Culture Name



Identification. The name of the country means "Borderlands of the Danes" in reference to a political unit created during the sixth through ninth centuries. This period was marked by a slow progression of sovereignty among the Danes, a people who originated in Skaane (today the southern part of Sweden) but eventually were based in Jutland. By the ninth century the Danes had gained mastery of the area known today as Denmark and maintained control until the late medieval period, including parts of modern Sweden and Norway. In the late medieval period, Denmark was reduced in size to approximately the area of contemporary Denmark.

Denmark is a small nation whose cultural unity is mitigated by regional traditions of rural, urban, and island communities with distinctions based on local language, food, and history. This situation has sometimes created friction between local history and national history.

Denmark historically includes the former colonies Greenland and the Faroe Islands. Greenland gained home rule in 1979. In 1948, the Faroe Islands became a self-governing territory within the Danish state.

Location and Geography. The kingdom of Denmark, which is situated in Scandinavia and northern Europe, is surrounded by the North Sea, Skagerrak, Kattegat, and the Baltic Sea. The country covers approximately 16,634 square miles (43,095 square kilometers). Roughly eighty of its more than four hundred islands are inhabited. Jutland, Zealand, and Funen (Fyn) are the largest and most densely populated regions. There is a relative homogeneity in topography, with few areas at a high elevation. Since the sixteenth century, the capital has been Copenhagen, which is also the largest city.

Demography. The first census in 1769 counted a total of 797,584 people; by 1998, the total population was 5,294,860. Infant mortality, epidemics, war and emigration, better hygiene, food, and housing influenced population changes. The population increased from 2.5 to 5.3 million during the twentieth century, showing an interdependency between decline in population growth and industrialization, with the average number of children per woman decreasing from 4 to 1.5. Free abortion and sterilization rights since 1973 caused slower population growth, which in certain years was negative (1981 through 1984).

Immigration increased from 35,051 in 1988 to 50,105 in 1997. Immigrants from other Scandinavian and northern European countries account for most of the increases, but immigrants from southern Europe and the Middle East are the most noticed in public debate.

Linguistic Affiliation. Danish belongs to the Germanic family language within the Indo-European languages. Linguistic relatives are English, German, Swedish, Norwegian, and Icelandic, all of which descend from the ancient Teutonic language.

Danish is differentiated in individual, geographic, and social dialects. Language varies in terms of pitch, tonality, intonation, and pronunciation. Some dialects are mutually unintelligible. "Standard Danish" is one dialect among many.

There is no secondary language, but several languages, including English, German, French, Spanish, and Russian, are taught in schools. Most Danes can speak some English and German.

Many foreigners complain that Danish is difficult to learn because the same wording can have differing and even opposing meanings, depending on the intonation and context. Also, pronunciation does not necessarily follow spelling.

Symbolism. Markers of the national culture include the national flag (the Dannebrog), the national

anthem, public holidays, and hymns, songs, and ballads. According to myth, the national flag descended from the sky to the Danish army during a battle in Estonia in 1219 and was institutionalized as a national symbol in the seventeenth century. The flag—a horizontal white cross on a red field— symbolizes a membership community and a sense of belonging, marking an extensive number of social events. Danes use the flag at festive occasions, including birthdays, weddings, sports events, political meetings, and public holidays. Hymns, songs, and ballads provide metaphors associated with Danish nationality, the mother tongue, school, history, and homeland. The national anthem, "Der er et Yndigt Land" ("There Is a Lovely Land"), was written around 1820.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. Denmark is a constitutional monarchy and the oldest kingdom in Europe. According to historical sources it dates back to the ninth century, but myth dates it as far back as the sixth century. The recent history of the nation features an outward-looking people focused on trade, welfare, equality, and democracy, which in Danish means "people's government" ( folkestyre ). Fundamental values include a striving for freedom and equality, accomplished after battling for years with neighboring countries in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. After centuries of sovereign rule by the king, the first common constitution was completed and signed in 1849, initiating a government with an assembly consisting of a lower house ( Folketing ) and upper house ( Landsting ). The making of a common constitution was an important element in the nineteenth century's political emphasis on the formation of nationhood.

National Identity. Beer, allotment gardens, the flag, the national anthem, democracy, Christmas, folk high schools, personal well-being, and coziness are some of the elements of the national culture, but questions of how the cultural heritage can survive and what it is emphasize the fact that Denmark is a nation of cultural borrowers. Danes constantly negotiate and change their culture in response to contact with people and items from other countries. However, for many people, the national identity lies in the Danish language.

Danes rarely refer to Danishness, a term used for the first time in 1836, but that term has been a hotly debated topic since the increase of immigration in the 1960s and Denmark's affiliation with the European Union (EU) in 1972. Much political and public debate on elements of nationality, sympathies, feeling, and patriotism occurred in the late twentieth century. Many Danes seem to have a strong national identification, although differences exist and a "Danish community" may be more imagined than real in regard to culture and traditions.

