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Culture & People


The culture of Denmark is hard to define. None the less, there are some general characteristics often associated with Danish society and everyday culture. Danes are generally a reserved people, though they are often considered positively outgoing compared to their northern cousins in Norway and Sweden. Danes are fun loving, as a trip through any town on a Friday night can attest, but hard working when there's something to be done. Danes like the idea of 'civilised' nature. They are generally compassionate, articulate, and clean. Equality is an important part of Danish culture, so much so that, 'success' or what may be seen as a deliberate attempt to distinguish one self from others may be viewed with hostility. This characteristic is called Janteloven or Jante's Law by Danes.

Danes with the rest of their Nordic neighbours known for enjoying an open-minded drinking culture. Recent studies has shown that Danish teenagers drink the most compared to the Nordic neighbours, such as Germans, Norwegians and Swedes. Compared to the US laws, the Danish laws are very different. Buying and drinking alcohol is legal at the age of 16, however this is not always enforced resulting in teens beginning drinking at lower ages, such as 13-14. However, driving is not allowed until the age of 18.

Sexual equality is a high priority in Denmark. Danes are quite liberal and tolerant towards sexual minorities.
Copenhagen is a popular destination for lesbian and bisexual travellers. It has an active gay community and lots of nightlife options. The main gay and lesbian festival of the year is the Mermaid Pride parade, a big Mardi Gras-like bash that occurs on a Saturday in early August. There's also the Copenhagen Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, held each year in October. The LBL (Landsforeningen for Bøsser og Lesbiske)(a national organisation for gay men, lesbians and bisexuals) was established in 1948, and in 1989 Denmark became the first country in Europe to offer gay partners most of the same legal rights as heterosexual couples. Adoption laws are liberal compared to other Western countries and public displays of affection between people of the same sex are unlikely to provoke ire. Lesbians wishing to have access to artificial insemination do not provoke the sort of scandals that can occur in other societies.

Arts, Literature & Science

Denmark has a rich cultural and intellectual heritage. The astronomical discoveries of Tycho Brahe (1546-1601), Ludwig A. Colding's (1815-1888) neglected articulation of the principle of conservation of energy, and the brilliant contributions to atomic physics of Niels Bohr (1885-1962) indicate the range of Danish scientific achievement. The fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen (1805-75), the philosophical essays of Søren Kierkegaard (1813-55), the short stories of Karen Blixen (penname Isak Dinesen, 1885-1962), the plays of playwright Ludvig Holberg (1684-1754), the authors of the modern breakthrough including Nobel laureate Henrik Pontoppidan and author Herman Bang and the dense, aphoristic poetry of Piet Hein (1905–1996), have earned international recognition, as have the symphonies of Carl Nielsen (1865-1931).

Danish applied art and industrial design have won awards for excellence. The name of Georg Jensen (1866-1935) is known worldwide for modern design in silver. The Royal Danish Porcelain Factory ("Royal Copenhagen") and Bing & Grøndahl, renowned for the quality of their porcelain and ceramics, export their products worldwide. Danish design is also a well-known brand, often associated with the world-famous designers and architects Børge Mogensen, Hans Wegner and Arne Jacobsen. And of course one should not forget that the architect who designed the iconic Sydney Opera House was a Dane - Jørn Utzon'
In recent years, Danish movies have attracted international attention, especially those associated with Dogme 95 wuch as the filmmaker Lars Von Trier. However the country has always had a strong tradition of movie making and in Carl Theodor Dreyer has produced one of the world's greatest film directors. During the Christmas holidays(or Jul) paper cutting of Christmas ornaments is a very big family event. Spending hours around a table with the family cutting intricate designs into paper is a national holiday standard pastime.

In software engineering, Danes have made significant contributions through Bjarne Stroustrup (inventor of C++) and Anders Hejlsberg (creator of Turbo Pascal, Delphi and the C# programming language). The Dane Janus Friis was one of the driving forces behind the invention of Skype.

Visitors to Denmark will discover a wealth of cultural activity. The Royal Danish Ballet, an exceptional company, specialises in the work of the great Danish choreographer August Bournonville (1805-79). Danes have distinguished themselves as jazz musicians, and the Copenhagen Jazz Festival has acquired an international reputation. The modern pop and rock scene is not as well developed as that of, say, Sweden but has still produced a few bands of note (for example, The Raveonettes, Junior Senior and Mew). International collections of modern art enjoy unusually attractive settings at the Louisiana Museum north of Copenhagen and at the North Jutland Art Museum in Aalborg. The State Museum of Art and the Glyptotek, both in Copenhagen, contain treasures of Danish and international art. The Museum of Applied Art and Industrial Design in Copenhagen exhibits the best in Danish design.

Among today's Danish writers, probably the best-known to international readers is Peter Høeg (Smilla's Sense of Snow; Borderliners). Benny Andersen writes poems, short stories, and music. Poems by both writers have been translated into English by the Curbstone Press. Kirsten Thorup's Baby, winner of the 1980 Pegasus Prize, is printed in English by the University of Louisiana Press. The psychological thrillers of Anders Bodelsen also appear in English. Suzanne Brøgger and Vita Andersen focus largely on the changing roles of women in society. In music, Hans Abrahamsen and Per Nørgård are the two most famous living composers. Hans Abrahamsen's works have been performed by the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, DC.

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