Ten signs you’ve been in Denmark too long

Admit it, you do 'Danish' things you never thought you would. Take a look at our list and if more than a few of them ring true with you, then you just may have been here too long.

Ten signs you've been in Denmark too long
Sitting outside at a café in cold weather is one of the Danish traits that didn't make our list. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

There is no set time for when it happens, but sooner or later certain Danish traits are bound to rub off on even the heartiest of foreign residents.

From what you eat and how you speak to where you shop, living in Denmark for an extended time can change you.

1. You mix Danish into your mother tongue

When you drop 'altså' into the middle of an English sentence for the first time, the signs are there.

You might then begin answering ‘Jo, jo’ in the affirmative to one of your non-Danish friends’ questions, or start doing that weird sucking-in-air-while-saying-ja thing that the Danes do. By the time you start saying 'Tak for mad' to your mother when she cooks you a homecoming dinner, you'll probably have been in Denmark too long.

READ ALSO: Seven Danish words that are tough to translate into English

“Tak for mad.” Photo: icsnaps/Depositphotos

2. When you go back home, you’re annoyed that you have to drive

After living in Denmark with its vaunted cycling culture and expansive public transport networks, it’s easy to forget that getting around in other places isn’t always as easy. This is particularly hard on Americans who on trips home have to trade in the freedom of their iron horse for the steel prison of the automobile.

Photo: Sarah Christine Nørgaard/Ritzau Scanpix

3. You do multi-stop shopping

Do you do the bulk of your shopping at Netto but then swing by Irma for some organic goods, Kvickly for the beer selection, the local butcher for a choice cut of meat, and then Føtex for the American peanut butter you can’t find anywhere else? Congratulations, you shop like a Dane. Bonus points if you scour all the circulars and plan your shopping route by what’s on special offer this week.

Photo: Mads Joakim Rimer Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

4. You scoff at bottle openers

Now that you’ve purchased those various beers, you need a bottle opener, right? Pssh, not if you’re like a Dane. Lighters, another bottle of beer, tabletops, even teeth are amongst the many instruments used to pop open your beer ‘Danish style’. A true litmus test amongst expats.

Photo: Nils Meilvang/Ritzau Scanpix

5. You stop jaywalking

Many an expat has ridiculed the Danes for their habit of waiting for a green light to cross the street, even when there is not a vehicle in sight. If you find yourself doing this too, you may have been in Denmark too long.

Photo: Nils Meilvang/Ritzau Scanpix

6. You adopt Danish pride

OK, you probably won’t root for them if they face your home country, but gradually you will find yourself proudly cheering on the Danes in international competitions like the Olympics, Women's Euros or Eurovision Song Contest. When back home or in a third country, this feeling of Danish belonging becomes even more prominent.

Photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix

7. You forget about the after-work drink

Back home, you wouldn’t have thought twice about offering or accepting a spontaneous offer to grab a drink after work. But after extended time working with Danes, you’ll know that they’re more inclined to head straight home when the working day ends (which is usually quite early). After a while, you will stop asking and then the day will come when you are shocked – shocked, I say! – when someone dares to invite you for a spur-of-the-moment drink.

READ ALSO: OPINION: Why do Danish leaders seem rude?

Straight home from work. Photo: Linda Kastrup/Ritzau Scanpix

8. You join the rugbrød cult

Danes love rugbrød, the hearty rye bread that is a staple in lunch packs and the basis for the famous open-faced sandwiches, smørrebrød. Resistance is futile and eventually you too will opt for rugbrød. You’ll find yourself topping it with potato salad or paté and beetroots. And when you go back home home, you'll suffer a case of rye bread withdrawal.

Photo: Sofie Mathiassen/Ritzau Scanpix

9. You turn off the subtitles

Television is a helpful tool for learning a new language. Upon arrival in Denmark, most newcomers are unlikely to make any sense out of what they are hearing, but after some time – and language courses – things start to make sense.

Before you know it, you’ll be enjoying Denmark’s world-famous shows in their native language with the help of Danish subtitles, and will eventually be able to turn off the texts altogether. At that point, why not try going next level: watch The Bridge and try to understand what on earth the Swedish characters are saying.

READ ALSO: Danish: Is it really so hard to learn?

The cast of hit Swedish-Danish TV series The Bridge. Photo: Sarah Christine Nørgaard/Ritzau Scanpix

10. You feel affection for the royal family

Did you shed a tear when Prince Henrik passed away earlier this year? Consider the Queen's New Year speech an essential annual tradition? Won't hear a bad word about Crown Princess Mary — and not just because, like you, she's a foreigner?

Denmark's diverse foreign residents hail from both republics and other consitutional monarchies like Denmark. But if there's one thing most can agree on, it's the agreeable Danish royals.

Queen Margrethe and Crown Princess Mary. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

A previous version of this article was originally published on July 4th, 2014.

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Expat stories: How I made my closest Danish friend

Many foreigners living in Denmark struggle to make friends with born-and-bred Danes. We spoke to five who have successfully made the connection.

