10 facts you didn’t know about Denmark
Most people have heard that Denmark ranks high globally for happiness, social progress, healthcare, and bicycle lanes. It’s also found to be the most uncorrupt country in the world by Transparency International with one of the lowest crime rates globally to top it off. While these modern features of the nordic country are already quite impressive, the Danes also have a number of historical feats to brag about.
Running a country with immense social progress and a strong welfare state takes a lot of resources. So, how much does the average Dane pay in taxes? 45%. It may seem shocking to those who pay about half of that —’how can they stand it?’ people have asked me. Well, it’s not like the money disappears in the least corrupt country in the world so people see it as an investment in their futures; they know it will come back at some point in their lives or their families’ lives. Included in this 20% tax increase is the following: healthcare, pension, childcare, unemployment security, free dental for everyone under 18 and subsidized dental afterwards, disability, state housing, guaranteed state paid paternity leave of up to 32 weeks, 4-5 weeks vacation time😱, AND not only is college free BUT the government PAYS students approximately $900 US a month to attend. The follow-up question usually is something like: Okay, but if 45% is the average then people who make more pay way more?! Also very true. It comes down to cultural difference. Danish people are raised to believe that a nation can only be as strong as its ‘weakest’ people and that everyone as a society will benefit from taxation, including themselves and the people they love. That being said, there is major push in Denmark to not be without a job if you’re able-bodied and to not be homeless. The Danes are sticklers for rules and if you can help the system but you’re ‘choosing’ not to like everyone else, it’s not received well. To extend, the system is built to support its members which makes it hard for immigrants and foreign workers to tap into the benefits. It isn’t perfect, but it makes the Danes among the happiest in the world.
2. LEGO was made in Denmark
“Lego” is a loose contraction translating from Danish that means “play well”. It also can be interpreted by some to mean “I put together” or “I assemble” in Latin which, according to LEGO archives, is why the company chose that name over others. The company was founded on August 10, 1932 in Billund, Denmark but originally didn’t make small plastic bricks. Wooden toys like yoyos, cars/trucks, and dollhouses were the company’s initial product. The first LEGO “self-assemble” toys and bricks came to the market in 1947. After WWII, plastic became more readily available and the Depression eventually turned into prosperity. In 1953, LEGO Bricks were branded and shipped out to several markets but didn’t become very popular until the 1960s after some design and material changes came along with the declining preference of metal and wooden toys. We don’t think the founders ever anticipated the future magnitude of the toy. Video games, theme parks, competitions, movies, and complex collector sets continue to entertain hundreds of millions of kids and adults around the world each year!
There is no English translation for this magical word that the Danes hold dear. It’s one of the first things that locals explain to foreigners trying to learn how the Danes stay so happy and peaceful especially in the hard nordic winters. Hygge was explained to us by a local simply as this: the reason to get out of bed. It is the feeling or idea that everyone can find elements of love and joy each day—small moments like reading a book in candlelight with your favourite blanket or having a drink with your friend at a quaint local pub, for example—that you can remember for the rest of your life. It is coziness and comfort and overall wellbeing. If a Dane asks you if a place is “hygge,” they’re asking if it brings you that special level of comfort, coziness, and joy.
4. The 2 Oldest Amusement Parks in the World
In 1583 the first amusement park opened in Bakken, Denmark and is STILL OPEN today. The Danes not only have the oldest, but also the second oldest park, Tivoli, which is in the centre of Denmark’s capital, Copenhagen. Opening in 1843, Tivoli still operates fiercely, bringing in millions of visitors each year. Bakken interestingly enough is only a 20 minute train ride from Copenhagen so if you plan on visiting one you could definitely check out both. We wrote an article on Tivoli and our experience with the parks that you can check out here!
5.The Danneborg (Danish Cloth)
While several countries claim to have the oldest flag, Denmark has records to prove it. The Danish white and red cross dates back to 1215. Legend has it that the heavens opened up and the flag descended onto a battlefield where Denmark defeated Estonia in the 13th century. While the design wasn’t legally adopted as the national flag until 1625, it is widely recognized as the oldest national flag in the world as it hasn’t changed over the centuries from its original design like many other national flags.
