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Know Your Dane

Know Your Dane

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Know Your Dane

216 pagine
1 ora
Jan 4, 2021


Know Your Dane—Unlocking the Secrets to the Danish Mentality is a comprehensive guide to Danish culture. The book covers key events in Danish history from the Middle Ages until today, including a deeper look at the eternal rivalry between Denmark and Sweden, one of the most complex and dramatic relationships in history. Know Your Dane uncovers and analyzes the Danish national identity, including Danish cuisine, holiday traditions, and cultural phenomena such as "The Law of Jante", the concept of "Hygge", and how to navigate the Danes' carefully nuanced humor and social interactions.


Learn more about into the inner workings of the Danish Welfare State, such as the 37-hour work week, gender equality, and the Danish educational system, and discover the most famous citizens of Denmark, from scientists and architects to authors, actors, and directors

Jan 4, 2021

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Know Your Dane - Rune Edberg

The Danish Language

Denmark is like a secret little place with its own special language.

—Helena Christensen

It is said that the key to a country's culture is its language. The Danish language is within the common Germanic languages, and the closest languages to Danish are Norwegian, Swedish, and Icelandic. In particular, the Norwegian and Danish languages ​​have traditionally been close to each other, due to the close relationships of the countries throughout their 400 years of common government and the capital city of Copenhagen. However, the Norwegian written language has changed significantly since Norway’s divorce from Denmark in 1814, and the country's final independence from Sweden in 1905.

You can compare the languages ​​of the two countries the same way you would compare the American-English and British-English languages—two peoples separated by the same language. The American language can be perceived as direct and specific in meaning, dispatch, and humor, which is also the case of the Norwegian language. However, the British-English language is very familiar with double meanings. This is also the case with the Danish language, which may be a challenge for newcomers, as Danes often present these double-meaning expressions in a direct form during a conversation. This can also make it difficult to decode the speaker’s attitudes, values, ​​and norms, because they are not explicitly stated, but are instead expected to be understood through allusions.

The Danish language is the official language in Denmark and has a special status; however, German minorities in southern Jutland, together with the Nordic languages, also have special rights.

Dannebrog: The Danish Flag

The Danish flag, or Dannebrog, is an integral part of Danish identity and daily life. It is used in a multitude of contexts, including markings on official buildings, birthday cakes in schools, and quality stamps on Danish goods.

However, it is also a flag that is used by the Danish People's Party and is associated with their criticism of immigrants, which has forced a great percentage of the Danish population to have a somewhat ambivalent relationship to their flag.

The flag itself is considered to be one of the oldest national flags in the world. The old myth is that it fell from Heaven in a moment of distress, when the Christian Danish soldiers were losing a battle with the heathens in Estonia on the June 15, 1219.

The actual name of the flag, Dannebrog, can be translated to the Danes’ flag.


⁶ The Danish Foreign Ministry’s official website. This link explains the traditional folktale behind the Danish Flag, the Dannebrog. Their website is also a good resource on Danish society and history.

Part One: History

This chapter gives the reader an overview of the Danish history from the Middle Ages to today:

The first attempts to construct a unifying Danish identity and the Reformation's influence on the King, the population, and the community

The eternal rivalry and complex relationship between Denmark and Sweden

The Danish past as a colonial power, and the loss of Norway and German Duchess

The great transformation from a mid-sized Northern-European power to a small, neutral country with a small and rather homogeneous population

The radical changes in the society’s structure with the introduction of basic democracy in 1849

The improved civil rights of workers, and voting rights of women

The importance of neighbors like Sweden and Germany for the self-understanding, identity, and mentality of the Danes

1200-1600: Medieval Period and the Reformation

Early Attempts at Creating a Danish Identity

One of the first discourses describing the Danes and their common history was Gesta Danorum (Story of the Danes)⁷ written in 1220 by the monk, Saxo Grammaticus. This text was commissioned by the Danish King Valdemar and should be seen as a propaganda script that would justify Valdemar's family's right to the Danish throne. It is also in this text that the terms Danish and Vikings were first linked to Danish history.

This was the first major attempt at creating a national common Danish identity that connected the four largest parts of Denmark: Jutland, Zealand, Scania (now part of Sweden), and Funen. Aside from focusing on Valdemar’s house as the rightful owners of the Danish throne, the publication was also a manifesto geared towards the German-speaking states and the German emperor, who also had an interest in Danish geography. However, the text emphasized the inhabitants of the Danish towns as their own people with their own language, culture, and mentality.

First Female Ruler

One-hundred-and-fifty years later, the first woman became the ruler of Denmark when Margrethe I was crowned. She was later crowned in both Norway and Sweden and brought the three Nordic countries together in the Kalmar Union, which would later form the foundation of hundreds of years of controversy between Denmark and Sweden. The latter left the Union, which started to shape the conflict between the two countries.

In 1520, the foundation for the poor relationship between Denmark and Sweden was further cemented when the Danish King, Christian 2, executed a large number of Swedish nobles in Stockholm. This event would be used by Sweden in anti-Danish-propaganda for the next hundred years.

The Reformation

Internal disputes started a civil war in Denmark in 1534, and a few years later, Martin Luther's showdown with the Catholic Church also came to Denmark. The king used the Reformation as a convenient excuse to acquire additional power and wealth at the expense of the church.

After the Reformation, a power shift took place, and the Danish king was to be regarded as the supreme authority in the Danish kingdom, which also included Norway and two German-speaking provinces. He was higher-ranked than both former kings and the church authorities and served as the leader of both church and country. Although the nobility remained, the king was appointed and sat on the council.

Christian IV Builds and Burns

Afterward, a period of wars and controversies between Denmark and Sweden

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