Danish and English differences

I grew up in Denmark, but have lived in London since April 2007. Although I by now feel very much at home here, and very used to the English way of life, there are still differences that spring to mind. Obviously there are the major differences, such as politics etc., but I have for long been wanting to make a list over the more everyday differences I have noticed since I came here. Get ready for stereotyping (with a smile).

 1. Breakfast

This one is probably pretty obvious. The national English fry up is still a struggle for me. I mean, sausages, baked beans, eggs and -horror of horrors- mushrooms, at the crack of dawn. Yikes. If I’ve been up for a few hours I can perhaps deal with it, but on a much smaller scale than any proper Englishman. I don’t think I will ever learn it. The reason for this might be that I pretty much grew up on cold porridge with sugar and raisins. In Denmark kids are told that it will make them grow “big and strong”, just as rye-bread will. A typical cafe-brunch in Denmark would probably consist of yoghurt with muesli, scrambled eggs, bacon and fresh fruit. Slightly English inspired after all, but not quite as hardcore. I do know that most English won’t have a fry-up every morning, but I have a feeling that eggs are a must for many English. A traditionally Danish breakfast will involve a shot of sticky brown alcohol called ‘Gammel Dansk’ (Old Danish). Cheers!

A typical Danish cafe-brunch (source: http://passionsforfashion.blogspot.co.uk/2010/03/garsdagens-brunch.html)

2. Silence

If you counted all the words a mediocre Dane say in a day, and compare them to how many words an English (or possibly any other given european country to be honest) say in a day, I reckon the dane will only speak about half the amount of the English. Danes generally don’t say anything unless they actually have something important to say. We are good at talking about the weather though, just like the English, but that is about as far as small-talk will go. After that we just stand there and wait for the next important thing we want to say. The Danish philosophy seems to be that if you don’t have anything to say, why talk? If we do find ourselves being caught in awkward silence (Mostly only around people we have just met), a small ‘Mmmmm’ as conversation filler will be sufficient.

3. ‘Please’ and ‘Excuse me’

-Is not really existing in the Danish language. Since I’ve come to England I find myself feeling extremely rude whenever I go to Denmark, as there is no Danish word for please. So, if a Dane go to a shop and wants to buy a bottle of wine, the sentence would be “Can I have a bottle of wine?” and not “Can I have a bottle of wine, please?”. I realise this might make us seem rude, but we’re not really. We are just missing a word. ‘Excuse me’ is used slightly more, but it is not one of our preferred phrases, as it seems to be for the English (at least Londoners).

4. Going out

In England, as far as I know, going out mostly mean going to the pub or a bar. sometimes straight after work, or perhaps after dinner. Quite early, meaning that the English can also leave quite early and be home and to bed at a reasonable time (preferably catching the last tube around midnight). In Denmark, the night will often start with a ‘warm-up’ party. Meaning ‘get as drunk as possible, to save money once you go out’. Considering that a pint of beer can reach £6 in Denmark in some nightclubs, this seems reasonable. If you can find a pub in Denmark, it will often be used by locals and regulars only, and the regular dane won’t go there. If they want a drink earlier in the evening the choice is often a cafe-bar sorta place. Nightclubs (of which some are branded ‘pubs’ normally don’t open until 11pm, and they won’t be busy until 1am. On the other hand they probably won’t close until 7am, when the hardcore party goers will go to ‘morning-bars’ where you can get a drink while having breakfast before going home to bed while the sun is coming up.

5. Hotdogs

Okay, this one is random, but it must be mentioned. An English hotdog normally consists of bread, a sausage and soft fried onions. The end. A Danish hotdog consists of bread, sausage, ketchup mustard, remoulade, fresh onions, crispy fried onions and pickles in a neat line on the top. Needless to say I was pretty disappointed when I had my first english hotdog. The place they are sold varies too. English hotdogs are mostly (In London anyway) sold at small street stalls. Danish hotdogs are sold on the street too, but from a so-called ‘sausage-wagon’. Yup. It’s like a small trailer that can be moved around, and where the ‘sausage-man’ (that’s what we call them in Danish, freely translated) can stand inside and serve his customers.

Danish style ‘poelsevogn’ (source: http://www.photo-gallery.dk/oversigt/arbejdsmiljoeer/arbejdsmiljoeer/image/poelsevogn-24.jpg)

One thing English and Danes do have in common though, is the belief that if our respective countries didn’t exist…. the world would probably collapse.


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