We didn’t know before we visited, but Denmark was a massive Viking nation between the 8th and 12th centuries. Copenhagen was originally a small fishing village and remained Viking territory for centuries before Arch Bishop Absolan built upon it to serve as a stronghold against invaders, which, ironically, included the Vikings. Many Viking relics, fortresses, and themed museums can be explored in Denmark (one of the most notable is the Viking ship museum in Roskilde). The culture, language, customs, and temperament of Danish people dates back to these Viking roots which is very enriching to explore!
7. Hans Christian Anderson
Whether our parents read them to us when we are little or we pick them up through pop-culture along the way, we all appreciate the meaningful messages fairytales deliver to readers and listeners. People sadly often forgo talking about H.C. Anderson when discussing famous children’s book authors. The man wrote over 160 stories and even the great Walt Disney travelled to Copenhagen to study his work. Disney was inspired by Anderson’s creativity as many children’s authors in the 20th century were but his stories declined in popularity with shifts in cultural expectations. It’s no secret that some of the tales Anderson wrote are weird and perhaps not something many folks today would consider appropriate for children. You may have heard of his most famous works, though, because they continue to evolve and remain on the shelves! The Ugly Duckling, The Princess and the Pea, The Nightingale, Thumbelina, The Emperor’s New Clothes, and (arguably one of the most famous stories in the world) The Little Mermaid are all H.C. Anderson creations. A famous bronze statue of “Ariel” is on the water for visitors of Copenhagen to appreciate which was donated by the Carlsberg family in 1913. Unfortunately, Anderson died over 30 years earlier so he didn’t get to enjoy the gesture but his work lives on in many ways for us to enjoy 83 years later and counting. View the list of his works and publication dates here.
Founded in 1847, this Copenhagen based brewery now produces over 500 different products (including Kronenbourg, Tubourg, and Somersby Cider) with an export operation to over 100 countries. Carlsberg has become so popular as a brand that it produces local beers in other countries on top of exporting products! The Carlsberg family became an unprecedented force in Denmark and has helped Copenhagen become an economic power.
Ever wondered how the heck the inventor of Bluetooth came up with the name and logo? For the answer we have to jump back over 1,000 years. The name comes from the first unifying king of Denmark and Norway, Harald Bluetooth Gormsson. The inventors of the tech system were inspired by tales of Harald’s unique ability to communicate and connect people without brutality – sound familiar? Bluetooth’s logo is actually the King’s initials in ancient Dane Runes (which is above). For more history on the King, click here!
10. Bog People
One of the most renowned anthropological discoveries in modern history belongs to the Danes: bog people. Other countries in the north of Europe have found bog people (the Germans are actually the first recorded folks to find a bog body) but none are more famous than Denmark’s Tollund man. The reason this person is so famous around the world is the body’s level of preservation as well as the fashion of his death. The contents of Tollund man’s stomach were observable and multiple organs were almost perfectly preserved. Not only that, but his full head of red hair is still attached to his scalp—held underneath a wether-beaten cap—and those who first examined the body even noticed stubble on his chin and upper lip. Experts agree that he died by hanging for sacrificial purposes which is interesting since Tollund man dates back to 4th century BCE. Experts still debate what exactly ancient people believed in this era and why they sacrificed humans in this manner. Many experts believe that people in this region/period believed bogs were gateways to the underworld; to keep other worldly spirits happy, they placed sacrificed bodies whole in bogs so that menacing beings could take the soul and body of the person in totality. Denmark’s marshes and wetlands are abundant, making the country a perfect place for bog rituals! Fun fact: Tollund man’s fingers were so well-preserved that the Danish police added his fingerprints to their database and he remains one of the oldest person in the world to have prints on record. There are a number of unearthed bog bodies that are now on display in museums throughout Europe—check some out if you can!
This is more of a ‘does anyone out there have an answer??’ thing. The national bird of Denmark is the Mute Swan – great choice! However, we had a tour guide tell us that swans legally own all the water in Denmark. To what extent is this true or is it just a big hoax? Please let us know! WE NEED THIS KNOWLEDGE.
Hope you enjoyed this fun facts article! Do you have any interesting facts about Denmark that we didn’t cover? Drop them in the comments below!
Keep working hard, Sailors 💪