Don’t let Denmark’s small size (it has a population of just 5.75 million) put you off: it’s a small country that packs a powerful punch. Once a world superpower (OK, so that was many centuries ago) with a traditional maritime and fishing culture, Denmark is still a force to be reckoned with in areas such as design, architecture, farming, green technology and pharmaceuticals. It’s also home to some well-respected educational institutions.
It’s a fact: people who live in Denmark are happy. The country is often cited as one of the world’s best places to live and polls repeatedly show that the Danes are among the happiest people in the world. It has a strong welfare state ensuring economic equality in society and there is hardly a whiff of corruption. It makes you want to pack your bags right away, doesn’t it?
Denmark itself is the most southerly of the Scandinavian countries, sharing a border with Germany to the south. It stretches across the Jutland peninsula, four major islands and 400 smaller ones. It is a relatively flat country, with gently rolling countryside. The highest point is only 173 metres above sea level. Copenhagen is its largest city, with other important cities including Aarhus, Odense, and Aalborg.
So what is Denmark famous for? Well let’s start with bloodthirsty Viking warriors, Lego, Bang & Olufsen, Carlsberg, Georg Jensen silverware and Royal Copenhagen tableware. Then there is Lurpak butter and Danish bacon, as well as the world’s largest sea transportation company Mærsk. There are also three sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage List: Jelling Monuments, Roskilde Cathedral and Krongborg Castle – all worth checking out.
The happy Danes are an interesting mix of ultra liberalism and tradition (they like people to be polite). Although Denmark has a ruling monarch, (Denmark is a constitutional monarchy with Queen Margrethe II as the head of state since 1972), there is no obvious class system and Danish people strive for equality in all aspects of life.They mark their seasons, feasts, holidays and other celebrations with all manner of traditions. Copenhagen has many links to the famous fairy tale teller Hans Christian Andersen.
The days of Denmark’s cuisine based largely on bacon and potatoes have begun to fade with a new breed of top chefs stamping its identity (Noma has been awarded the title of best restaurant in the world for the past two years). That doesn’t mean the traditional favourites of porridge, open sandwiches and the classic roast pork with parsley sauce have disappeared, it’s just that there’s much more on offer these days. You can still expect to find slices of rye bread (rugbrød) buttered and covered with various kinds of sausage, sliced boiled egg or liver paste for lunch and plenty of pork on the menu for your evening meal.
And another funny thing: the Danes love liquorice, as well as beer (not necessarily at the same time). The love of beer in particular goes back centuries and today there are more than 100 breweries in Denmark.
Meals often start with a toast given by the host – he or she will raise a glass and say “Skål” (pronounced “skole”) and you should respond by saying it back to each person who says it to you.
At a glance facts
- Official languages: Danish, Faroese, Greenlandic and German
- Population:5,869,410 (2020)
- International Dialling Code 45
- Time zone: GMT +1 hour
So you’re interested in studying in Denmark? Go here for more information
Europe, member of the EU