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I Spy with my Little Eye, what’s up with Danish culture?

young woman in snow

(Private photo: Aisya Nizar)

Blog |   03. Feb 2021

young woman smiling

Aisya Nizar


“Why is everyone going outside during break time?” – my thoughts during my first Entrepreneurship Global Studies class in Dalgas Have

Born and raised in Malaysia, I had the opportunity to come to Denmark in 2015-2016 as an exchange student. I went to a local high school located in Østerbro, I lived with a local Danish family and I ate rugbrød (rye bread) for lunch. I went through a tough time, trying to adjust to the new environment, making new friends, and learning a new language.


From my point of view, as a Southeast Asian girl, there were so many cultural clashes that even the Danes do not notice that much. For example, how the Danes eat salty popcorn and have mixed candy bags while watching a movie at the cinema or lift their finger when they want to ask a question in class.

Those small things are aspects that I was not used to. But as time goes by, I have adapted to those small cultural differences between Malaysia and Denmark.

Fast forward to 2018, I got an offer to continue my bachelor’s degree in International Business at CBS. I was so excited because I knew that with my experience from living in Denmark for a year, it would not be hard for me to adjust back to Danish culture.

But boy, I was wrong…

This was because I was a “pro” for having prior knowledge on how the Danes act and for my cultural experiences in high school.

But boy, I was wrong…

I remember entering my first class in Dalgas Have, and we had a little 10-minute break between classes. I would say 90% of my classmates all stormed out of the classroom. I thought to myself, “Why is everyone going outside during break time?”.

I also went out to see what they were doing. Some of them went to the cafeteria to buy coffee or grab a quick breakfast, some of them went for a toilet break, but most of them were just out at the main area talking and socializing with classmates.

It was something new for me, seeing people just talking with new acquaintances and asking how they were doing. I felt a little bit awkward just joining in, as I had not participated in the Intro Week because I had some visa issues. Luckily, I had made a friend from our Class Facebook Group, Jing, and asked her what I had missed and how it had been for her.

After living here for nearly 3 years, I have discovered a lot of things that I am still trying to adjust to. The observations that I have made can be categorized as three different points of view.

Firstly, from an educational perspective. Here, in Denmark, students are encouraged to think and to be critical about everything. They are expected to be curious and engage in class discussions.

In one of the classes I had, I think it was during my first semester here, I was really surprised to see that there was an on-going discussion happening in the class between a teacher and a student. The student asked a question that I never thought would have been asked, and his question was critical.

These are the few things that, back home, students were not heavily focused on. It is a different method of teaching compared to Malaysia.

Teacher in a class at CBS

(Photo by Aisya Nizar)

The second thing that I am still adjusting to is the language. I am taking Danish classes to learn more about how to communicate and converse fluently. However, I am still struggling with Danish irony. It is not easy to understand the message behind the dark jokes that the Danes use because sometimes I take them literally.

Yesterday, I was watching DR: Ultra Smider Tøjet (Throws Off its Clothes) with my boyfriend and I was so confused to see the message that they are trying to educate Danish children about their bodies. This is also a different communication tool that the Danes portray in their everyday life.

Lastly, everyday Danish norms. These are still the biggest cultural difference that I face today.

I was shocked to see that people could just come in and steal the books

For instance, how the Danes use a fork and knife to eat a meal compared to where I come from. We use a fork and spoon or eat with our hand or use chopsticks while eating meals. Or even, how Danes call their pastries “cakes” or when I went to my Danish school to pick up books, and there were tons of books in the school’s lounge under no supervision from the school.

I was shocked to see that people could just come in and steal the books. But of course, the Danes have strong trust values instilled in them, and that is something I would never see, coming from Malaysia.

I guess those are all my observations for now. I hope that one day I can fully adapt and understand all these small, weird things that the Danes do and find some relevance behind them.


  1. Claudio says:

    This blog entry are on Googles news feed on my phone 🙂
    Best regards
    Claudio De Aquino

  2. Christoffer says:

    Fun perspective. Keep them coming. What’s your take on our food:)

  3. Fatin Adilah says:

    Love it I want more story

  4. Arifah says:

    Write more please aisya! Love it ❤ -arie

  5. Liza says:

    Catchy title, interesting take, more depth please

  6. Jadd says:

    Awesome story.. write more please

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