Ethnic Relations. Denmark once was considered an open and welcoming country to foreigners, but tensions between native residents and immigrants arose during the last decades of the twentieth century, culminating in the establishment of political parties whose platforms called for the exclusion of inhabitants of foreign ethnicity from social services and other forms of public support. Immigrants of the second and third generations tend to be doubly socialized, displaying competence in Danish values in public and in the native language at home.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

Within a span of one-hundred fifty years, Denmark changed from an agricultural to an industrialized society. In the late nineteenth century, two-thirds of the population lived in rural areas and engaged in agriculture; today, only 15 percent live in rural areas, and many of those people have city jobs.

After the "green wave" of the 1980s, many city dwellers moved to the countryside, hoping to return to nature. However, many returned to urban areas after years of unfulfilled dreams. The long winters; long commutes to work, shopping, and entertainment; and the prevalence of gossip in local rural cultures were unpleasant for people who were accustomed to city life.

In cities, people hope to escape the restraints of social control in rural communities and seek conveniences such as better shopping, entertainment, and job opportunities. Migration to urban areas is common in the pursuit of education, and many young people from the provinces remain in the cities after graduation.

Architecture is marked by a division between the ideals of Denmark as a "fairy-tale country" and as a modern, industrialized one. The first image is characterized by traditional small houses with small windows, low ceilings, straw roofs, and gardens with flowers and vegetables. Even the castles are small and more "cute" than "grandiose." The modern ideal is marked by houses with slender lines and large glass windows or walls, very little outside decoration, and the use of bricks, tile, and ferroconcrete. Common to both architectural traditions is the fact that there are very few tall buildings. Apart from a few buildings from the 1960s in the largest cities, it is unusual to see buildings with more than five floors. Family houses often have one floor, usually with a garden.

Towns and cities are characterized by a center area with older houses (some several centuries old) and a periphery with newer houses, divided into business and residential areas. Village size is from five to one thousand houses, and many villages have been enlarged by new residential areas.

The government is situated in a royal castle built by Christian IV in the seventeenth century in central Copenhagen, symbolizing a harmonious relationship between the government and the royal family. The royal castle and the many statues of kings and politicians in the city support this symbolic harmony.

Even large cities such as Odense, shown here, retain traditional architecture and streetscapes.
Even large cities such as Odense, shown here, retain traditional architecture and streetscapes.

Anthropologists have noted a sharp distinction between public and private space and a pronounced preference for the private and domestic sphere in Danish culture. In urban public space, people stand close to one another in buses, subways, parks, and streets, but pretend that they do not see each other. The symbolic demarcation of closed groups such as friends and spectators is clear, with a tendency to form closed circles. An intrusion by strangers often causes offense and creates an even stricter demarcation. In rural areas, people are more likely to connect across public space, greeting and talking about the weather.

Private houses commonly are divided into areas for cooking, dining, and television-viewing and preferably have a private room for each family member. Private homes are considered spaces to "relax" and "be yourself"; many foreigners find it difficult to be invited to the home of a Dane. Usually only family members and close friends have this privilege, experiencing the coziness of a social event celebrated by sitting down, lighting candles, and eating and drinking. Colleagues, sympathetic foreigners, and more distant friends preferably are met only in public (workplace, bar, café, museum).

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. Danes eat most of their meals at home and in private settings, although public dining places ranging from small hot dog stands to fancy restaurants are available and are used.

A breakfast of coffee, bread, or cereal is eaten at home. Sunday breakfast commonly includes fresh bakery bread, boiled eggs, juice, tea or coffee, and the Sunday newspaper.

Lunch at a work place, school, or institution is either homemade or available in kitchens or canteens, offering open sandwiches, hot meals, or a buffet table. It also may be bought at butcher shops, cafes, and sandwich bars. Open sandwiches are traditional, consisting of rye bread with salami, liver pâté, herring, roast pork, fried plaice, cod roe, cheese, chocolate, or fruit. Dinner at home traditionally consisted of an appetizer, a main course, and dessert. Soup, porridge and fish dishes were served but today are rarely eaten on a daily basis. A main course is traditionally composed of boiled potatoes, boiled vegetables such as green beans and cauliflower, and fried meat such as meat balls, cutlets, or roast pork served with brown gravy. Pizza, pasta, rice, chicken, and turkey have become common food items among young people. Imported fruit, vegetables, and spices are also common.

Inns often dating back several centuries throughout the country offer traditional Danish food. Pizzerias are found in small towns and cities. In larger cities, there are Chinese, Italian, and Greek restaurants, along with fast-food establishments from America, the Middle East, and South America and restaurants that serve Danish open sandwiches ( smørrebrød ) and pastry. Food taboos include pet animals such as cats, dogs, and horses. The ecological movement and informed consumers have been mutually dependent since the 1970s. The demand for and production of organically grown foods have grown, and most supermarkets offer a range of organically grown vegetables, meat, and dairy products.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Danes eat or drink at every social occasion, preferably traditional dishes, cakes, and drinks. However, the act of drinking and eating together is considered more important than what is actually consumed. Formal social occasions include birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, baptisms, confirmations, graduations, and funerals. Private parties held in community centers or restaurants are common. Hosts spend from one to six months' salary on a formal party for rent, food, drinks, and musicians.

