January 11, 2019

5 danish words to know before coming to Copenhagen

Language shape people. The Danes are no different. This is why we would like to give you a better understanding of who we are based on 5 useful and important words. We know the pronounciation is tricky, but we are positive you will get it right when you get here. We would sure love to help you when we show you around.

First word: “Hygge”

A unique Danish word, that is hard to translate, but we will give it our best try. Hygge is a feeling of contentment, comfort and safety, often used to describe socializing in a relaxed manner. It doesn’t have to do with comfy blankets or candles, it could just as well be meeting up with a friend for beer in one of our beautiful parks in the summer, taking the time to be present and having a laugh instead of worrying about the laundry waiting at home. Hygge is describes part of the Danish mentality, and maybe why we are one of the happiest people in the world.

Second word: “Velbekomme”

This is a good one to know for all, who love food. Velbekomme is an important word to know when dining with Danes. It is used in two different ways: When serving food to wish the eaters a good meal sort of our version of the French “bon appétit”. It can also be used after the meal when praising the chef and the meal. The eaters complement the food and the chef responds “velbekomme” as in you’re welcome.

Third word: “Skål”

Planning on drinking alcohol in Denmark? Then you have to know our word for cheers. Skål means bowl or skull, and the word is said to originate from the Vikings. The Vikings would drink out of the skulls of their enemies to intimidate their table companions. Today it is used for any drinking situation; at a casual dinner to acknowledge your company, the occasion or the host, or in the bars to celebrate, spark the sense of community or simply get the party and drinking started. Saying skål while raising your glass is one of the best icebreakers when meeting the Danes!

Fourth word: “Hej” and “hej hej”

These to words creates a lot of confusion. Learning how to greet the locals is important for most travelers, so we would love to teach you. It is both simple and complicated. We say hej (pronounced hi); one time when we greet people and two times when we say goodbye. That is the general rule, but the confusing part is that we tend to break it. It is all about intonation and body language. Our advice is to follow the rule and study the locals. Before you know it you will master the Danish dance of greetings!

Fifth word: “Tak”

Means thank you or please. A simple word, but we would love to give you a few insides about how the Danes use it, so you can understand the complex cultural landscape of pleasantries. Compared to many other countries we are quite cheap when it comes to using the word. But don’t be fooled! We are polite, we promise! Our language is just constructed a little different from e.g. English. It is more common for us in Danish to say “would you be kind/sweet” instead of “thank you” or “please”, and that sometimes gets lost in translation. So please give us the benefit of the doubt, if you find us being cheap with our tak’s. Look at our pretty smiles instead, and you will understand how we show our appreciation!

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