Essential phrases and customs to survive the Danish winter

It’s a dark and chilly season, with the celebrations of Christmas and New Year well behind us but a large chunk of the winter still ahead.

Essential phrases and customs to survive the Danish winter
Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

With today’s snow on Blue Monday only serving as a reminder that it’s cold outside, here are our top phrases and cultural tips to help you get through the Danish winter.

Jeg fryser!

If you’re new to Denmark and still getting to grips with the language, it’s worth bearing in mind that expressions relating to temperature are a little different from English.

Where you would be likely to say ‘I’m cold’ in English, the literal Danish translation of this, ‘jeg er kold’, makes little sense and will probably be understood to mean that you are saying you are emotionally cold. So it’s better to stick to the more emphatic ‘jeg fryser’ – ‘I’m freezing’ – which is probably more apt anyway, given the chilly winters.

Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix


Common colloquial terms for cold weather draw, for some strange reason, on toilet humour: you can say it is ‘skidekoldt’ (‘shit-cold’) or ‘pissekoldt’ (piss-cold). Easy to remember if you want to complain about the sub-zero temperature, but perhaps less poetic than the English ‘freezing brass monkeys’.


Glatis is the Danish word for the type of ice commonly found on paths, by kerbstones and on outside steps in freezing conditions. Similar to the English ‘black ice’, it is easy to miss and even easier to slip on.

It is also used in the expression ‘på glatis’ – to be in an uncertain situation.

Photo:Liselotte Sabroe/Scanpix 2018

Using wintry ways of expression is all well and good, but much can also be learned from the methods employed by well-practised Danes to survive the cold months.

Forget about looking good

While Danes are famed for their sense of style, there’s also little reluctance to drop fashion and pile on the practical layers when the cold weather calls.

Waterproof and padded trousers, base layers, sturdy boots, woollen hats and thick gloves are all additions to your look that you won’t regret. Maybe you can find space for a flourish with a stylish scarf, as many Danes seem to be able to do.

Keep cycling

It might be tempting to lock your bike away and take the bus, metro or light rail, depending on where you are in the country. But most people don’t actually do this, even on days when a head-on snowfall provides a stinging rebuke as you pedal forwards. Perhaps this is because travelling by bicycle is so firmly established in the Danish mindset that it is not affected by the season.

In any case, bracing the outside by getting on your bike – with the aforementioned waterproof and cold weather gear and taking precautions for glatis – can help to keep you both warm and fit during winter.

Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

Use candles and coffee

Candles help with the deficient light and temperature, and coffee helps keep you warm and awake. There’s a sense of well-being and protection from the worst of the elements to be had from settling down at home or at a café and keeping out of the cold for a bit.

Remember it’s not forever

Sometimes the Danish winter can feel neverending – the cold persists well into March and in fact, some of the most biting days can seem to come right at the end of the season. This is exactly what happened last year, before a long, hot, glorious summer finally set in. The moral of the story? Summer is (eventually) coming!

Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

READ ALSO: Danish freeze set to continue this week, but more snow unlikely


How much will it snow in Denmark this weekend?

Winter weather arrived in spectacular fashion to coincide with the beginning of December this week. The weekend could bring more snow to parts of the country but probably less disruption than recent days.

Parts of Denmark have seen heavy snow in early December.
Parts of Denmark have seen heavy snow in early December. Photo: Bo Amstrup/Ritzau Scanpix

Recent snowstorms disrupted North Jutland in particular and Denmark in general, and more cold weather can be expected this weekend albeit severe, according to forecasts.

“We won’t see the Ragnarok-like weather we’ve seen in some places recently again this weekend, but it’s now winter weather and it has also snowed in several places overnight,” said meteorologist Frank Nielsen of the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI).

READ ALSO: IN PICTURES: Early December blizzards disrupt Denmark

Cold weather on Friday and a low front across the North Sea will bring clouds and precipitation across Denmark from the west, Nielsen said.

That will materialise as cold rain or sleet in many areas but probably snow in North Jutland, he said.

“There could be between five and ten centimetres of snow north of the Limfjord,” the meteorologist said, referring to the waterway that cuts across the northern part of Jutland, including main regional city Aalborg.

“In the southern part of the country, an equivalent five to ten centimetres of rain could fall,” he added.

Friday’s temperature will be between freezing point and five degrees Celsius, with the north of the country falling in to the lower end of that range and the south the warmer end.

Mist and fog is forecast this evening, caused by various weather fronts moving over Denmark.

That could still be felt on Saturday morning, though it is likely to be a little warmer at 2-6 degrees Celsius. Mild winds could make that fell chiller, but snow is unlikely.

Sunday will see the temperature drop again, to 0-4 degrees Celsisu. Snow is possible, particularly on eastern coasts.

Strong winds in the east of the country and along the coasts will result in a “rather cold 24 hours,” Nielsen said.

Nighttime temperatures are expected to drop below zero throughout the weekend. Motorists are therefore warned to be alert to icy road surfaces.