Holidays with special meals include New Year's Eve, Easter, Martin Mass, and Christmas. New Year's Eve traditionally is celebrated with boiled cod, Easter with elaborate lunches and roast lamb for dinner, and Martin Mass with roast goose. The traditional Christmas Eve dinner includes roast pork, roast duck, or goose stuffed with prunes, served with pickled red cabbage, white boiled potatoes, fried brown sugared potatoes, and thick brown gravy. Desserts include rice porridge and ris a la mande (rice porridge mixed with whipped cream, almonds, and vanilla and served with hot cherry sauce). At Christmas and Easter, special seasoned beers are sold. Christmas is celebrated by eating a traditional extravagant lunch and dinner that bring the family together.

Basic Economy. Natural resources are limited to agricultural land, clay, stone, chalk, lime, peat, and lignite. The economy is therefore heavily dependent on international trade. Farming accounts for two-thirds of the total land area, and agriculture produces enough edible products for three times the population. Industrial exports account for about 75 percent of total exports, while the share of agricultural exports is about 15 percent.

Land Tenure and Property. Most farmers are freeholders, 91 percent of them on individually owned family-run farms, 7 percent on company-run farms, and the rest on farms owned by the state, local authorities, or foundations. Private family houses typically are fenced off to delineate private property, or an invisible line between the garden and the pavement may indicate the border between private and public property. Neighbors discuss which parts outside their homes should be cleared for snow and which parts should be taken care of by municipal services.

Commercial Activities. The major goods produced include foods and beverages, textiles, paper, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, glass, ceramics, bricks, cement, concrete, marine engines, compressors, agriculture and forestry machinery, computers, electric motors, radio and communication equipment, ships, boats, furniture, and toys. Agricultural products include beef, pork, poultry, milk, and eggs.

Major Industries. The main industries are food processing, furniture, diesel engines, and electrical products. Major agricultural products include dairy products, pork, beef, and barley. Commercial fishing includes salmon, herring, cod, plaice, crustaceans and mollusks, mackerel, sprat, eel, lobster, shrimp, and prawns.

Trade. Major commodity groups sold on the international market include animal products (cattle, beef and veal, pigs and pork, poultry, butter, cheese, and eggs), vegetable products (grains, seeds, fruit, flowers, plants, and vegetables), ships, fish, fur, fuel, lubricating goods, and electricity. The major industrial exports are machines and instruments, medicinal and pharmaceutical products, chemical items, industrially prepared agricultural products, fish, crayfish and mollusks, furniture, textiles, and clothing. Imports, which lag slightly behind exports, include automobiles, fuel, consumer goods (food, clothing, electronics, and others), and goods to be further processed at local industries. The major trading partners are Germany, Sweden, Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, the United States, Japan, and Italy.

Division of Labor. The division of labor is determined by gender, industry and socioeconomic status. Although agricultural products constitute a major proportion of exports, only 4 percent of the population is employed in agriculture, which has become highly industrialized and machine-driven. Close to 25 percent of the population is employed in

Two-thirds of Denmark's land and nearly 25 percent of its population are devoted to agriculture.
Two-thirds of Denmark's land and nearly 25 percent of its population are devoted to agriculture.
trade, a similar number in industry, and more than 40 percent in other service.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. Most national surveys dealing with social strata do not divide the population into different income groups. Instead, the population is categorized into five social layers, according to level of education and occupation.

Those social categories are academics, owners of large farms, and persons with more than fifty employees (4 percent); farmers with at least four employees, owners of companies with more than six employees, and college-educated business owners (7 percent); farmers with a maximum of three employees, owners of small companies, and persons with jobs requiring expertise (21 percent); skilled workers, small landowners, and workers with a professional education (37 percent); and workers without skills training (32 percent).

In the adult population, there has been an increase in unemployed people who receive public support from 6 percent in 1960 to 25 percent today. Increasing demands for skills in reading, writing, mathematics, computers, and stress management are among the factors that have caused this development. Unemployment rates are somewhat higher among ethnic minorities, with persons of Turkish descent having the highest rate.

Figures from 1996 show inequality in income distribution: Twenty percent of the lowest-income families accounted for 6 percent of total income, while 20 percent of the highest-income families accounted for 40 percent of the income.

Symbols of Social Stratification. According to a code of morality (the "Jante Law") which was formulated by the author Aksel Sandemose in his 1933 novel A Refugee Crosses His Tracks, a person should not display superiority materially or otherwise. Wealth and high social position are downplayed in public in regard to dress, jewelry, and housing. The point is to be discreet about individual distinction and avoid public boasting while allowing one's wealth to be recognized by persons in a similar economic position.

Political Life

Government. Denmark is a constitutional monarchy in which succession to the throne is hereditary and the ruling monarch must be a member of the national church. The parliament has 179 members, including two from Greenland and two from the Faroe Islands. Members of parliament are elected for four-year terms, but the state minister has the right to dissolve the parliament and force an election. The voting age has been eighteen since 1978. Since 1989, immigrants without Danish nationality have been allowed to vote and be elected in local elections. The minimum percentage of votes required for representation in the parliament is 2 percent.

