A common Danish greeting is a firm handshake. It is customary to shake hands when arriving and before taking your leave. It is also the custom to shake hands with women first. You must shake hands with everyone present. It is normal to introduce yourself by your first name. It is not common to greet strangers who are just passing by. If greeting someone you already know well, it is not necessary to shake hands. Only friends who are very close may greet each other with a kiss on the cheek though this is not common in the older generations.
The Danish use both direct and indirect communication. They are usually direct when sharing their opinions. Despite this, they tend to be reserved and avoid confrontation so they will also use indirect communication at times. They normally never raise their voice in public or show they are angry. Being loud in public is considered rude. On the contrary, they always try to be polite and expect the same of others. They also greatly value humility and they consider those who show off their success to be bad-mannered. Because of this, compliments are kept short and are not given often. Their humor is often sarcastic and with a great use of irony. They also do not use the phrase “How are you?” with those they hardly know. They only ask this to those they know better and when they truly wish to know the answer.
Personal Space and Touching
Personal space is valued in the Danish culture. As a result, touching is limited even between close friends. When greeting someone, there is no physical contact other than a handshake and you maintain a reasonable distance from the other person. Touching during a conversation is considered intimate and is only done with someone you are very close to. If you do not have a very close relationship with the person you are speaking with, touching and not keeping a reasonable distance is considered rude.
Eye Contact and Gestures
Maintaining eye contact is important in the Danish culture. If you do not maintain eye contact during a conversation or when greeting someone, it is seen as a lack of interest on your part. This is considered disrespectful. Direct eye contact is also considered important when toasting. Because in the Danish culture they are usually reserved, gestures and body language are not very common. Gestures such as high fives and thumbs up are not commonly used. The sign used in the Western culture to say “okay” in which the thumb and index finger form a circle and the other three fingers are extended, can be considered by some to be an insult. A “peace” sign with your palm facing you instead of outward can also be considered an insult. The same can be said for raising the middle finger. For the most part, gestures and hand signs are not used.
Danish Culture Reference Guide
Danish Population in the United States
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Standard Danish is also known as the Zealandic dialect. It is known this way because it is spoken in the island of Zealand which is where the capital of Denmark is located. A characteristic of the Zealandic dialect that makes it different from some of the others is that words are pronounced with a rising tone. This means the word pronounced would begin in a low tone and end in a higher tone. Another characteristic is that it only makes use of two genders while other Danish dialects use three or even just one. One well-known characteristic of Standard Danish that is frequently used in the Zealandic dialect is the glottal stop, also known as “stød”.
The Jutlandic dialect gets its name from the area where it is spoken; Jutland, Denmark. In contrast to the Zealandic dialect, the tone in which a word is pronounced does not become higher toward the end of the word but lower. The tone decreases as the word is pronounced. The glottal stop that is heard in the Zealandic dialect is also heard in the Jutlandic dialect although in different words. Some words that are pronounced with a glottal stop in Zealandic are not pronounced with a glottal stop in Jutlandic. Some words that do not have a glottal stop in Zealandic do have a glottal stop in Jutlandic.
The Jutlandic dialect consists of Western Jutlandic, Eastern Jutlandic, Northern Jutlandic, and Southern Jutlandic. They each have their own characteristics. For example, a characteristic of Western Jutlandic is known as the “Western Jutland glottal stop”. It is a glottal stop commonly used before double consonants such as “tt”. Another characteristic of Western Jutlandic is that they normally do not use the suffix –e that is used in the Zealandic dialect. Western Jutlandic makes use of only one gender which is neuter. Eastern Jutlandic is more closely related to the Zealandic dialect.
A difference between Eastern Jutlandic and Zealandic is the way vowels are pronounced in Eastern Jutlandic. Eastern Jutlandic as well as Northern Jutlandic also commonly use three genders while Zealandic only uses two. This is considered to be evidence of the influence of Swedish and Norwegian since both of these neighboring languages use three genders.
Southern Jutlandic on the other hand, is very different from other dialects. This is especially true when it comes to the pronunciation. It shares similarities with Swedish when it comes to pronunciation and it is even considered difficult to understand by speakers of the other Jutlandic dialects.
The Bornholmsk dialect is named after Bornholm which is the name of the island in Denmark where Bornholmsk is spoken. In contrast to standard Danish, the Bornholmsk dialect uses three genders instead of two. Another difference is that it does not use the glottal stop that is so frequently used in the Zealandic dialect. Bornholmsk is considered to be part of Eastern Danish. Another dialect also considered part of Eastern Danish is Scanian. It is spoken in provinces of Sweden that used to belong to Denmark. Because of this the Scanian dialect is considered to have originated from Danish dialects and to be a variation of Danish. The Bornholmsk dialect has also been influenced by Swedish. It is considered to be a combination of Danish and Swedish since it has characteristics of both languages.
Fynsk is the Danish dialect that is spoken in the island of Denmark called Funen. This island is the third-largest of Denmark and is found between Zealand and Jutland. In contrast to the Zealandic dialect, “stød” is not common in Fynsk. This makes this dialect sound softer than standard Danish. Because of this there is even a Danish saying; “Fyn er fin” which means “Fynsk is nice”.
Gøtudanskt also known as Dano-Faroese and is spoken in the Faroe Islands. This dialect differs a lot from standard Danish because it has been greatly influenced by the Faroese language. This influence can be noticed in the pronunciation of this dialect. This influence in the pronunciation is mostly seen in the older generation of people living in the Faroe Islands. The pronunciation of the younger generation is for the most part closer to that of Standard Danish. A notable influence of Faroese on the vocabulary of Gøtudanskt can also be seen even in the vocabulary of the younger generations. For example, verbs that come from Faroese words can be found in children’s jingles that are in Gøtudanskt.
Danish is the official language of Denmark. This is the country where the greatest quantity of Danish speakers can be found. Danish is also one of the official languages of the Faroe Islands, along with Faroese. In an area of Germany, thousands of Danish speakers can be found. For this reason, Danish is considered a protected minority language in this area. In Greenland, although the official language is Greenlandic, Danish is learned by all children in school as a secondary language. Large quantities of Danish speakers can also be found in other countries such as Sweden although the official language is not Danish.
Countries Where Danish is the Official Language
According to the American Community Survey, by 2013 there were approximately 28,285 Danish speakers in the United States. The state with the highest number of Danish speakers is California with over 6,000 Danish speakers. In the Los Angeles County alone, there are over 1,000 Danish speakers. The state with the second-highest amount of Danish speakers is New York with over 2,000. The states that follow are Florida, Texas, and Washington with over 1,000 Danish speakers each
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