Expat stories: How I made my closest Danish friend
Fernando Secca (right) and her Danish friend Marie Peschardt (left). Photo: Private

Fernanda Secca from Brazil and her Danish friend Marie Peschardt 

When 32-year-old Fernanda moved to Copenhagen at the start of 2017, one of the first things she did was find a place to do pole-dancing, which had been her hobby back in São Paulo. Marie Peschardt, 29, was her teacher, and before long they soon realised they got on well.

“Coming to class a few times a week made us create a bond that was eventually taken to a personal relationship,” she remembers. “We now do everything together. We hang out several times a week. We go travelling together, we have dinner, we go to bars, we go dancing.” 

The two still train together at the dance studio. 

Fernando Secca (right) and her Danish friend Marie Peschardt (left). Photo: Private 

“I think the friendship was possible because we were both open to meeting new people and building connections,” Fernanda says, adding that she doesn’t think Danes are particularly difficult to become friends with.

“There is no secret. Danes are not aliens. I think finding something in common that you can bond around or relate to helps in the beginning, because people are more likely to respond to that than a random request or small talk.” 

“Also taking a chance, inviting a person you feel could be interesting for a coffee or a drink, can be something spontaneous or quick. Some Danes might even appreciate being spontaneous because no one here really is.” 
On the other hand, it is important for those from more free-wheeling countries to understand that Danes like to plan ahead, she adds. 
“Appreciate that they have their schedules and bookings weeks in advance and you might need to fit into that type of style as well if you want to build a connection.” 
Marcele Rask and her Danish friends Jasmine and Carina
Marcele Rask, 36, a manager at Danske Bank specialising in financial crime and sanctions, met her Danish friends Jasmine and Carina at her previous job because they all worked in the same department. She said the three of them shared a similar appetite for adventure. 
“One thing that connected us three a lot is the fact that we are all very curious and like to try new things. So we programme ‘adventure days’  where we go somewhere new, or that we like or something and spend some hours there or even the day,” she says. “It doesn’t have to be fancy, or crazy or anything, but something nice to know.” 
She said they tend to do this about once or twice a month, either two of them, or all three together.
“Just after Denmark started to open from the lockdown, we went to a Gavnø slot for their tulip festival, and afterwards we went to eat MacDonald’s by the harbour.” 
She says that both Jasmine and Carina are quite internationally-minded, which she feels made them more open to making friends with a foreigner. 
“Jasmin lived some years abroad and was an expat herself. Carina has worked on international companies and is used to the expats’ life, having herself another great expat friend,” she says. 
She said they now spoke a mixture of English and Danish together, but were speaking Danish more and more as her command of the language improved. She said she felt her own openness had helped her make Danish friends. 
“I think one thing that it is very important to be as an expat is open — open for anything and everything — and not just to sit around bitching about the country, the language, the food, and everything else.” 
Ashley Norval and her Danish friend Mia Garner 
Ashley, 31, met Mia, 28 almost as soon as she arrived in Copenhagen a year ago from Australia and the two were paired together for a group session during her university course. They have hung out together ever since. 
“I hear from her two or three times a week usually, and we do all kinds of stuff together,” she says. “We’ve travelled together, we catch up for dinner, we go to the movies, or just go to each other’s place. Sometimes we go walking or running, sometimes we just go and get an ice cream and sit in the park.” 
Ashley Norval (right) and Mia Garner at the Gisselfeld Klosters Forest Tower south of Copenhagen. Photo: Private
Ashley believes that many foreigners think, often mistakenly, that the Danish reluctance to impose themselves on others means they are not open to making new friends. 
“I think Danish people genuinely don’t want to encroach on your personal space and territory and I’m convinced that once you kind of invite them to something and show them that it’s fine, and that you do want to see them outside of your professional space or whatever, then it’s fine.”
She said that foreigners in Denmark needed to realise that they might have to make the move, and suggest going to see a film or get a meal. 
“If you make the effort to get to know any part of Danish culture, that is always well received with Danish people,” she adds, although she concedes that Danes might view Australians more favourably than people from many other countries. 
Camila Witt and her Danish friend Emilie Møllenbach
Camila, 36, met Emilie over the coffee machine when they were both working for a Danish payments company, but bonded over their academic interests. “Emilie and I had a I have a very strong academic background, so we just started to talk about different theories: physics, science and this kind of thing. And we connected over that and I think that the relationship grew from that.” 
They go for walks together, make chocolate together, go for dinner, or a cup of tea at a café. 
“Nothing really fancy, to be fair, just being each in each other’s companies and I think that both her and I share this perspective that we like we were there for each other and not to be on our phones.” 
Camila believes a lot of foreigners wrongly think that when Danes say they’re busy or booked up, that that means they aren’t open to a friendship. 
“Danes require more planning. I think that something we need to understand if we come from countries where you’re used to spontaneously say ‘let’ go out tonight, let’s go out after work and just have a beer’. 
“It’s really important to you know, proactively invite them and not take them saying, ‘I don’t have time this week’ as them shutting you off because in all honesty, many times they are booked. So it’s about finding that slot of time. It can happen in three weeks, but it will happen you know.”