Leadership and Political Officials. The first political groupings appeared in 1848, shortly before the first constitution was promulgated, and consisted of liberals (farmers), the center (intellectuals), and the right (landowners and higher officials).

Party policy is based on political principles and working programs; the former include fundamental political ideas, while the programs are action-oriented. Currently, ten political parties are represented in the parliament, ranging from socialist to conservative to liberal. Representatives to parliament are elected in local areas and thus represent their home localities as well as a political party.

Liberal parties traditionally strive for individual freedom, including freedom of thought, belief, speech, expression, individual choice, and ownership, and attempt to strengthen the rights of the individual citizen in relation to the state. Conservatives stress individual freedom, choice, and responsibility and attempt to protect the national culture and tradition. Modern conservatism includes confidence in the individual, an open and critical outlook, tolerance, and a free market economy, combined with a commitment to social security. Social Democrats favor a welfare society based on freedom, equal opportunity, equality, dignity, solidarity, cultural freedom and diversity, ecology, and democracy. Socialist parties seek a society based on political, social, and cultural diversity; ecological sustainability; social security; equal opportunity; responsibility for the weak; individual freedom; self-realization; active work for peace and disarmament; and a commitment to end global inequality. The Christian People's Party favors a democracy based on Christian ethical values, focused on individual freedom, social responsibility and security, the family, and medical ethics. For this party, a Christian view of human nature forms the basis for equal human value regardless of race, sex, age, abilities, culture, and religion.

Social Problems and Control. Executive power lies with the monarch, while legislative power is based in the parliament. In executive matters, the monarch exercises authority through government ministers. Judicial power lies with the courts of justice. The most common crimes are offenses against property, offenses against special laws in some municipalities, crimes of violence, and sexual offenses.

The police force consists of approximately 10,000 officers, who work at police stations located in local communities. Traditionally, Danish police have been known for their easy-going manner and "gentle" approach to difficult situations, relying more on dialogue and communication than on brute force. After years of becoming more centralized and distanced from the Danish people, there is now a trend in policing that involves forming new, smaller police stations in more towns and cities. In this new environment, officers are moving out of their cars and walking the streets, gaining closer contact with the people.

In criminal cases, those over the age of 15 may be punished by the courts. Those between 15 and 18 are held in special youth prisons that provide social training. Those above the age of 18 are imprisoned in one of the country's 14 state prisons. Due to a lack of prison space, convicted criminals sometimes wait for up to two years before they are actually imprisoned.

Military Activity. Since World War II, Denmark has been a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and it participated in NATO's actions in the Balkan crisis in the 1990s, particularly in Bosnia and Kosovo. Denmark also contributes to the United Nations peace forces in the Middle East and other areas. In 1993, the population voted not to join in the development of a common EU military force.

The military is staffed through a system of compulsory enrollment. The term of service, depending on one's duties, ranges from four to twelve months. Full mobilization in the defense forces involves fifty-eight thousand soldiers, while in the absence of war the number is only fifteen thousand. The defense forces include the navy, air force, home guard, and national rescue corps. The defense budget in 1997 was under 2 percent of the gross national product.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

All residents receive social support when they are unemployed, either through union insurance or locally run programs. Idled workers receive compensation that is equal to slightly less than the lowest

Egeskov Castle is a well-preserved example of Renaissance architecture in Denmark.
Egeskov Castle is a well-preserved example of Renaissance architecture in Denmark.
wages paid for regular, full-time employment, and they are also guaranteed housing, food, and other basic necessities. After six months of unemployment, an individual meets with an officer from the local unemployment office to formulate a specific strategy for getting a new job. That strategy can include training, further education, or a government job that is supported by the local community in which the person lives.

Public and private programs to aid disabled individuals are found in every major town and city. Food and shelter are always provided, and sometimes disabled persons are placed with a type of foster family.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

Danes pursue common interests in leisure, sports, and politics. Associations are essentially nongovernmental, originating in the late nineteenth century, when farmers and workers formed interest groups. Today Denmark has one of the highest proportions of association membership in the world. More than 90 percent of the population belongs to an organization, and more than 73 percent of the people have multiple memberships in more than three hundred thousand organizations.

Organizations and associations play three important roles. First, they have been able to develop common interests and identities among different groups of people. Second, practical improvements in the form of production, increases in salary, and membership discounts have been achieved. Third, organizations participate in the political struggle for the distribution of values and goods in society.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. Denmark has the highest percentage of women in the labor market in Europe, with close to 80 percent of women being employed. Since the 1980s, the country has had a public policy of equality of men and women in regard to wages and working conditions, yet men are more likely to get top positions and in general earn higher wages than women. Persistent beliefs associate women with the family and men with work. These practices are enforced by employers who encourage single women and married men to pursue careers.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. Since 1924 there have been women in the government, and the representation of women in politics has grown significantly. Today nine of twenty ministers are women. However, state ministers have always been men. The Equal Status Council was founded in 1974 and closed in 2000, when a new equal status law was issued.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Individuals are free to choose their marriage partners. Many people cohabit at a young age. Polygyny and polyandry are not allowed, and it is forbidden to marry close family and kin members. Since the late 1980s, homosexuals have had the right to register their partnerships with the local city council. People marry for love, but convenience and economic gains may be equally important. Parents who are not married may wed to give legal security to their children in case of sudden or accidental death.

