Culture of Denmark

The centuries-old Danish culture is rich and diverse in history, and perhaps can be summed up with the characteristics of equality. An attempt to distinguish oneself from the rest, no matter how ‘successful’, may be viewed with hostility, as seen in a common Danish term ‘Janteloven’, or Jante’s Law, an unspoken code of ethics, once described by the Danish writer Aksel Sandemose in his novel A Fugitive Crosses His Tracks.

Danish literature has left its indelible imprint on the world with the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen; the philosophical essays of Soren Kierkegaard; Karen Blixen’s short stories; Ludwig Holdberg’s plays; and the authors of the Modern-Through, a movement of naturalism and debating literature of Scandinavia from 1870 to 1890, replacing Romanticism. Such authors included Laureate Henrik Pontoppidan, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1917, and Herman Bang. Peter Hoeg may be the most popular Danish writer today read by international readers, while Benny Andersen is enjoyed for his short stories, prose and music. Kristen Thorup is a winner of the 1980 Pegasus Prize, and Anders Bodelsen’s psychological thrillers are enjoyed in the English language as well. Significant Danish women writers include Vita Andersen and Suzanne Brogger.

The Applied Arts and industrial design in Denmark have won international awards for excellence. Modern design in the world’s sliver industry is often associated with Georg Jensen, as well as porcelain and ceramic products with the Royal Danish Porcelain Factory and Bing & Grondahl. Such famous designers and architects as Hans Wegner, Porge Mogensen and Arne Jacobsen have also won international recognition in design. The Museum of Applied Art and Industrial Design hosts Danish design exhibits, while the North Jutland Museum and the Louisiana Museum, north of Copenhagen, house international collections of Modern Art. The Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek art museum and State Museum of Art contain impressive pieces of Danish and international art as well. 

Danish cinema has attracted an international audience as well, especially with the avant-garde filmmaking movement Dogme 95, which began in 1995 by Danish directors Thomas Vinterberg and Lars von Trier, and now includes a collective of film directors who follow a set of vows from its manifesto. These vows basically refuse elaborate special effects and gimmicks, and focuses upon the story of the film and acting. Denmark’s long tradition in filmmaking includes such world-renown directors as Carl Theodor Dreyer. The Royal Danish Ballet, one of the oldest troupes in Europe, has benefited by the work of the famous Danish choreographer August Bournonville (1805-79).

Danes are lovers of all types of music. The Copenhagen Jazz Festival has gained an impressive international reputation. Hans Abrahamsen and Per Nogard are two of the most famous Danish living composers, with the works of Nogard played by the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, DC. The Danish recording industry has produced many Pop stars and has hosted performers from a multitude of genres, including such internationally acclaimed Danish bands as Aqua. Another popular Pop band includes D-A-D, whose hit 'Sleeping My Day Away' was popular in the early 1990s. The groups Toy-Box, Safri Duo, Infernal, Outlandish, and Michael Learns to Rock also have international following. Denmark won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1963 with singers Grethe and Jorgen Ingmann Dansevisen, and again in 2000 with Broene Olsen.