Typical Danish: Thank you for… everything

The Danes are a very polite people. Even if it may initially seem like they are a bit reserved, there are in fact a lot of little rules around politeness. As a foreigner, these can be difficult to navigate. Especially the protocol around thanking people can seem a bit excessive, but it is recommendable that you learn your way around it as an expat – you don’t want to come across as rude! So here’s my little guide to the different things you should thank people for, and how to do it in Danish!

keep-calm-and-say-tak-21

Sign up for the monthly newsletter, including exclusive previews and more!

No spam.

The general rule is that it is pretty much impossible to say “thank you” too many times. Danes LOVE to say it and they will be thanking you left, right and center, so you are free to thank them back for anything you please!

Tak / Mange tak / Tusind tak – “Thank you / Thank you very much.” This is the standard version. Your coffee guy hands you your latte, the cashier hands you your change, or your colleague drops off a copy of that report at your desk.

Selv tak – Now, technically, this means “you’re welcome”, but I like that it makes it so you’re thanking the other person back. See what I mean – even if someone is thanking them, the Danes can’t help themselves and must say thank you, too!

Tak for mad – “Thank you for the food”. You say this after eating a meal to thank the chef or host/ hostess. The protocol also states that they reply by “velbekomme”. Now, “velbekomme” is a bit tricky. It can either be said at the beginning of the meal (“enjoy!”) or at the end, where I take it to mean something along the lines of, “I hope you enjoyed it”. More generally, “velbekomme” is also used to express “you’re welcome”.

Tak for invitationen – “Thanks for the invite”. You can say this either when arriving or leaving (or both times, for the pros!).

Tak fordi du kom – “Thank you for coming”. You say this when your guests are arriving, or leaving (or both times, for the pros again).

Tak for sidst/ sidste gang – This is another interesting one, as I find it very typical for Denmark, and haven’t really seen it in any other language. It translates to “Thanks for last time”. You basically say this when you see someone again after hanging out before. Pros add “det var hyggeligt” (it was cozy/ great).

Tak for i dag/ i aften – “Thank you for today/ tonight.” This one is also quite typical. You can hear this used both after private arrangements – use for example when you’ve been invited over to a friend’s house – and in professional context – for example after a university lecture or a meeting. It can be said by both sides (host and guest, or professor and student).

American expat Becky lists another one in her blog for Expat in Denmark: Tak for hilsen – “Thank you for the greetings”. The basic idea here is that Danes love to have people say hi to someone from them, and the so greeted will then want to thank both you for passing the greeting and, of course, the original greeter, next time they see them. I haven’t actually heard this sentence used, but I can relate to the seemingly never-ending “pass my best to…/ say hi to … from me” and the thanks when you do. What am I, a carrier pigeon? I’m kidding, I think it’s actually quite sweet.

You can image that this whole thanking business would get quite time-consuming if, let’s say, you are invited to your friend’s house for dinner. Now you have to thank them for the invite, for last time you saw them, and for the greetings, if they passed any to you. And don’t forget to also thank them for the food and for the lovely evening when you leave!

Finally, “tak” can also be used to express the meaning of “please”, which otherwise doesn’t exist in Danish, for example when ordering something (“en kop kaffe, tak”).

In the spirit of this post, thank you for reading, and thank you in advance for your great comments!

You might also like



13 thoughts on “Typical Danish: Thank you for… everything”

  • Diese “Danke für letztes Mal”-Geschichte hab ich schonmal in einer anderen Sprache gehört, aber ich weiß nicht mehr was. Könnte schwedisch gewesen sein, das gäbe ja irgendwie Sinn. Ich finds jedenfalls einen schönen Gedanken und wünschte, sowas würde sich auch auf deutsch etablieren (und zwar am besten, ohne dabei super creepy zu wirken…)

  • Love this! I visited Aarhus for two weeks and got into the habit of saying ‘Tak’ everywhere I went…so much so that I took it back with me to Malaysia! :P

    • Hi Syamira, thanks for your comment! I’ve also found myself saying “thank you for today” to friends back home in Germany. But I guess there are worse habits than being polite!

  • Thank you very much for this post! I’ve allways considered us danes to be rather rude, nice to know we are not just that, thanks! And now I know why I can’t find the right frases for “Tak for denne gang/sidst/mad/fordi du kom/jeg måtte komme osv” when I’m in Scotland. On the other hand, scots say ‘sorry’ or ‘excuse me’ every other minute, and I’m quite anxious to be considered rude because I forget……
    Thanks again

    • Hi Birgitte, thanks for your comment! How funny that the Scots apologize all the time – I didn’t know that! My (Danish) boyfriend always translates “tak for denne gang” to German when we’re visiting my parents – they’ve gotten used to it now, but were quite confused the first time! :)

  • Born in Denmark, I grew up in the US and was always considered very polite… Never thought about before. How about “Tak a lige måde”?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close