Forty percent of the adult population is married, 45 percent is unmarried, 7 percent is divorced, and 7 percent is widowed. Divorce typically involves separation followed by a legal procedure.

Domestic Unit. The ideal household unit consists of a married couple and their children who are below age twenty. However, more than 50 percent of households have only one adult (single, divorced with children, or widowed). Extended families living together are rare. Young people usually leave the parental home in their late teens. Previously children stayed in the same town or municipality as their parents, but today families are dispersed across the country. Some people choose to live in shared houses on the basis of similarities in age or ideology or for practical purposes such as ecological farming. A number of collective forms of housing for the elderly have emerged.

Inheritance. For many centuries, men and women have had equal inheritance rights. If one member of a couple dies, the other partner inherits all the possessions of the deceased. If both partners die, their children inherit equal shares of their possessions. There are also special circumstances such as wills, separate estates, joint property, and divided or undivided possession of an estate.

Traditionally, the oldest son inherited the farm or the position as head of the family company after the death of the father. However, the son in this case has to compensate his mother and siblings economically. This tradition extends to the royal family, where the title of king traditionally has been passed from father to oldest son. Because King Frederik IX had no sons, the constitution was changed in 1953 to make it legal for his oldest daughter to inherit the throne.

Kin Groups. Family relations are traced back equally both matrilineally and patrilineally, and active kin groups often extend to the great-grandparents. Rural residents often hold "cousin-parties" ( fætter-kusine-fester ) that are attended by up to 90 people.


Infant Care. Three to six months of maternal leave is a legal right, but the mother may share the last three months of that leave with the father. Infants generally are breast-fed until the end of the period of maternal leave. Traditionally, the mother was the primary caregiver, but recently the father and other family members have been recognized as equally important in raising infants. Because Denmark has one of the highest rates of women in the labor market, most infants above six months of age spend the mother's working hours in public nurseries or private child care.

Some Danes, such as these hunters near Alborg, enjoy outdoor leisure activities.
Some Danes, such as these hunters near Alborg, enjoy outdoor leisure activities.

Infant care has been much debated, resulting in great variations in regard to ideas about how much an infant should be carried around, whether it should sleep alone or with the parents, whether parents should attend to a baby every time it cries, and how to manage infants who cry during the night. The overall tendency is that younger parents recognize the individual rights and needs of an infant more than older people do.

Child Rearing and Education. Most children enter kindergarten at age three, and many continue school attendance until their early teens. In 1997, more than 80 percent of three- to six-year-olds attended some kind of day care institution. The pedagogy practiced in nursery schools, kindergartens, and after-school centers is not research-based but is informed by changing ideologies of what children are like and what they need. An ideology of "self-management" is practiced in many institutions, leaving it up to the children to decide what they want to do and how, where, and when to do it.

In the ideal family, the mother and father share authority, including their children in decision making. In pedagogical circles, the term "negotiation-families" is used to illustrate this situation. Most children are materially well taken care of, with nourishing food, regular supplies of new clothes and toys, and a private room in the family house. Some people argue that working parents compensate for their absence by giving their children toys, videos, and computers.

Higher Education. There are five universities: the University of Copenhagen, the University of Southern Denmark, the University of Aarhus, Aalborg University, and Roskilde University Center. In 1996, 167,764 students were enrolled in those institutions: 93,544 women and 74,220 men. All children in Denmark are obligated to complete nine years of school, either at private or public institutions. After they have fulfilled that requirement, 50 percent of the students choose a trade by entering vocational training, which includes an apprenticeship and formal schooling. Thirty percent select a one- to three-year college training program, which prepares them for teaching, nursing, or other professional occupations. The remaining 20 percent enter university. Nearly two-thirds of graduating students apply for university, but the majority are not admitted; those who are turned down either reapply the next year or select one of the vocational or college options. Admission has become increasingly competitive, based on grade point averages. All higher education is free of charge.

Crowds of tourists and Copenhagen residents mingle along the Stroget, a mile-long pedestrian street along the harbor.
Crowds of tourists and Copenhagen residents mingle along the Stroget, a mile-long pedestrian street along the harbor.


Privacy is a primary value in Danish etiquette. One is not supposed to invite oneself into another person's house or look into other people's land, property, and salary. Danes show few emotions publicly, as the open expression of feelings is considered a sign of weakness. Unless provoked, Danes avoid getting into an argument, and they dislike being interrupted during a conversation.

Informality is considered a virtue. However, informality in social interaction makes it difficult to enter new social circles. At dinner parties, meetings, and conferences, there are no formal introductions, leaving it up to people to initiate interaction.


