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!


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!

Expat portrait: Sarita, freelance writer and blogger in Copenhagen

It’s time for an expat portrait again! Today, I’m introducing Sarita, a fellow Copenhagen blogger who I’ve also met during The Hive Blogging Conference in May.

If you’re an expat in Denmark and would like to be featured, just drop me a line!

Sarita moved to Copenhagen in early 2012, when her husband was offered a job here. She writes a great blog centered around gift giving called The Orange Gift Bag, which you should definitely go check out! Her mission is “to uncover the best gifts after love”, and her guide to gift giving in Denmark is a must-read for any expat here.

Sarita Rajiv - For Copenhagen Tales

What is your favorite thing about living in Denmark?

I live in Copenhagen and my favourite thing about living here is that it’s such a compact city. You can get to most places within and around the city within half an hour either on cycle or the efficient public transport.

What do you miss most from your home country?

I miss my family and friends in India and all the festivals we celebrate back home. I can get quite nostalgic thinking about them, but I’ve now begun to celebrate them in the best way I possibly can in Denmark.

If you could describe Denmark in 3 words, which would you use?

Charming, homogenous and balanced (work-life).

In your opinion, what is the weirdest or funniest thing Danes do?

I find it unusual that Danes are not particularly religious but they are tradition bound. You notice it in the way they celebrate festivals and the tradition of having the christening, confirmation and  wedding ceremonies at the church but rarely visiting it the rest of the year.

What is your favorite Danish food? What is the worst?

My favourite is the smørrebrød…it’s a fun piece of Danish cuisine. The worst would have to be  leverpostej…I just can’t get myself to eat it.

Which Danish tradition would you like to keep even if you move away from Denmark in the future?

It would be nice to continue the tradition of hygge.

What are your favorite three places in Denmark or the Danish city you live in?

  • Fælledparken  - I love visiting it with my daughter; there’s so much to explore and do.
  • Hovedbibliotek (The main library) - my source for English novels and my “office” when I need a change from working out of home.
  • Paludan Bogcafe - Perfect place to meet friends and have work meetings.

What is the most important thing you have learned during your time as an expat in Denmark?

To be realistic about my expectations. In hindsight, I was a bit naïve to assume that I would make many Danish friends quickly without knowing anything about the nature of Danes or Danish society.

Which advice would you give someone considering to move to Denmark?

Saunter, don’t rush into a relationship with Denmark. Give both Denmark and yourself the time to understand each other. Don’t be in a hurry to set expectations or make judgements.

Finally, we all have a love-hate relationship with the Danish language. What is your favorite Danish word, and what does it mean?

Punktum aka full stop/dot/period. It’s got a fun ring to it and I absolutely love using it when I’m saying an email id or a website address in Danish.

Do you have any questions or comments for Sarita? Post them here, and I’m sure she’ll be happy to answer them!

Expat portrait: Melanie, freelance writer and blogger in Copenhagen

It’s time for an expat portrait again! You guys have already met Melanie, a fellow Copenhagen blogger who I’ve had the pleasure of meeting during The Hive Blogging Conference in May, when I introduced her in the writers’ blog hop last month.

If you’re an expat in Denmark and would like to be featured, just drop me a line!

Melanie, 39, is originally from the UK and pretty much a Copenhagener by naturalization by now - she’s been living here since 2008. She lives in Østerbro with her family, and if you haven’t done so yet, you should stop by her lovely blog, Dejlige Days. You can also find her on Facebook.


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