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Scandinavia includes Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland, Faroe Islands and Greenland.


The national flag of Denmark, Dannebrog (“Danish cloth”) , is red with a white cross that extends to the edges of the flag. The cross design of the Danish flag was adopted by the other Scandinavian countries except Greenland, that was until very recently part of Denmark. During the Danish-Norwegian personal union, Dannebrog was also the flag of Norway and continued to be, with slight modifications, until Norway adopted its current flag in 1821. Dannebrog is the oldest state flag in the world still in use by an independent nation. In Denmark, the Dannebrog is a symbol of happiness that people use to display, it is widely used for birthdays, Christmas or to welcome people at the airport…


Until I came here, Swedes, Danes, Norwegians and Finnish were just the same to me. I thought their language was close and they could mutually understand each other. In fact that is wrong, first of all because Finnish is not a Scandinavian language at all but belongs to the Uralic family of languages (from the Ural chain of mountains) and is actually close to Estonian. There are actually two official languages in Norway: Bokmål (“book language”) that is close to Danish and Nynorsk (“new Norwegian”). Nynorsk was created during the 1800s to provide an alternative to the Bokmål that is the most similar to Danish so as to create a Norwegian identity. Note that Norway is not part of the European Union.To me, even though Swedish and Danish are close languages in writing, the sounds are quite different. Swedish sounds like Italian, and Danish sounds more like German.

Here is more information of the understanding of the spoken and written Scandinavian languages

  • Understanding of spoken language

Norwegians understand 88% of spoken Swedish and 73% of spoken Danish.

Swedes understand 48% of spoken Norwegian and 23% of spoken Danish.

Danes understand 69% of spoken Norwegian and 43% of spoken Swedish.

  • Understanding of written language

Norwegians understand 89% of written Swedish and 93% of written Danish.

Swedes understand 86% of written Norwegian and 69% of written Danish.

Danes understand 89% of written Norwegian and 69% of written Swedish.

Danish and Norwegian uses the Latin alphabet plus æ, ø, å

Swedish uses the Latin alphabet and å, ä, ö


The vikings originally came from Denmark and created Scandinavia, they conquered Iceland, Greenland and the Faeroe islands among other places. I have learned that there is some kind of competition between the Danes and the Swedes, they are hereditary enemies since their nations have made wars during centuries, but it is really just akin to brotherly rivalry. I have learned that most Scandinavians consider the Danes as the ‘Latins of the North’, weird idea to me… The Swedes see the Danes as food and life lovers, alcohol drinkers and smokers. Danes can be considered as laid back and sometimes unreliable from their point of view (I suggest they try to work with Italians or French so as to get an alternative perspective). The Scandinavians see the Norwegians as very innocent and childish in their way of speaking (because of Norwegian grammar and simple sentences specific to the language. The Finnish are seen as suicidal and unhappy. I have heard from a couple of Norwegian-Finnish friends that Swedes are seen as snobbish showoffs.

To me they are still not so different one from the other. For instance, as a first intercultural experience, I have discovered that the rudest thing you could do to a Scandinavian is being late. You would have to call up the person which whom you have an appointment in order to warn him that you will be 5 minutes late…

Interesting links:


Map of Denmark

Culture shock

Kalervo Oberg, a world renowned anthropologist defined five phases of cultural shock when moving

to a foreign country. Time and intensity of the phases that one experiences can vary from one individual to another. The five phases are the following:

  1. Honeymoon phase: The newcomer feels excited and thrilled by new experiences, opportunities and environment.
  2. Crisis: When cultural differences become more annoying and irritating to the newcomer.
  3. Acceptance: Once one has learned more about the culture and accepted the differences, an understanding of the country develops.
  4. Adjustment: Comes after learning to deal with the positive and negative aspects of the new country.
  5. Reverse culture shock: Applies when returning to the home country, one can be shocked of the customs of one’s own home country.

Political system

Denmark has a parliamentary monarchy. The Danish monarchy the oldest in the world, it has been in place for more that 1000 years. The current Danish queen Margrethe II is married to the Prince consort, a former french diplomat named Henri, Comte de Laborde de Monpezat. They have two sons: Frederik the crown prince (married to Mary Donaldson from Australia) and Joachim (married to a French woman called Marie Cavallier)

Danish values

    1. Freedom of speech

People tend to express their opinion freely. The Mohammed cartoons crisis that occurred in 2005 when cartoons of the prophet were published in Danish newspapers. From the danish side, under the law of free speech, nothing had been done that was out of bounds. Even though some people were offended, no apologies were made or should be made.

    2. Time dimension

Being on time is very important. It is considered the rudest thing to be late and one is expected to warn if one will be anything over 5 minutes late.

    3. Jantelov or equality for all

Jantelov or Jante’s law is a set of 10 rules defining group behavior in Scandinavian mentality.