Religious Beliefs. Religious freedom is consonant with international standards on the right to freedom of religion. Eighty-six percent of the population belongs to the Evangelical Lutheran Church, which has for centuries been supported by the state and is considered the national church. Numerous other Christian communities exist, including the Catholic Church, the Danish Baptist Church, and the Pentecostal Movement. Other world religions represented in the country are Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, the Baha'i faith, and Sikhism. Recently, religious groups celebrating old Viking gods have emerged.

Religious Practitioners. The majority religion is Christianity, and at birth all Danes are considered to belong to the national church, with an obligation to pay church taxes as part of the income tax.

Since the fifteenth century priests have been educated in a university, and ministers in the national church are officials under the Minister of Ecclesiastical Affairs. The official duties of religious leaders include performing church ceremonies for local members of the national church and keeping a register of births, marriages, and deaths. Many religious practitioners participate in worldly affairs as social workers or advocate for the underprivileged in public debates.

Rituals and Holy Places. Churches are situated within and outside villages, towns, and cities and are surrounded by churchyards with cemeteries. In a Lutheran service, there is a minister, a cantor, a servant, and an organist. Members attend ritual events such as baptisms, confirmations, wedding ceremonies, and funerals and major religious events such as Christmas and Easter. Only a minority of people attend services regularly, and on weekdays churches are virtually empty.

Death and the Afterlife. Danes are not great believers in God; therefore, practices concerning death, the deceased, funerals, and the afterlife are handled in a rational and practical manner.

Dead persons are buried in coffins on the grounds of a church or are cremated and have their ashes buried in the graveyard. Graves are decorated with a gravestone with the deceased's name, dates, and greetings and are surrounded by greenery and flowers. After twenty years the grave is neglected unless family members pay for its care. Generally, religious practitioners are available to support the surviving relatives and talk about life, death, and the afterlife. Neoreligious communities have emerged in which people are guided to the other side to communicate with deceased family members and kin.

Medicine and Health Care

Since 1973, a tax-financed health care system has provided free access to health care throughout the life span within a national system. Treatment for inclusion in this system must adhere to theories and practices based on the sciences of medicine and psychology utilized by organized practitioners trained at accredited colleges and universities.

Most children are born in hospitals. Health visitors give families support for infant care and development. All children are offered an extensive vaccination program and medical examinations on a regular basis (at least once a year) until they leave school.

Fee-for-service health care is available from alternative practitioners and private hospitals. Alternative medicines such as homeopathy, reflexology, acupuncture, massage, diet therapy, and healing have been popular since the 1960s. Alternative explanatory models adhere to notions of holism and energy as important factors in disease and healing, aiming at indirect disease elimination. Alternative medicines have been well received by the population, with 20 percent of the population seeking alternative treatments in the 1980s and more than 30 percent in the 1990s.

In the 1990s, a number of private hospitals offering orthodox medical services and staffed with medical doctors, nurses, and other biomedical professions were established. Limited resources for national health care that caused long waiting lists led to the establishment of private hospitals offering treatments such as hip surgery and bypass operations.

Medical professionals increasingly stress the individual's responsibility for health through changes in lifestyle and personal habits. Smoking, alcohol abuse, poor dietary patterns, and lack of physical exercise are considered the main causes of disease. In surveys of lay perceptions of health and disease, the focus has been on notions of the importance of varied eating patterns, fresh air, regular exercise, a positive mood, and good social relations.

Secular Celebrations

Among the traditional secular celebrations is "Shrovetide" ( fastelavn ), which is held in February and features children dressed in fancy costumes going from house to house singing songs and begging for money, candy, or even buns. The "1st of May Celebrations" were originally intended to celebrate the formation of workers' unions, but they have evolved into public parties with demonstrations, speeches, music, and drinking. "Saint Hans" is a midsummer celebration held on June 23 that features singing, speeches, and a traditional bonfire at which a doll symbolizing a witch is burned. Besides these national celebrations, farmers and other rural residents regularly hold harvest parties in August and September to celebrate crops that have been brought in from the fields.

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. Artists may join a union from which they receive insurance against unemployment. In this system of employment security, artists must produce input in the form of work, and many artists take menial jobs to maintain their union status. During their training, artists may receive subsidies through the State Education Grant and Loan scheme. A few artists are awarded a civil list pension on the basis of merit and talent. A few excellent artists are fully self-supporting.

Literature. Danish literature was initiated by the historian Saxo Grammaticus, who wrote about Danish history up to the end of the twelfth century, including Scandinavian mythology, with its traditional stories of gods and legendary heroes. Since that time, Denmark has had a long history of poetry and literature, with Hans Christian Andersen and Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen) being among the most famous writers.

Graphic Arts. There is an extended culture of painting, sculpture, textiles, and pottery. Those subjects are part of the school curriculum and are taught in leisure time courses. Many of the islands are known for their artifacts. Bornholm produces pottery, sculpture, and glass. Artifacts are exhibited at museums and art exhibitions attended by school children, university students, and tourists. Professional artists known outside Denmark include the sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770–1844) and the contemporary painter Per Kirkeby.

