Adventures of An Aspiring Librarian

Culture Shock and Adjustments in Denmark

on January 23, 2014

While I settled in quite quickly during my time abroad in Denmark, there were some times when I had no idea what was going on. I began taking language classes, but it took a long time for me to start picking up phrases and words. Thank goodness everyone spoke English (for the most part). That being said, I still wanted to make an effort to blend in and to try to learn the language and the culture. My first trip to the grocery store was a bit of an experience:

Going to A Danish Grocery Store

…although the Danes call it a supermarket.

Yesterday was my first time venturing into a Danish grocery store. It was a bit overwhelming, since most all of it was in Danish, but I came away with the majority of things I needed (and a few of the wrong things that I translated incorrectly).

Here are some of my photos from the grocery store. Look at the cute carts they have! It makes it so much easier so that you don’t cut off the circulation of your arm while lugging around a hand cart. And you don’t have to worry about getting a larger cart with a weird wheel (although those are available as well if you want them).

The first thing I noticed is that the Danes LOVE their cheese and their seafood. There is fish EVERYWHERE. To put on their sandwiches, to grill or bake alone, etc etc. The supermarket I went into had an entire section devoted to shrimp. One thing’s for sure, I’ll definitely be eating a lot less red meat here. Which is a good thing, I think!

Funny shopping carts

So much cheese!

I found the American section of the grocery store! And I think it’s hilarious that marshmallow fluff made the important cut for imports. 🙂

Overall, my experience was very enlightening and fun, if a little confusing. It seems that Danish grocery stores are quite expensive, have lots of what you need (so much liver paste stuff? I think that’s what it was…I’m not brave enough to try it just yet) but only a few options within each category (which luckily makes picking easy!). For example, the cereal aisle of this store had mostly Coco puffs and wheat fiber cereal as your two options. Guess which one I chose? 🙂

Finally, what is any grocery store without hundreds and hundreds of candles?

I ran into some issues meeting people’s expectations:

A Dane: “You don’t look American.”

Me: “Really? What do Americans look like?”

A Dane: “Kim Kardashian”

And really had a laugh at some traditions I had never heard of before:

I found out recently that birthdays are really special in Denmark, and that the Danes have their own traditions when it comes to celebrating turning a year older.

While the gift giving and cake-eating traditions remain pretty much the same between Danish and American cultures, apparently it is common at children’s birthdays to serve a “kagemand” or “cakeman”. It is a cake shaped like a gingerbread man…and my friend told me that you typically chop the head off first before eating him.

On the adult end of the birthday spectrum, another friend told me that it is common to wake up the birthday boy/girl and take embarrassing pictures of them when they first wake up (while singing at them)? Definitely an interesting one…

Finally, the funniest tradition to me is that in some areas of Denmark, if someone turns 25 and he or she is not married yet (and these days it’s becoming less likely for a person to be married at that age), then his friends will attack him with CINNAMON! And if the person turns 30, he gets attacked with pepper, and his friends will even make him a homemade pepper shaker and leave it outside of his home.

Hilariously, this is not just a sprinkle of spices…this is an all out assault. To add insult to injury, the person attacked with cinnamon can’t wash it off with a warm shower because then his or her skin will turn orange…so they have to wash it off with a cold shower…and then hope that they won’t be attacked again later in the day. All I can say is I’m glad that my 25th birthday isn’t happening until next August.

Despite all of these challenges, I managed to grow and learn more and more about the culture of Denmark, made AMAZING friends, and enjoyed my time there immensely.


One response to “Culture Shock and Adjustments in Denmark

  1. Hilarious! Love your write up. Learnt something new about Danish celebrations!

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