It was introduced by the Norwegian author Aksel Sandemose in his novel ‘A fugitive crosses his tracks’

(‘En flyktning krysser sitt spor’), where he portrays a Danish town called Jante. The ten rules are:

  1. Don’t think that you are special.
  2. Don’t think that you are of the same standing as us.
  3. Don’t think that you are smarter than us.
  4. Don’t fancy yourself as being better than us.
  5. Don’t think that you know more than us.
  6. Don’t think that you are more important than us.
  7. Don’t think that you are good at anything.
  8. Don’t laugh at us.
  9. Don’t think that any one of us cares about you
  10. Don’t think that you can teach us anything.
    4. Family friendly society

The working hours are 8am to 4pm. Maternity leave lasts a whole year splittable between the father and the mother. Children can accompany their parents to work provided they do not disturb the colleagues. It is badly seen to overwork, as it means that one is badly organized, feels that his work is more important than somebody else’s (see Jantelov) or does not respect his family.

Danish companies

Here is a quick list, on the top of my head, of some big Danish companies, since I once met a French guy who contemptuously asked what industries there were in Denmark, insinuating that there weren’t any.

Lego, Bang and Olufsen, Carlsberg, Ecco shoes, Maersk, Novo Nordisk, Oticon, Velux, Vestas, Skype, Arne Jacobsen, Georg Jensen, and many others

Book recommendation: The worktrotters’s guide to Denmark by Dagmar Fink

The first step of settling in a foreign country is to find a flat and then a job. I needed to find a job since I already had a flat there.
I was lucky enough to find a job on my first week here (I had been through a few interviews in Paris for an international company that were established in Danmark). Many people have told me that I had
been very lucky because it is not that easy when you do not speak Danish.
When settling in Denmark a European has to apply for the European Opholddokument that allows to get a CPR number. Once one has acquired this paper, one can go to the Folkesregriteret in order to get one’s own CPR number (Central Person Register). The Folkesregriteret or “People’s registry” is a place where one get its administrative documents. It is very modern, has great service provided by friendly employees and you can get free coffees and teas which is pleasant compared to the French public service on which I am not going to make any comments today… After a couple of days you receive a chip card that you use everywhere it is needed. A CPR number is the “Open sesame” that gets your life in motion in Denmark; it allows you to get a bank account, pension, a mobile phone plan, declare taxes, and of course to work. You get assigned a doctor to which you can immediately go without having to pay for anything.
A CPR number is composed of your date of birth and 4 additional figures, Women get assigned a
even number and men an odd one. After some time with a CPR number, it feels a bit like
big brother, for instance, the prescriptions from the doctor and your medical history is on the
card. But at least, things work fast and you do not need to worry about carrying many documents around.

We had decided to move out of Paris on a February week end. Since we had a 40m2 fully furnished flat, we rented a 8m2 truck and put as many things as we could in the vehicle. The rest would be given or left away.

I compared various possibilities for this moving and the cheapest one was actually to rent and return a truck in Paris with unlimited mileage. Google maps indicates that Copenhagen is 1232 km away from Paris.  My friends from university who did the same trip 6 years ago told us that the one way drive took them 15 hour.

We rented the truck for 3 days and finished packing on Friday night at an ungodly 2am… On Saturday morning we woke up at 6am in order to pick up the truck at the earliest time, the aim was to leave Paris before 9am in order to avoid the traffic jams. Loading the truck was a hell, it took us 4 hours and the cat was quite unhappy to leave its flat. We finally left Paris at 11am. We drove smoothly to Belgium where the roads are not in a very good condition then to the Netherlands before finally getting to Germany. Germany was very very long, driving across it took us approximately 8 hours and the food was quite horrible on the highway. I had the impression that they have nothing else but those big sausages that make you feel sick after eating half of it… What is nice about Germany is that in some portions of the highway there is no speed limit, but when you drive a fully loaded truck you can´t get that crazy anyway. We started to feel the tiredness halfway so we had to consume a lot of diet coke, tea and coffee in order not to fall asleep… And this is fatal to your stomach if you´re not used to it. At 11:50pm we were lucky enough to get to Puttgarden on time (we pre-purchased the tickets so passed midnight we would have lost our tickets and have to buy some additional ones) where we took the ferry to Denmark. The crossing was nice we could get some proper food in a proper restaurant, the sea was frozen and we got to  snowy Copenhagen at 3am.

After a short  night sleep (woke up at 8am), we unloaded the truck and it took us far less time because Sean’s father was here to help, we live on the 2nd floor and could park right in front of the door. We took a short nap and back on the road again at 1pm. The drive back was painful because we were very tired and the German food seemed to sap more energy than it actually provided. The Belgian highways were very helpful because they are lit during night time. We finally got to Paris at 4am and had to wake up at 8am. The plan was to sell the futon bed to a guy so we parked the car just in front of the door to load it. Bad surprise when we got out because we were in the process of getting a fine for bad parking.It was finally cancelled as I was literally  in tears in front of the police due to the effects of that tiring trip. The rest of the day was spent running around, cleaning the flat, bringing back the truck, getting out garbage and unsold furniture. On the following day I handed back the flat with no additional bad surprises, and the day after had to wake up at 4am in order to catch my plane to Copenhagen.

Those 5 days were horrible in terms of sleep and stress. Next time I will have to move in another country, I will make sure some company does the moving for me. But I am glad we managed to do all that safely.