Performance Arts. Music and dance from Europe have been dominant, but genres from Africa and South America have become popular. The Royal Danish Music Conservatory was founded in 1867, and the Rhythmic Music Conservatory was founded in 1986. Conservatories are for those with special talents and ambitions, while many other schools are open to a wider range of people. Danish cinema has been awarded many international prizes.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

University life dates back to the fifteenth century, with theology, medicine, and law as the first areas of study. The terminal degree was for centuries the magistergraden , which was between a master's and a doctoral degree. Recently this degree has been replaced by the kandidatgraden , which is equivalent to a master's degree. Theology was the first social science degree awarded. Major social sciences today are economics, political science, anthropology, and sociology.

The physical sciences are well established. The Technical University of Denmark was founded in 1829 and today is a leading international institution, training construction, chemical, computer, and mechanical engineers. However, young Danes tend to choose humanistic or social science studies over the natural sciences.

Universities are public and are run by the state, as are the Ministry of Research and a number of research councils that fund basic and applied research. Much technical research is applied, supported by public and private authorities, and much natural science research is funded by private companies and foundations. The Danish Technological Institute and the Academy for Technical Sciences are important in technology and information services.


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Web Sites

Danish National Encyclopedia, Danmarks Nationalleksikon:

Denmark, a publication by The Royal Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

Ministry of Culture, Kulturministeriet:

Ministry of the Interior, Indenrigsministeriet:

Ministry of Social Affairs, Socialministeriet:

Ministry of Trade and Industry, Erhvervsministeriet:

Women in Government:


Also read article about Denmark from Wikipedia

User Contributions:

Support for the Arts. Artists may join a union from which they receive insurance against unemployment. In this system of employment security, artists must produce input in the form of work, and many artists take menial jobs to maintain their union status. During their training, artists may receive subsidies through the State Education Grant and Loan scheme. A few artists are awarded a civil list pension on the basis of merit and talent. A few excellent artists are fully self-supporting.

Literature. Danish literature was initiated by the historian Saxo Grammaticus, who wrote about Danish history up to the end of the twelfth century, including Scandinavian mythology, with its traditional stories of gods and legendary heroes. Since that time, Denmark has had a long history of poetry and literature, with Hans Christian Andersen and Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen) being among the most famous writers.

Graphic Arts. There is an extended culture of painting, sculpture, textiles, and pottery. Those subjects are part of the school curriculum and are taught in leisure time courses. Many of the islands are known for their artifacts. Bornholm produces pottery, sculpture, and glass. Artifacts are exhibited at museums and art exhibitions attended by school children, university students, and tourists. Professional artists known outside Denmark include the sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770–1844) and the contemporary painter Per Kirkeby.

Performance Arts. Music and dance from Europe have been dominant, but genres from Africa and South America have become popular. The Royal Danish Music Conservatory was founded in 1867, and the Rhythmic Music Conservatory was founded in 1986. Conservatories are for those with special talents and ambitions, while many other schools are open to a wider range of people. Danish cinema has been awarded many international prizes.
Connie Olsen
While interesting from an historical perspective, insight into modern Danish cuture feels dated as the most recent source is from 2000. So much has happened globally in the last 9 years, is Denmark still so socially stratified and limited regarding gender advancement in the workplace and government?
Anders Dastrup
As a dane, I found this interesting. There is one error in the paragraph called 'religous practitioners' however. Danes are NOT assumed to be members of the state church at birth. Every member of the state church is babtized. Everyone is REGISTERED by the state church at birth, but that doesn't make them members of the church. Only members pay the church tax, and all members have ben babtized.
At birth an infant has to be registered at the local church (historical reasons). However only after being babtized does the child become a member of the church. This is actually chapter one, paragraph one in the 'Lov om medlemskab af folkekirken, kirkelig betjening og sognebåndsløsning' or 'law of membership in the folkekirke (state church), church services and dissolvement of the parish bond'(my translation) of 1991.
Hope that clears that up.

Best regards.

Anders Dastrup
this is a very helpful article! thanks! this was very educational
great article, helped me a lot to understand their habits and culture!
I am Danish and I think this article is very imforming!
this web site was a wonderful help for my power point
Please note my forthcoming book (June 10) An Introduction to Danish Culture, published by McFarland, USA.It details Denmark’s substantial contributions to science, engineering, exploration, seafaring, liter ature, philosophy, music, architecture, and many other fields. Brief portraits depict well-known Danes, including "Clown Prince of Denmark" Victor Borge, Hans Christian Andersen, Kierkegaard, and Out of Africa author Karen Blixen. Throughout, Denmark’s outstanding human rights record, democratic institutions, and humanistic traditions are clear. By illuminating Danish culture and clarifying misperceptions, this work fosters a greater appreciation of Denmark, its people, and their way of life.
My grandparents were born and raised in Denmark, from the Robdreyr area Odum family, then they went to America with their brother. I am seeking traditions, information and any assistance would be greatly appreciated.
Am doing an assignment on Denmark and need some answers. The assignment is the aspects of the culture and some of the questions are about: What is the customs of Denmark? What type of clothing is worn in Denmark and What are some information on Gender relationships
I am doing a paper on Babettes Feast and wanted to get a back ground of Denmark, can you help me with how the women gender were treated as a norm back in the 1800's??
Why is DTU not considered to be a university in DK?
this is really great i got to know more learn about denmark as a country and also about their culture.its really awesome.
Ugh i need traditional clothes for a school project but i cant find a picture any where ugh i hate the internet
THIS WAS AN awesome article i'm glad i got to read it and it helped me a lot thank u folks keep up the good work
Do you have anything about Danish clothing? It would help alot.
What are some unique Danish Foods?

