5 Amazing Facts about Denmark and the Danes

Diana Bernardo

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A few weeks ago, I visited Copenhagen, in Denmark. It was my first trip to a Northern European country, and it felt like entering a parallel universe. People are kind and respectful, everything is clean, the city is functional and well-integrated with nature, society seems to work properly.

Denmark is everything you ever heard about Scandinavia, but always thought was an exaggeration. It isn’t. They really are an advanced society. But one with some peculiar perks.

These are the most fascinating facts I learned on my trip about Denmark and its people, the charming Danes.

1. They leave their babies outside in the cold

The Danish winters often reach negative temperatures. Yet, parents think it’s a good idea to let their babies nap outside, in strollers, just so they can toughen up. Some sleep experts claim the fresh air can induce a deeper slumber, while also decreasing exposure to germs.

Not only do parents leave babies in the garden of their houses, but they also leave them outside in the middle of the city, while going for a hot drink in a coffee shop, for example.

This is not a strictly Danish practice, but also a tradition in other Scandinavian countries.

For those who fear the babies might get kidnapped, be reminded that Denmark is the 5th safest country in the world, so stealing babies is not really a thing there.

2. Prisoners can wander out of prison

As we said, crime in Denmark is relatively low. But even when someone ends up in jail, the whole experience is completely different than one would expect, for example, in the US.

Danish prisons privilege personal dignity above all else, so they strive to keep prisoners’ lives as humane as possible. Some of them, even let prisoners in and out. As this article puts it, “prisoners wear their own clothes, cook their own meals and have private family visits as often as once a week”.

Take the example of Storstrøm Prison, a top security facility located on an island, that looks more like a hotel. The en-suite cells have tall, barless windows and flat-screen TVs, the gardens were designed by a landscape architect, and the prison holds an impressive sports and culture center.

The result is a low rate of recidivism, at around 27%, opposed to 43% in the US.

3. They have no word for “please”

And yet, they are very polite.

I knew this before I arrived in Denmark, so when I met my Danish friend, I asked her “How do you say ‘please’ in Danish?”. She thought for a while and then looked at me: “we don’t”.

Instead, as she explained, the Danes will say something like “Will you be so kind to pass me the salt?” or “Pass me the salt? Thank you”.

Now, would you be so kind as to continue to the next point?

4. They like to be naked outside

I saw two dicks in Copenhagen. I didn’t intend to see any of them. They belonged to two guys coming out of the water in front of a food market. They were totally naked, came out, and dried themselves without worrying about covering their parts.

The Danes seem to have a healthy relationship with their bodies and don’t get shy in this regard too often. In fact, in one of their annual festivals, the Roskilde Festival, they even have a naked run, where participants run around the campsite completely naked. It became so popular that the festival was forced to create qualifiers for the male-run.

5. They bike everywhere

In the sunshine, or in the dreary Danish winter.

Nine out of ten Danes have a bike, and biking accounts for a quarter of all personal transportation in the country for distances under 5km.

There are bike lanes throughout the entire capital, and bike racks at every destination. This plays a major role in Copenhagen being the greenest city in the world.

What’s more, they bike like supermodels. Seriously, they don’t seem tired or sweaty. Instead, they keep their backs straight while cycling in fancy clothes on their fashionable bikes.

6. Gangs shoot enemies on their butts

This one might be more of an urban myth than an actual fact. One of my sister’s Danish colleagues told her about it but I couldn’t find any information to back it up, except for this isolated story. Still, I wish it would be true because it would be the perfect metaphor for the Danish culture.

Despite being a safe country, Denmark has some gang activity taking place, namely in Christiania, Copenhagen’s “free town”. But, polite and considerate as the Danish are, they don’t shoot to kill when they are involved in a gang rivalry. Instead, they shoot their enemies on their butts — a kinder way to say “hey, would you be so kind not to mess with me?”.

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Travel addict writing about the wonders of the world. Visited 30+ countries, lived in 4.

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