June 20, 2024 opinion

Alcohol, emotions and swearing: Five things I’ve found surprising about Denmark

Varvara Tkachenko in Copenhagen, Denmark

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December 18, 2023. Strøget in Copenhagen - one of the longest pedestrian shopping streets in Europe. It's a popular tourist attraction in the centre of town.

Picture by: Kristoffer Trolle | Flickr

The Danish capital, Copenhagen, has gained publicityamong young people as a vacation hotspot and for its unique fashion sense.

But what cultural differences in Denmark might catch you off guard?

As a Ukrainian refugee who moved to Copenhagen almost 10 months ago, it’s been amazing to get to know Denmark and find out more about the culture.

Denmark is full of positive experiences. I have also encountered certain things that I find exclusive to Danish culture and that are interesting to know.

Alcohol consumption among teens

Alcohol consumption among adolescents (15-16 years old) in Denmark is the highest in Europe. I never thought that drinking could become a weekly habit for spending free time, but Denmark proved me otherwise. Since the legal age to buy beer and wine is only 16, alcohol is more accessible in Denmark than in other Nordic countries, such as Norway or Sweden.

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House parties and going out to bars are typical Friday-night activities for people aged 16–25. Despite this, Danes seem to maintain a relatively healthy relationship with alcohol with youth researchshowing improved wellbeing among regular weekly drinkers.

I also haven’t seen people struggle with overconsumption as commonly as in Ukraine, for instance. Alcohol isn’t as acceptable there, which can lead to addictionand other diseases involving intoxication for adolescents.

The weather isn’t an issue for Danes

You might have heard that Denmark is known for its unpleasant, rainy weather, but Danes seem to have adapted to these conditions. Even in the worst storms, people don’t hesitate to bike to work or school, thanks to local brands like Rains that create clothes specifically for such weather conditions.

Reserved emotional interactions

Building an emotional relationship with a Dane can be challenging. When I first arrived in Copenhagen and started at a local school, I noticed that initial conversations didn’t seem as meaningful as those I was used to in Ukraine.

Danes seem to be more reserved and less genuine in showing interest in the person they are talking to, whereas in Ukraine, it’s usually mutual. Although Danes are big party people, it can take quite some time to build a close relationship with them.

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  • April 17, 2024. The Inner Harbour in Copenhagen, Denmark | Picture by: Maria Eklind | Flickr

  • Varieties of high school experiences

    If you have a Danish background, you are likely to fit into the social circles, which opens up tons of opportunities in school. There are various high school options, from regular three-year programs to boarding schools, each offering a wide range of activities.

    Whether it’s music bands, choirs, handball or skiing, schools provide ample opportunities for hobbies that can be embedded into the curriculum. In comparison, Ukrainian high schools are purely focused on academic achievements, leaving hobbies to your personal initiative.

    Swearing culture

    You will hear more swearing in Denmark than you might expect. Although Danish has its own curse words, American slang has replaced most Danish swear words.

    Since these words aren’t from their own language, they aren’t taken as seriously by Danes. Therefore, saying words like “f*ck” or “sh*t” in front of a teacher or parents isn’t a big deal, whereas in other parts of the world, including Ukraine, it is considered uncommon and inappropriate.

    Written by:


    Varvara Tkachenko


    Kyiv, Ukraine | Copenhagen, Denmark

    Born in 2007 in Kyiv, Ukraine, Varvara studies in Copenhagen, Denmark and plans to pursue her bachelor’s degree at the University of Amsterdam in the PPLE (Politics, Psychology, Law, and Economics) program.

    She is interested in music, travelling, snow sports, Ukrainian culture, politics, and movies, For Harbingers’ Magazine, she writes about music, movies, culture, and sports.

    In her free time, Varvara enjoys snowboarding, playing piano, crocheting, knitting, and horse riding. She also studied in France for a year, learning the language, and has been participating in debates for three years, from traditional debating formats to Model United Nations (MUN).

    Varvara speaks Ukrainian, English, French, and Russian.

    Edited by:


    Justin Sau

    Culture editor

    Hong Kong, SAR


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