Denmark is a small country in northern Europe that is rarely thought of and more often than not, overlooked by most people, particularly by that outside of Europe. Denmark is small though it is, as more than its fair share of interesting facts and fantastic qualities. To bring you up to speed on all things Danish, we give you the 10 things you didn’t know about Denmark.
Modern Denmark might be a model of liberal thinking and progressivism? But the past of Denmark has been checkered by quite the opposite. In fact, during the 8th and 9th centuries, Danish Vikings were so rapacious and savage that many in continental Europe thought them to be a punishment sent by God for their sins and impropriety. During this Viking heyday, Danes would raid the coasts of virtually all of Europe, ranging from Britain to as far away as France and Spain. Sacking monasteries, looting, raping, pillaging, murdering and doing all the things that popular imagination tends to conjure up when thinking of Vikings.
They established footholds in Normandy, England, and other places and saw a little opposition to their campaigns. However, in time the Danish Vikings converted to Christianity. And thus became part of the fabric of Christian Europe. With this conversion, so too did the traditions of raping, murdering and plundering died along with them.
The Danish language stands as the odd man out when it comes to modern continental Scandinavian languages. Unlike Swedish and Norwegian, which are largely mutually intelligible, Danish cannot be well understood by anyone except the Danes themselves. In fact, this is such an extreme running joke with Scandinavians. There was a Norwegian made spoofs satire with Dane speaking Norwegian to each other. Because the “Danish language had collapsed into meaningless, guttural sounds”. Hyperbolic and inaccurate as it might be, there is an element of truth to this. In that Norwegians and Swedes perceive Danes as somewhat sort of speaking their languages albeit the large potato stuck in their mouth. This of course only applies to the spoken language because all 3 written languages are very similar and can be understood by all speakers to a large degree.
The real problem with Danish, however, is its utterly bizarre counting system compared to all other European languages. This strange system combines two archaic ways of counting. 20 based instead of 10 based and fossilized expressions for 2 and a half, 3 and a half and 4 and a half. Thus, Danish basic numbers such as 50 (half third times of 20). 60 (3 times of 20), 70 (half fourth times of 20). 80 (four times of 20), and 90 (half fifth times of 20). No one but the Danes really understands it. It confuses the hell out of the rest of us, so we’ll leave it at.
8: Influence on the English Language
Speaking of Vikings in the Danish language, both have had one of the most important influences on the growth and development of the English language. When the Danes began raiding and sacking the English coastline in the late 8th century? They eventually managed to establish a semi-permanent foothold in England. Which was referred to as the Danelaw so-called because of treating ironed out stipulating separation from the rest of England? During this time, the two languages, old Danish and old English came into contact. While being similar but distinct enough to only be able to be understood sometimes between the speakers due to differences in grammar and vocabulary.
Eventually, old Danish gave way to old English but not without a massive impact on English vocabulary and grammar. Important everyday words such as law, get, sky, leg, both, arm, bag and many more, all come from Danish originally. We simply cannot do without them. What is more astounding, however, is the fact that Danish grammar has had a profound impact on English grammar. In both Danish and English, there are types of verbs called phrasal verbs. Which have particles attached to them that change the meaning of the original word? Both in Danish and English, these particles can be put either at the end or in the middle of a sentence.
Take the English sentence for example, “turn the faucet off”. Well, you can just as easily say, “turn off the faucet” without changing the meaning. This flexibility exists in Danish as well and was given to English during this time. If you contrast this with similar expressions in Dutch and German, you can immediately see the difference.
7: Hard Stance on Migration
Unlike Sweden and Norway, Denmark has taken a harder stance than most on the issue of migration from the third world. Being justifiably worried about its impact on the small but prosperous nation. In fact, in order to fully implement this stance, the Danish government cut excessive benefits to migrants and refugees. This was done to curtail further immigration to Denmark with some interesting results. It largely worked. When interviewed as to why so many refugees were leaving Denmark? The interviewed refugees claimed, they would get more money in Sweden or even the United Kingdom. Thus, proving that limiting welfare might be the most effective deterrent to unchecked immigration abuse of the social support system.
6: Happiest People in the World
For years now, the Danish have been voted the happiest people in the world on a consistent basis. While this might be the envy of the rest of the world. It certainly begs the question as to why this is the case? The key word in Danish to help understand their happiness is “Hyggelig”. Which means something between comfortable and cozy and describes the homes, food and general environment of Denmark. Add to that a robust welfare system that doesn’t allow anyone to fall through the cracks. And you begin to understand some of the reasons why Danes are the happiest people in the world.
5: Danish Food
Danish food might be considered bland by some standards but is also hale and hearty and filling like nothing else. The open sandwich called, “Smorrebrod” in Danish is a traditional food that consists of buttered rye bread with cold cuts or fish on top. Traditional fare consists of things like roasted meats, boiled potatoes and other things similar to Scandinavian cuisine more generally. Danish blue cheese is a world favorite but the pungent and creamy taste. For the sweet teeth out there, their homemade chocolates, marzipan and more.
4: Encouragement of Reproduction
Recently the Danes became alarmed at the low birth rates in the country. Denmark put forward an advertisement to encourage more people to reproduce. A travel agency called, “Spies,” produce an advertisement drawing attention to the reproductive problem in Denmark called, “do it for Denmark,” making s*xual activity and reproduction with holidays and travel. Whether or not such measures will ultimately be impactful in the long term is anyone’s guess. But Denmark’s problem is one that is found in virtually every industrialized country. So, no one should be wholly in their breath on this issue.
The welfare model is what fundamentally underpins the Danish nation’s well-being. They have high taxes but receive social security, universal healthcare and a universal pension in return. In fact, it is often the case that people can register themselves as ill and not work for years while receiving government benefits. Some people think that this all might be too much, but it seems to work for the Danes. As they think that the support system stems from an awareness of the belief that the welfare model turns Danish collective wealth into Danish well-being. That is something that most Danes are not willing to live without.
2: Highest Taxes
If you love taxes, then Denmark is for you. At 60.2%, Denmark has the highest top personal income tax rate among 34 countries reviewed in the OECD, an organization on developed and emerging countries. And 60.2% applied is to income over roughly $55,000. Denmark also has a universal 25% sales tax on all goods for that icing on the cake. Many people might believe that Danes love taxes, but they probably don’t. What they do love are their government benefits and welfare they receive through high taxation, that might not be for everyone. It is their nation and their prerogative.
1: Denmark is the Least Corrupt Country in the World
Denmark has been consistently rated as the least corrupt country in the world. Considering that there is a total of 196 official countries in the world, that is a startling achievement. It makes sense when you consider that the Danes are also the happiest people in the world. Combine happiness with social and financial security and the need for bribes and illicit activity is sure to go down. Regardless, we all have to tip off our hats to Denmark for this remarkable achievement.
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