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Top 10 most surprising things about Denmark that you should know

I decided to write this post when one of my friend asked me “What surprised you most when you first came here?” As a Vietnamese girl who lived in Japan, Denmark is a whole new world for me. Denmark was the first European country that I visited. Let’s take a look at 10 most surprising things about Denmark in this post. It’s not only useful for those who want know more about this lovely country, but it’s also a good preparation if you have a chance to visit Denmark.

 

1.Toilet for both genders

If you are in Denmark, you can see a lot of toilets for both genders. Do not get shocked if a guy or girl just comes to the same toilet with you!

I was so surprised at the first time and thought that I came to a wrong toilet. I still remember the feeling when I heard some guys’ voice outside when I was in the toilet, and I was like “No way! How did I go to a wrong one?”, and hesitated to come out 😳.

I was really shy and embarrassed, so I actually stayed inside the toilet for a while, waited for them to go out but they were still there (Probably because they still had to go toilets 😂). Then I finally came outside, and that I knew that some toilets in Copenhagen are for both genders.

 

2. Hygge

“What is the most special thing about Denmark that you will show a foreigner?”, I asked my Danish friend.

“Hygge”, he answered.

I heard that hygge is one way that helps the Danes survive from the cold winter, and I think it may be true!

So what is Hygge? Hygge is a very special activity in Denmark. It can be defined as having good time with good people. If you walk around Copenhagen in the evening, you can see lots of people sitting together, having a cup of coffee or having a meal, with a small candle in between. As I heard,  too many candles for hygge caused health problems in Denmark 🙁 

Also, I was shocked when I heard that  it was common for Danes to leave their babies to nap in a stroller outside when moms “hygge” inside. OMG! How is it possible 😳? How can they leave the babies outside, even when it’s really cold and windy 😳?

I once asked my Danish friend about it, and he said “It’s really safe to do that, because they calculate the wind direction, and the baby will cry if bad things happens. Also, no one kidnaps children here. It costs a lot to raise a child”. It’s totally different from other countries that I’ve been to.

 

3. VAT

Denmark is one of the countries has highest tax in the world. The standard VAT in Denmark, or called as Danish VAT “MOMS” is 25%. Therefore, everything in Denmark is expensive compared to other countries. In my first day in Copenhagen, I was shocked when buying a small bottle of Coca Cola with 20 kr. It is more expensive if you buy it in Seven Eleven or Fotex, compared to Netto and Fakta.

 

4. Super windy

I think the thing that I hate most in Denmark is the weather :/ It is way too windy. Sometimes I cannot even ride my bicycle because of the strong wind.

 

5. Flat country

Denmark is a flat country. As I read, its average height is above the sea of 31 metres. The article also said that the highest natural point is Møllehøj, at 170.86 metres. You cannot see any mountain in Denmark, only small hills. So, it is the best place for cycling, isn’t it?

 

6. Bicycles, bicycles and bicycles

Because of the geography, Denmark is a perfect place for cycling. If you come to Copenhagen, you can see people bike everywhere. Danes love biking in every type of weather, even it’s rainy, windy or snowy. In Copenhagen, there are lines for bicycle only, and also traffic lights for bicycle. Bicycle thefts are very common in Copenhagen as well. So watch out!

Copenhagen after a rain

7. Drinking culture

It’s very normal to see people walking with a beer or many beers on the street in Denmark. You can see people drinking on the street, public transportation, and public places. It is legal to buy alcohol everywhere too. There are many drunk people in the weekend in Copenhagen.

You can read about Danish drinking culture at Julefrokost here

 

8. Smoking

Another surprise thing to me is that many Danes smoke. You can see a lot of people smoking in the parties, bars and clubs. They will go out for some times and then come back inside. I was once the only one left inside the house because other people were smoking outside.

 

9. Apartments in the inner city

a) Same floors

The apartments inner the city of Copenhagen have same number of floors which are 3 or 4. The designs are also a bit similar as well. It seems to me that those apartments just have different colors, and different window styles. I was lost at first days when I just came, because I couldn’t find my way within similar apartments.

b) No curtain

I was surprised to know that some apartments do not have curtains on the windows :o! “How can they keep privacy then?” – I still wonder this until now… luckily my place has curtains already 😀

c) Only stairs

Also, most of the apartments only have stairs. 2 places that I lived, none of them has elevator. I visit some of my friends’ houses and there are only stairs too. However, it’s a good chance to practice and improve your health, isn’t it?

 

10. Health care system

You can get an assigned doctor when you have a CPR number in Denmark. When you change your place, you have a choice to choose your own doctor. Also, health check up is free. Feeling unwell? Just call your doctor and book an appointment. Unfortunately, the medicine price is pretty expensive, and the health care system does not cover your dental cost.

 

 


So these are top 10 surprising things about Denmark to me. How about you? What are the most surprising but interesting things about this lovely country to you?

51 replies
  1. Meg
    Meg says:

    We visited Copenhagen and Odense a few years ago and it was by far the most expensive city we visited! I loved these interesting facts, we would love to go back and visited more of Denmark – the people are very friendly, but perhaps it is because they drink 😂

    Reply
  2. asoulwindow
    asoulwindow says:

    Whoa! I have never seen a unisex toilet. That’s embarrassing indeed. I love reading about toilet cultures of different nations (That’s me). Japan’s complicated toilet seats fascinate me the most. Scandinavian countries are so tempting.