I am doing a project for English, and I would like to make these foods ! Thank you. :)
This is a very interesting site, and it is especially nice to have the statements confirmed in these comments by those who are Denmark's citizens. Thank you for a job well done!
My great-grandpa was Danish. His birthday is this Wednesday and I thought it would be fun to learn more about his birth country to teach my children as we talk about him. Thank you for such great in-depth information!
Very informative article. Today my family is getting together with friends from Denmark that we have not seen in 30 years. Now I have some background info.
the information is really good!!! I like it !! But if there is more information about the danish culture like funeral it will be great!! :)
very good article for get information about Denmark. I would like to live in there in my future.
Not bad, as a Dane myself, I can agree with most of it, although as somebody else pointed out. Alot of this info is rather old now. Like the political landscape.

A few remarks to this though..

The current PM is a female.
When a child is born, the mother gets 4 weeks off, the dad 2 weeks, then they get a shared 32 weeks, which they can split in any way they like, this has allowed for an increase in dad's, taking time off work to care for their new born's. (or working part time from home).

Plenty of research has shown over the last 10 years, that there is equal salary between men and women in Denmark and the only reasons why men in general receive a higher salary per month, is because of the jobs they are in, or because they have the jobs that incorporate a "bonus" each month.
anthonyjoy rebanal
i prefer to learn about the Danes culture,language,clothing,behavior and beliefs for i believe that one day i would be able to visit even just for once.and this article gave me lot of information about Danes...thanks
supatra minsch
Thanks for information, I shall read more before I visit next summer..
this was the only website that gave me helpful information on my research projact. Thanks!
Betty Kirschbaum
I am looking for guidance on what would be the appropiate actions to take at the passing of my boss's sister. His Parents and sister reside in Denmark and I would like to send my condonences to the family. Cards are difficult as English is not spoken.
Who wrote this article? I'd like to cite it for a presentation/paper thank you.
Tracy Brandsted Rhoades
This information was wonderful regarding my native homeland. I am required to do a research paper on culture. I chose Danish for obvious reasons. Thank you for being so thorough.
This was a very helpful document. My paper will get a good grade for sure.
Each time I learn something new about the Nordic countries, I grow to love them more and more!

Pat poulsen
I thought this was a very informative article . I am trying to find out were my grandfather came from in Denmark he passed when I was young so I don't know much about him except his name was helmar Poulsen. Some day I will come visit!!!
Keren Dizon
What are their cultural outfits? I have to look for 3 outfits of Denmark!
I need to know more about the clothing but the document is very useful...
Feel free to email me in regard to questions about Denmark as I'm a dane with a great interest in the culture of Denmark as seen by forigners.
I was searching for information on a senior's residence in Nykobing which I learned about while sailing through the Limfjord in 1969 and this site came up in my searches. I found the information on Denmark and its population most illuminating and quite comprehensive, overall. Thank you for providing this site; I shall keep it bookmarked for further reference.
Do we know if Interracial marriages or relationships are allowed or interest Danish guys?
Do they open up quickly or take few months?
I an researching my great,great grandmother who in 1800's was a lady in waiting for the queen of Denmark.Her name was Mrs. Nils Frederick Jensen (Maren).is there someone who could assist me. Thank you.
Anne Healy
Loved this article! easy to read and demonstrated a relaxed openness I enjoyed. I am researching the NGO structure in Denmark...origin and culture of same. There is so little information. Hope you can help.
Cheers, Anne
This site helped me a little giving me some of the answers i needed. Im very glad i found this information. I would like to recommend this site to some friends of mine. Thank you very much
kylie coder
i would like you to have more information about denmarks social structure
I saw a post mentioning your site on one forum asking something about buying email lists.

I would personally recommend that you consider using a Yellow Pages scraper such as Ivy's B2B Leads Miner Yellow Pages Scraper.

I cannot find the link but you can google it.

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Anyway mate, I hope this helps.

Take care and best of luck with your business!
Marilyn E Petersen
My grandparents on both sides of my father's family. They immigrated in the 1800's with the Mormon migration. I spent many summers in Utah visiting all my aunts and uncles. They were all dairy famers. These were my father's brothers born as second generation. They were the warmest most welcoming people that you could ever find. Hugs first, food on the table second and loving visiting while I played with my cousins. They were all from Denmark.
To go back, my great grandmother came first and my grandfather came later with his family. My great grandfather died on the Mormon trail and my great grandmother just sat down on the road and with faith in God knew that someone would come by and save her. And another Dane came by in his wagon injured and picked them up and she walked the rest of the way to Utah with her baby and later married him. This is the kind of people they are!

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