’ Dogs
Many have felt the need to stroke someone’s else’s dog that is just too cute to ignore and pass by. In most cases, the owner waits patiently and smiles before getting on their way. That’s hardly the case in Denmark. Danes prefer to be left alone unless they signal otherwise. Strangely enough, their dogs share the same look of disapproval when a stranger approaches them and starts petting them while cheerily asking ”who’s a good boy”? Even if the temptation hits to pet a fluffy dog, it’s better to just admire it from afar.
Don’t Take (Only) Flip-Flops to Denmark
While packing luggage for a summer trip, staples probably include t-shirts, flip-flops, sunglasses, and sunscreen lotion. When traveling to Denmark, make sure to add an extra sweater, a raincoat, and winter shoes no matter the time of year. Summer doesn’t always reach Denmark and even if it does, it may be for only a couple of days or merely hours. It’s best to be prepared than have to deal with the harsh-Scandinavian temperatures wearing summer clothes.
Trying out your Danish Skills
Even after learning some Danish words and phrases online, chances are that locals won’t understand a thing. Danish is a very tricky language, and Danes are well aware of that. Anyways, speaking in their language will still most likely get a reply in English from them. Doesn’t hurt to try though.
Drink Beer not Spirits
Those planning to have a crazy night-out hoping to end up a bit tipsy while sweating it out on some club’s dance floor, make sure to drink beer all night long because spirits in Denmark are expensive. A 3cl (around 1 fl oz) alcohol drink costs approximately 70DKK (€9.41; $10). That’s why locals never start their night without a proper pre-drinking gathering. Don’t want to break the bank, buy some drinks from a local supermarket, start the night at home or at one of Denmark’s beautiful parks, and stick to beer once at the bar or club.
Don’t Call Danes Vikings
While visiting a bodega and seeing large groups of Danes yelling skål! (cheers) at the top of their lungs and cheering while holding up large pines of beer, it’s not unreasonable that an image of a Viking feast will pop up in foreigners’ minds. However, even though Danes are proud of their fearless ancestors who conquered many countries in western and eastern Europe from the late 8th until the 11th century, they probably won’t appreciate being called Vikings. Find a better way to start the conversation.
Don’t you Dare Say Roskilde Isn’t the Best Festival in Europe
Taking place in late June, Roskilde is the country’s biggest and most-beloved festival. For seven days, the small town of Roskilde becomes the hottest-meeting place for music fans from all over the world. Naturally, Danes treat this occasion as a chance to party hard and drink even harder to the point where it becomes a mass obsession. There is little to no chance that the festival won’t pop up during a conversation with the locals; when it does, make sure to share their enthusiasm.
Resist the Urge to Peep
It’s an unspoken rule among Danes that privacy is to be respected at all times. That is probably why they rarely bother to close their windows or even hang curtains. While walking around in the streets of a Danish city, it’s likely to see floor-level buildings and houses that offer a clear view inside a bedroom or a living room. Most foreigners are tempted to sneak a peak inside to see what a typical-Danish house looks like. To avoid any misunderstandings, refrain from staring.
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