Danish Etiquette


Being in a new country requires you to learn some new rules of etiquette so that you are not spoiling your chances for further invites. The rules below revolve around dinner parties and small gatherings at people's homes.

The Danes have some traditions, which they hold very dear and expect others to respect and uphold. Ignoring these Danish rules can spoil your chances of being invited back for other dinners.

Punctuality: The first etiquette rule of being invited to dinner is that you must be punctual. Being late is unacceptable and not considered polite. If you are invited for 6 p.m., than you should arrive at 6 p.m., and no later than 5 minutes past. It is acceptable to be a few minutes early, but late is never acceptable.

Even if you are only delayed 5 minutes, you should call and let your host know that you are running 5 minutes late.

Gifts: Next thing to remember is that you should never arrive empty handed. It is customary to bring a small gift like a bottle of wine, flowers, chocolates or small trinket. I always like to bring candleholder or glass ornament. If it is a birthday or type of anniversary, than you should also bring a larger gift for the honorary.

Shoes: It is impolite etiquette to wear your outdoor shoes inside a person's home, so it is expected that you remove your shoes when entering a persons home. In order that you do not go around in your socks, you should bring along a pair of slippers. Sometimes the host will have extras, but it is advisable to bring your own.

Now this is not always the case, especially if the party is being held partly outdoors or it is a fancier type party - ball or large banquet. But you should be prepared with a pair of slippers in your bag. You can always ask the host what is expected.

Introductions: Depending on the size of the party, you may not be introduced to everyone individually. You should take it upon yourself to go around and greet each person. Say hello and shake their hand. This is very Danish and would be impolite not to introduce yourself.

Seating etiquette: When it is time for dinner, your host will announce that dinner is served. You should than proceed to the table and find your place. Depending on the size of the party there may be table cards indicating your seating arrangement. At other times the host may assign your seats. You now stand behind your chair until everyone is at the table. When your host says "Vaersgo or Velbekomme" that means it is time to take your seats.

P.S. Depending on the circumstances it is okay to hold a ladies chair and help her, but it is not expected. Equal rights and all, so you should play this by ear. Watch what other guests might be doing and take a clue from them.

Courses: There are usually several courses served during an evening meal. You will start with a fish dish as an appetizer, than a main course and than dessert. You are not expected to help clear plates between courses, but after the entire meal is finished, you should tell the host "tak for mad". This means thank you for the meal.

After the meal you will usually retire to the living room and have coffee/drinks/snacks and than the evening will end after that is served.

Departure: When leaving the party, proper etiquette requires you should tell the host that you had a good time by saying "Det var rigtig hyggeligt". You can also say it when saying goodbye to the other guests. This is the polite way to let everyone know you enjoyed yourself.

The Next Day: The following day or the next time you meet the host or any of the guests from the dinner party, you should say "Tak for sidst!", which means "thank you for the last time". You say this to everyone that was at the party, since everyone contributed to the success of the party.

P.S. I always find it amusing, when after an office party, as everyone comes to work all you hear for the first hour of conversation is "tak for sidst" repeated to every person walking into the office.

You will find some more etiquette terms here.


SBI!