    Reply
  3. FS Page
    FS Page says:

    25% VAT and same toilets for both genders – That sounds crazy. Loved the health system of Denmark though and also the bicycling culture. Thanks for sharing and letting me know these points- some are really surprising!

    Reply
  4. TravelingMel
    TravelingMel says:

    We are hoping to do a bike tour in Denmark this summer, but now that you say how windy it is…I am second guessing it. I love hygge and would love to be in the country that created it. Even with the wind and smoking, I am still intrigued.

    Reply
  5. Only By Land
    Only By Land says:

    Although the VAT is expensive in Denmark, they put the money back into the country making it as it is. This is probably one of the reasons that you don’t worry about your baby being kidnapped there! When I was there I was so lucky with the weather, I’m glad I didn’t get the wind and rain!

    Reply
    • Expatolife
      Expatolife says:

      They put a lot on education as well. However, some benefits are just for European only, unfortunately. I’m glad that you didn’t experience the crazy weather here.

      Reply
  6. loisaltermark
    loisaltermark says:

    I visited Denmark years ago for just one day but am going back next month so I really appreciate you sharing this! I will know to look out for bikes all over and to not be surprised by whoever is in the bathroom next to me! I am shocked, though, that parents keep babies outside in their strollers – that actually freaks me out.

    Reply
  7. Iza (@IzaAbao)
    Iza (@IzaAbao) says:

    The VAT is so high but maybe the government compensate it by providing excellent services and infrastructures. I would be surprised too if a guy goes into a female restroom but I would be quiet at first and observe. Haha! I like that they like bicycling because it is also a form of exercise.

    Reply
    • Expatolife
      Expatolife says:

      Danes do lots of exercise here, and biking is a compulsory activity :D! I agree that there are good infrastructure and service here, especially the health care system.

      Reply
  8. Tania Mukherjee
    Tania Mukherjee says:

    Every single point that I read in the post made me go “OMG”! I live in India and we cannot imagine leaving babies outside. Babies getting kidnapped in hospitals are also common in this country. Thank God I read about the toilet thing, I would have done the same had I been in your position! 😀

    Reply
  9. Vrithi Pushkar
    Vrithi Pushkar says:

    “Hygge” sounds interesting! I cant imagine leaving my baby out in the stroller though! But such a lovely informative post. i am saving this for when i visit.

    Reply
  10. Ticking the Bucketlist
    Ticking the Bucketlist says:

    These are some interesting facts…especially the one about leaving the babies outside. I have never seen that ever! Also, no curtains…oh my…I would always want to stay dressed and sit in a house like that 😛

    Reply
  11. Henry
    Henry says:

    I’m surprised about the smoking thing! For a relatively healthy country, I’d have thought that they respected their bodies more than that. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  12. Ali May
    Ali May says:

    I didn’t know that many mother’s put their babies outside while they enjoy a hygge! That sounds so bizarre to me. And I’m also surprised about the smoking, as I always saw Denmark as a really healthy country. You’ve given some interesting insights!

    Reply
  13. yukti
    yukti says:

    I have heard about many places that toilets have no genders but the houses without curtain is new for me. Forget privacy but outside light will barge into the room and make us disturb. May be cost cutting and no wastage of fabrics hahahaha. Hygee it very new for me as babies are left outside.

    Reply
  14. Mimi & Mitch
    Mimi & Mitch says:

    I didn’t know about the mixed toilet concept in Denmark! Ok I have seen if at some places but that regularly no! It sucks that is it a lot windy. What I hate the most is the wind as well, you just don’t enjoy walking with your hair all over the face! Interesting to see they have lots of bikes just like Amsterdam!

    Reply
  15. Arnav @ The ETLR (Eat Travel Live Repeat) Blog
    Arnav @ The ETLR (Eat Travel Live Repeat) Blog says:

    These are real eyeopener tips for anyone who hasn’t been to Denmark till ow. Every one is bet to get a bit of culture shock, specially if the culture is not that open minded in the home countries, like me in India.

    Reply
  16. asoulwindow
    asoulwindow says:

    It has been my dream to visit the Scandinavian countries. I think I am gonna love the windy weather. I love dramatic weather. I didn’t know that there are no mountains in Denmark. Quite an interesting country.

    Reply
  17. Gina Bear
    Gina Bear says:

    I was really taken aback with how mothers leave their children outside. The logic that no one will steal them because it costs so much to raise a child is so interesting to me. I don’t think I really like the smoking culture because I quit awhile ago. I do, however, really like the cycling culture.

    Reply
  18. Chantell
    Chantell says:

    Great timing as I am headed to Copenhagen in one week! It is interesting to compare to Estonia, which I just visited in terms of their healthcare (similar system with the doctor), medicine (subsidized), and tax (20%). I am excited to see it for myself! I have heard amazing things 🙂

    Reply
  19. Karen
    Karen says:

    The curtain thing really reminds me of the Netherlands… Ha, this made laugh and makes me think that I’d love Denmark!

    Reply

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