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”Jylland, du er hovedlandet”. Jutland, you’re the main country. Ever since Danish national bard H.C. Andersen wrote those words (in 1859), people from Sjælland (Zealand) have resented him for it. Andersen himself was from Fyn (Funen), the middle island, but spent most of his career in København, so why couldn’t he see that the island of the capital was ”hovedlandet”, instead of some backwater-ish peninsula where noone really went anyway?
Foreigners are sometimes surprised that Denmark is so diverse. If you leave Copenhagen and go to, say, the West Coast of Jutland, the culture and the atmosphere really change. A friend of mine once went into a McDonald’s in Western Jutland, accompanied by a Copenhagener. The Copenhagener wanted to order something. The girl at the counter kept asking him what he was saying? True story.
Før eller siden, sooner or later, you’ll encounter the regional stereotypes of Denmark. There is a kind of love-hate relationship between Jylland and Sjælland. Jyder (Jutlanders) call Sjælland Djævleøen (The Devil Island), and often make jokes about the whole island being ”Copenhagen” or even a part of Sverige (Sweden). To many people from the capital area, however, Jutland is a faraway land of dimwitted farmers. It’s almost easier to take a plane to Thailand than getting on a train to provinsen (”the province”).
Now I’m being unfair towards people from places like Roskilde or Køge, but the stereotypical sjællænder really is a københavner. He talks a lot, at least twice as fast as his Jutish friend. He’s smart (clever) and fræk (cheeky). He likes to boast and exaggerate things with gestures and colourful language. He enjoys honing his swear-word skills. He’s very direct, and never misses a chance to throw a witty remark at the lady in the bus. He finishes a lot of phrases with ik’? (not?)
The stereotypical jyde is rolig (quiet) and sindig (sober-minded) and a bit slow. He talks slowly and his dialect doesn’t ”jump” so much as the Copenhagener’s. He enjoys quiet life and nature. He rarely says things directly, preferring silent empathy. He finds the Zealandic way of communicating a bit arrogant or even effeminate. He uses words like træls (irritating, tiresome, laborious) and københavneri (”Copenhagen-ry”, too much focus on the capital). He’s very trustworthy. For that reason, the guy talking about gardens in Danish Television is often a jyde.
The stereotypical fynbo is happy and meek. He has little of the Jutish melancholia or the Zealandic urgency. The Funen dialect is a bit singsong, so that’s probably why we have this stereotype. Fyn is also a very nice and charming ”garden” island. As the saying goes in Danish: Fyn er fin. (Funen is pretty.)
I don’t know a lot of stereotypes about bornholmere, people from Bornholm. They eat a lot of røget sild (smoked herring) and their dialect is almost Swedish, due to the fact that this part of Denmark lies closer to Sweden than the rest of the country.
BTW. Do you know the comic Scandinavia and the World? It is drawn by a Dane, and it makes a lot of fun about stereotypes! It’s mostly about countries, but here’s a drawing of the different Danish regions! 🙂