Danish Language Blog

Danes and alcohol Posted by on Aug 13, 2015 in Uncategorized

The painting ”Hip hip hurra” (1888, copyright expired).

The painting ”Hip hip hurra” (1888, copyright expired).

Skål! [scawl!] (Cheers!) Toasting in Denmark can be an unforgettable everyday experience: Alle løfter deres glas, kigger hinanden i øjnene og skåler højt. (Everybody raises their glass, looks each other in the eyes and toasts loudly.) The roaring skååål animates the whole room, even beyond the table of the celebrants. Then everybody takes a sip of øllet (the beer)…

Alkohol [ALcohhawl] has long been a part of Danish culture. It is often associated with fester (celebrations), fællesskab (togetherness) and hygge. One of Denmark’s most famous paintings – Hip hip hurra! (hip hip hurray!) by P.S. Krøyer – gives a very good idea of this stemning (mood, atmosphere).

France has vin [veen] (wine), Scotland has whisky and Denmark has øl (beer). That’s the traditional tale. Nowadays, many Danes are skipping their dinner beer and drinking a glass of rødvin (red wine) with their food instead. Danes continue, however, to feel a special stolthed (pride) about their beer. There’s a bajer [BAH-yoar] (beer or lager) for any occasion: håndbajer (hand beer) when you’re on the go, fyraftensbajer (closing time beer) when you’ve finished working, fredagsbajer (Friday beer) when you’re done with the week’s work, flyttebajer (moving beer) when you’re moving house and need a break from pushing all those heavy pieces of furniture around… Made a fool of yourself? There’s a beer for that! Just tell the ”victim” of your clumsiness: Jeg gi’r en kvajebajer! (I’ll give a fool’s beer!)

Den tørstige mand. (The thirsty man.) An iconic ad from the Tuborg breweries (1900, copyright expired).

Den tørstige mand. (The thirsty man.) An iconic ad from the Tuborg breweries (1900, copyright expired).

Have Danes become too lax about alcohol? Some foreigners get very worried when they see 14–16 year-olds experimenting with beverages in Danish alleys. Getting fuld [ful] (drunk) has become a part of growing up, but I don’t know if young people in Denmark are any ”worse” than teenagers in Germany or other nearby places. And even old people like pensionister [pangshawnISTor] (pensioners) may be everyday drinkers, enjoying for example a small glass of Gammel Dansk (”Old Danish”, a brandy) in the afternoon. It’s no secret that Danes are among the EU’s most passionate drinkers. While 25 % of people in the EU don’t drink any alcohol, only 7 % of all Danes are afholdende (abstinent). It’s not easy to say nej tak (no thanks!) when all your friends would like to share a drink with you!

What do you think? Is there too much druk (”excessive alcohol drinking”) in Danmark? Or is Danes’ laid-back attitude to alcohol part of what makes Denmark such a dejlig [DIElee] (nice, lovely) place to be?

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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.