Having your first conversation in a foreign language is always a feat. If you know how to say ”hello” and ”goodbye”, you have the tools to break the ice – and to sneak away, if the whole thing gets too embarrassing!
Hej! is the normal way to say ”hi!” It sounds pretty much like English hi; just try to make it a tad lighter (not so far back in that throat of yours!) Add a dose of jovial and slightly wary down-to-earthness, and you’ll sound very Danish.
If someone calls you and you can’t hear the person, your word-of-choice should be hallo? [ha-LAW] If you’re in the street and want to get someone’s attention, just say hey! (as in English).
Of course there are also the good something! kind of greetings. Like when you meet somenone in the morning, you say god morgen [gohMORN], in the middle of the day the words to use are god dag [gohDA], and in the evening you go for god aften [gohAFtn]. Please note that ”good day” doesn’t sound strange in Danish – it’s a totally natural thing to say.
In many places in Jutland you’ll hear god dag shortened to daw [daoo]! This is a convenient way to greet that reserved driver of the countryside bus, for example. I guess it sounds more ”macho” than hej! 😉
If you’re in Denmark and take a stroll after dark, however, it’s a bad idea to greet strangers with god nat [gohNAT] (good night), no matter how beautiful the stars are! They’ll think you’re leaving for bed, or expecting them to do it!
This brings us over to taking leave. The traditional way to say bye in Danish is
This is still used in a lot of situations. It’s a nice, polite thing to say, so learn it and use it!
But you shold be aware that many Danes are not aware that it comes from far vel – just like English farewell! (= travel well! = have a nice journey throughout your day!) So, to jazz up their language a bit, many Danes take leave by saying things like hej! or hej hej! (When it’s double, it can only mean bye.)
In many shops the assistant will ”bye-bye” you with the expression ha’ en god dag! (have a good day!) or ha’ en fortsat god dag! (have a day that continues being good!) or ha’ en god weekend! if it’s Friday/Saturday/Sunday. The correct thing to answer is: tak i lige måde! (thanks and you too!) This way of saying bye is currently spreading from the shops, and you’ll probably meet ”ordinary” Danes who say it as well.
And I’ll end this post by saying vi ses! (see you later!) and wishing you pøj pøj [poy poy] (good luck) with your language studies.