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Being Polite in Danish Posted by on Apr 26, 2015 in Conversation, Society

”Two fries and a cheeseburger!” If you hear someone saying this, they might be a forgetful Dane. Danish, you see, has no proper word for please. This has given birth to the idea that Danes are less høflig (courteous, polite) than other people. Well, actually, Danish has various ways of expressing høflighed (courteousness):

Things like wishing someone a good morning or shaking hands at meetings are also considered polite in Denmark. (Photo by Aidan Jones at Flickr, CC License.)

Things like wishing someone a good morning or shaking hands at meetings are also considered polite in Denmark. (Photo by Aidan Jones at Flickr, CC License.)

tak, of course, means thank you. It’s used literally all the time: tak for mad! (thank you for the food! – said to the host or cook when you’re finished eating), tak for sidst! (thank you for the last time! – said when you bump into someone you recently went to a party with), tak for i dag! (thank you for today! – said when you’re leaving an enjoyable company), tak fordi du kunne komme (thank you for being able to come), tak fordi jeg måtte komme (thak you for allowing me to come – a possible reply to the previous one), en kop the, tak (a cup of tea, please – notice how the idea of please can sometimes be expressed using other words), mange tak (many thanks), tusind tak (thousand thanks), tak skal du have! (thanks a lot, literally: thanks you shall have!) selv tak! (your’re welcome!)

undskyld [ONNskil] (I’m sorry) is often the word to use to get someone’s attention without shouting: Undskyld, men du står på min fod… (Excuse me, but you’re standing on my foot…) Undskyld, ved du hvor banegården ligger? (Excuse me, do you know where the main train station is?)

vil du være så venlig (would you be so kind) is a bit formal: Vil du være så venlig at vise mig vejen til Zoologisk Have (Would you be so kind as to show me the road to the zoo?)

venligst (most kindly) is a snappier variation of the above – it’s actually the closest Danish gets to please: Ryd venligst op efter dig selv! (Please tidy up your own stuff!)

Danes love being equal, so fluff like the courteous pronoun De(m)(You) and the formal titles herre and frue (Mr. and Mrs.) are hardly used anymore.

What are your experiences in Denmark? Are people generally polite or not so? Drop a comment. Please!

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About the Author:Bjørn A. Bojesen

I was born in Denmark, but spent large parts of my childhood and study years in Norway. I later returned to Denmark, where I finished my MA in Scandinavian Studies. Having relatives in Sweden as well, I feel very Scandinavian! I enjoy reading and travelling, and sharing stories with you! You’re always welcome to share your thoughts with me and the other readers.


Comments:

  1. MJWH:

    Tak for det!


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