Top 10 Facts You Didn't Know About Denmark!
Denmark regularly makes the headlines as one of the happiest places on earth. But, what more is there to the country of cinnamon pastries and Viking spirit?
Here’s a list of 10 facts you didn’t know about Denmark. Enjoy!
1. The Danish flag is the oldest state flag still in use
The Danish flag has just had its 800th birthday! The ‘Dannebrog’ was first adopted on 15th June 1219, making it the longest used state flag in history.
The legend goes that during a battle against Estonia, a banner fell down from the sky into the arms of the Danish archbishop. A voice declared that ‘when you raise this banner against your enemies, they will yield before you.’ The archbishop sent the banner to the King in battle and victory was Denmark’s!
The Danes are certainly proud of their flag! It’s usual to see it flown from poles in people’s gardens and is even staked into birthday cakes! No matter where they are in the world, Danish people like to uphold this birthday tradition.
2. first country to legalise same-sex unions
Back in 1989, Denmark was the first country to legalise same-sex unions. Although this law didn’t allow for same-sex marriage, it was a huge step. During the 90s, other European countries followed suit. Finally, in 2001, the first country to legalise marriage was the Netherlands.
In 2012, Denmark went the whole way and made same-sex marriage legal too. Now, it’s regarded as one of the best places to live for LGBT+ people.
3. Unofficial Danish law states that no one is better than others
In Denmark, there is an unofficial law or code of conduct called ‘Janteloven.’ It states that no one is better than anyone else.
In English, ‘Janteloven’ translates as the ‘Law of Jante’ and was written about by Dano-Norweigan writer Aksel Sandemose. In his novel A Fugitive Crosses His Tracks (En flyktning krysser sitt spor, 1933), Sandemose set out a list of ten rules. They all boiled down to the basic principle ‘you are no better than I am.’
Although the novel was meant to be satirical, janteloven has been adopted into Danish culture. In general, it promotes the sort of group behaviour that some believe is why Denmark is such a happy country! How does this translate? Danish culture celebrates success, but not the flashy kind.
4. Lego was invented in Denmark
Way back in 1932 Billund, Denmark, the Lego Group began making toys from wooden blocks. In fact, if we look at its name, we can tell Lego was created in Denmark. ‘Lego’ is a hybrid of two Danish words - ‘leg godt’ meaning ‘play well’. Pretty nice!
Of course, we know that the Lego Group did not stop there. Lego has now become an internationally-renowned company trading in plastic blocks and figurines. Up to today, there have been over 400 billion Lego bricks sold worldwide. This means there are about 62 bricks for every person on the planet.
Lego now produces the highest number of (toy) tyres in the world as well. They’re taking over!
5. The best-known Danish-designed building is on the other side of the world
I bet you didn’t realise you already knew one of the top Danish architects?
It was Jorn Utzon, a Danish native, who designed the Sydney Opera house! The building was made a World Heritage site in 2005 whilst Utzon was still alive, a rare privilege!
Danish design has become popular the world over, especially its interior design! Here at Project Nord, our posters are inspired by those very design principles. Check out our collection of stunning, Scandinavian art pieces!
6. Denmark has one of the world’s highest divorce rates
The Danes have a different approach to marriage, which means they think differently about divorce as well. Nearly 20% of Danish couples cohabitate without ever getting married. Having the paperwork to prove a partnership isn’t too important!
Even if Danes do decide to get married, it’s easy to reverse it if they so choose. In 2014, Denmark’s divorce rate reached an all-time high of 54.39%! Danes have the flexibility to choose.
It’s even possible to file for divorces online and without the need for solicitors! It’s that simple.
7. Denmark has the two oldest theme parks in the world
That’s right, the Danes are responsible for theme parks and Lego. Where would we be without them? The oldest theme park still existing is called Bakken which opened in 1583! In medieval Europe, lots of major cities had ‘pleasure gardens’, which is what Bakken began as. In the years since, all but Bakken closed down. The park boasts of a wooden roller coaster built almost a hundred years ago!
The world’s second-oldest theme park is also one of the most famous. Tivoli Gardens is right in the centre of Copenhagen. It was established in the 1840s when architect George Carstensen put his case to King Christian VIII. To get the king on side, Carstensen reassured him that ‘when people amuse themselves, they forget politics.’ And, it’s still here to this day in all its glory. Tivoli even went on to inspire Walt Disney to create his own theme parks.
8. Normal Danish people were not allowed surnames 200 years ago
Up until recently, only wealthy or aristocratic people were allowed to claim family surnames in Denmark. How strange!
However, in 1856, the Danish government passed a law to change all that. Of course, Danes have surnames now. But, have you ever noticed that they are all very similar to each other?
In Denmark, all but one of the top 20 most popular surnames end in -sen. There is a reason behind this! In Danish, ‘sen’ translates as ‘son’. When names were passed down, the son was added on - Jacob’s son, for example.
9. The average Dane pays 45% income tax
We’ve all heard about how good the standard of living is in Denmark. But, did you realise it came at such a high price? The average Dane pays 45% in income tax!
They also pay crazy-high tax on other things, such a 150-180% on cars they buy in the country.
However, this sum pays for many of the facilities which make life good in Denmark. It pays for education to be free, even at university level. Parental leave is also the most generous in the world at a total of 52 weeks! And, they have free access to healthcare.
All their worries are dealt with!
10. The Danes are bike-crazy
In Copenhagen, there are more bikes than there are people! They really love cycling in Denmark.
Plus, the Danish postal service delivers almost all their mail in Copenhagen by bike. Sounds like heaven to me! In fact, cycling made it to our list of 5 sustainability hacks to be just like the Danish. Check it out!
To throw one last fact at you, almost as many people commute by bike in greater Copenhagen as in the whole of the United States. Wow! Now that is a statistic to remember!
So, have you learnt something new about Denmark? We hope you enjoyed our list of the top 10 facts you didn’t know about Denmark. Do you have any new entries to add to the list?
Written by Jessica Slater
Images sourced from Upsplash.