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Hygge 

We have to cover it, right? The elusive and alluring Danish concept of hygge…

Google translate will tell you it means “fun”, “cosiness” or “comfort”, but you can’t really grasp the idea until you have experienced it.

Hygge is both hanging out with friends, cosying up on your own, being outside in the summer or inside by candlelight in the winter.

Try asking your Danish classmates to explain it, and you will get at least 5 different ideas about what hygge can be.

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Meeting the Danes

Danes. They’re everywhere and yet they can seem like an elusive rarity in your life as an international student.

Naturally they are there physically, but how do you meet them? Let alone, how do you get to know or befriend them and maybe even (drumroll) date them?

It can seem like an insurmountable task, and maybe it’s easier to just hang out with the other international students and joke about the antisocial Danes, but if you want a local network as a student (the shortcut to jobs, housing and an all-around fun time in Denmark), befriending the Danes is a must.

Cultural differences:

First of all: The Danes aren’t antisocial or hate hanging out with international students such as your self. Yes, there are antisocial and dismissive people amongst us, but it’s not the rule. We just socialize and form friendships in slightly different ways compared to what you might be used to in your home country.

Denmark has been a culturally homogenous country for centuries, so your Danish classmates might not even realize that other cultures don’t do “friendships” and “hanging out” similar to how they do them.

In the same way, you might misinterpret the Danish behaviour as a lack of interest or as them being “weird”, because it’s different from what you’re used to.

Use the cultural differences to your advantage by being curious and interested in your fellow Danish students and talk about their culture compared to yours. Most people love to talk about their background and appreciate people who are genuinely interested.

Most Danes learn to form social bonds through school, hobbies, sport and work. This means that we’re in no way used to socializing with strangers, and many Danish students who haven’t developed friendships within those traditional categories also struggle with being lonely at times.

The ones who aren’t lonely might still be interested in new friends too, but they probably already have a fully packed life with old friends, family, jobs and hobbies, so they might not be as active in looking for new friends as you are, leaving you to believe that they aren’t interested in hanging out.

The thing you need to remember is, that even if your new Danish classmates don’t say so, they might be interested in getting to know you. You just have to approach them in the right way, and maybe take a bit more initiative than you’re used to doing in your home country.

Generally speaking, many expats will say that “Danes only talk/hang out with people they know”, which of course can become a problem if you’re interested in meeting new people and forming a network in a new city. However, there are ways around this and we will cover those as well as certain quirks of social interaction that are culturally typical for Danish students.

As with all people, regardless of culture, your fellow students have individual personalities, so unfortunately we can only offer tips and tricks, not a one-size-fits-all solution.

Humour

Another thing that you might find “weird” about your Danish friends could very well be their senses of humour.

The Danish humour is “dry”, sarcastic (irony is BIG here) and irreverent.

You can poke fun at all authority figures and are not expected to “spare” people in leadership positions or religious figureheads.

It is also very popular to be self-deprecating (often called selvironi) in your jokes.

Research shows that the Danes generally don’t have a problem looking foolish or laughing at their own mistakes.

The emphasis on “cringe-worthy” situations and stories might seem weird to you, but try to watch a Danish comedy show or Danish stand-up with subtitles to get an idea regarding what the Danes currently find funny.

Remember that it’s okay to not find Danish humour funny or to not participate in the joke telling, but try to not take the sarcastic and irreverent jokes too personally. They are rarely meant as an insult.