“I’m Scared To Tell My American Friends”: 11 Things That Are Normal In Denmark But Not In America Interview
With 33 hour work weeks, a $20 minimum wage, free university, free medical care and free child care, Denmark has been one of the happiest countries in the world for the last decade or more. Home of Hans Christian Andersen and hygge, many people around the globe have an idealized view of what it’s like to live in Denmark. But according to one mother from the US who actually lives there, there are certain cultural differences that might shock the average American.
In her series “Things That Are Normal In Denmark That I’m Scared To Tell My American Friends”, TikToker Annie In Eventyrland shares all of the culture shocks she has experienced since she moved to Denmark. Below, you’ll find many of Annie’s observations about how Danish children are treated, as well as an interview with her and some of the reactions her videos have received.
We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments about how normal these things would be in your home country, whether you’re American, Danish or from somewhere else completely! Then if you’re interested in reading another Bored Panda article featuring cultural differences from around the world, look no further than right here.
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It seems like age 7-8 is completely normal for a kid to walk to and from school by themselves, not really any later than 10, depending on where you live and where the kid's school is.
People leave their babies outside in their strollers to sleep. To me, it's a sign of safety and trust in the community.
To hear more about Annie’s thoughts on Danish parenting and how she ended up in Denmark in the first place, we reached out to her via email. She told Bored Panda that her family relocated to Copenhagen about three and a half years ago because the design company her husband works for opened an office there.
We asked Annie how she would compare living in Denmark to living in the US, and she told us, “Considering just the sheer difference in population, it's really hard to compare. But I am really thankful that Denmark is so safe. Copenhagen is listed as the safest city in the world, and I'm extremely grateful to be able to raise my children here. For that, I do prefer Denmark, but I would be lying if I said I didn't miss the occasional Target run from time to time.”
In Denmark, you can't name your baby whatever you want. In fact, there's a preapproved list that you can choose from. And if the name that you wanna choose for your baby isn't on there, it has to be approved. So we can't name our kids something like Malibu Barbie here, but there are even more common-seeming names that have been blacklisted as well.
In the US, there's this perception that Denmark is just this extremely healthy country and everyone eats super clean and just eats whole foods, fruit, vegetables all the time.
And in the US, at least where I had my kids, which was in New York and then Portland, Oregon, there was a lot of stigma around giving your kids sugar or any kind of junk food.
Honestly, something that I really love about Denmark is how normalized treats are.
Doctors will literally recommend it if your kid is sick, they will say, "Well, have you tried giving them ice cream yet?"
Another food that's kind of demonized again, at least where I'm from in the US, is anything with bread, any carbs of any kind. Here in Denmark, you might have a pastry every day. You might have a pastry several times a day, and then pasta with some bread. You'd probably wash that down with a coke or a glass of wine, or several beers.
I do love how normalized fun foods are, and I think it actually sets people up for really healthy eating habits.
We also asked Annie if it took a while to acclimate to all of the cultural differences, and she shared, “I honestly feel like I am still adjusting to the cultural differences here. I wasn't expecting it, but it feels like literally everything is different from what I'm used to in some way, for reasons big and small.”
“Learning to grocery shop in a foreign country took me a couple years to get down, and I still have room for improvement,” Annie admitted. “The hardest thing for me to get used to was, considering maternity leave and work life balance is so healthy here, there really isn't such a thing as a stay at home parent, which was my role for five years before making the move. It's been a lot having my entire identity change, but for the better.”
Something that seems to be very normalized here are afflictions of old, in particular, lice. I grew up in Texas and I never had lice in my entire childhood or early adult life. If somebody were to get it, it's kind of a big deal. But I will never forget, a few months after we moved here, as we were leaving my son's kindergarten, he was complaining that his head was itching, and sure enough, I looked at his scalp and there just was like the perfect pattern of lice eggs.
I ran back into the classroom and was like, "Oh my gosh, I just noticed my son has lice." And the teacher was like, "Okay, well, I'll send out an email and let everybody know." They were just so calm about it. Whereas I feel like in the US, people would be freaking out.
The legal drinking age here is 16, you're allowed to buy alcohol of certain levels. In case you don't know, the legal drinking age in the US is 21.
We then asked Annie if she thinks many American parents could learn a thing or two from Danish parents. “One of the biggest differences between American and Danish parents is how relaxed they are, and with nearly a year of maternity leave, paid vacation and sick days, living in such a safe country, affordable childcare and no medical costs, why wouldn't they be?”
“For that reason, I think it would be pretty difficult for American parents to be as relaxed as their Danish counterparts,” Annie told Bored Panda. “But I do think American culture could stand to step back from helicopter parenting, having their kids in so many activities and having so many educational expectations for them at such young ages. Denmark is really good at letting kids be kids.”
If you drop your kid off at daycare, kindergarten, elementary school, any institution, they could leave at any point and you might not know where they are.
I honestly don't know how many times I picked up my kid from school and they were like, "Hey, we went to the theater today," and I had absolutely no clue that they were even gonna be going anywhere.
There's also been times that I've been out, like walking through the park and ran into my own kids with their school, not even knowing that they would be there.
If you are ever visiting Denmark, do not be alarmed if you hear a four-year-old on the playground dropping an F-bomb. It's very normal to hear Danish kids using American curse words, very small kids, which is very jarring. Like I said, sometimes you'll hear around age four and five, and once they're in elementary school, it's pretty much the norm.
“Something I love about Denmark is even though people aren't super outgoing here, everyone is always looking out for each other and each others' children,” Annie added. “If I am ever out with my kids and need a hand, people never hesitate to step in and help. I would love to see that same sense of community in cities all over the US.”
First of all, the actual school day is only from 8 to 1:30 PM.
Secondly, they don't call their teacher, Miss, Mrs. Mr. Ma'am, Sir. They just call them by their first name
If a kid is caught hitting, flipping somebody the bird, using a cuss word, the harshest punishment they're gonna get is probably just the talking to. Things like suspensions and expulsions are only used in extremely extreme cases.
My oldest son is in the US equivalent of the third grade. He just now started getting homework this year, and his homework is to read for 15 minutes a day in whatever book he chooses. He's also never received a grade. I don't know when that starts. Oh, kids here don't start reading until they turn seven, in the US, there's pressure to start reading by five.
I'm not sure if this is true, but since kids here are allowed to buy beer at the store at age 16, I've heard that some high schools serve their students beer in the cafeteria.
You can't just walk into any old store and buy whatever drug or supplement that you might want or need. And also there are a lot of drugs and supplements in the US that just aren't available here.
For instance, if you need Tylenol or infant Tylenol, which is actually called Panadol here, you have to go to a pharmacy or you can get them behind the counter at grocery stores, but you have to get it from behind the counter in every circumstance. In the US there are just aisles full of drugs in every supermarket.
It’s no surprise that Denmark is one of the world’s safest and happiest nations, especially after hearing a bit more about how they raise their children. We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments as well. If you had the chance, would you raise your kids in Denmark? Or do you wish you had grown up there yourself? If you’d like to keep up with Annie and her family’s adventures in Denmark, you can find her TikTok Annie in Eventyrland right here.
In Denmark, once you start grade school, you take a sports class in the US we would call it PE or physical education. Afterwards, everyone, boys and girls, get completely disrobed and then they all get in a large shower together and it's supervised by their classroom teacher. Whereas in the US, we didn't even change into athletic clothes, and then afterwards, don't change out of our clothes and just go about our day.