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Denmark vs. Hungary: Cultural Differences

Denmark vs. Hungary: Cultural Differences

When asked to write a short article about cultural differences between Hungary and Denmark, I happily agreed. Being half Hungarian myself and having visited very close friends in Denmark on a few occasions, I thought nothing could be easier than that. But now that I have sat down and started to think about what to write, the task at hand seems a bit daunting. How do you compare two very different cultures? Which points should I focus on without falling into stereotypes?

After doing some research and feeding off my personal experience, I will focus on three key aspects: Communication, family, and food.

Cultural Differences in Communication

Hungarians are direct communicators – very direct communicators! They freely express their opinion and vent their anger, even in public. And they do that with a lot of passion, typically using lots of gestures to express any kind of emotion. Hungarians are not shy to show their discontent. But that is not to say that Hungarians are an angry nation. On the contrary, they often use stories, anecdotes, and jokes to prove their points in a conversation.

Danish people, on the other hand, are also quite frank and like to express their thoughts. However, they do it in a courteous and polite way, generally speaking. They expect others to understand the hints in their wording and tone. Danes try to avoid confrontation or conflict in public situations. Danes also use humour in most (business) situations to deal with conflicts and make everyone feel hygge, a feeling that can be difficult for non-Danes to comprehend. It translates into something like ‘cosiness’ or ‘feeling at ease with each other’. Body language is more restricted in the Danish culture.

When speaking, the noise levels between Danes and Hungarians also tend to differ. I leave it to you to guess which nation may be the noisier one…

Cultural Differences in Family

In Denmark, most families are quite small. Children are raised to be independent from an early age. Many are put in day care centres at about the age of one. Youngsters also get kicked out of the nest quite early, usually after finishing high school when starting university. The Danish welfare system offers around 5000 DKK (approximately 670 Euros/740 US Dollars) a month to live on once the child starts university, which probably has a big part in this. It helps young people to be financially independent from an early age. And once they are gone, some young Danes do not see or speak to their parents for weeks and nobody is offended.

Hungarians, on the other hand, traditionally have quite close family ties. Young adults often live at their parents’ home for a lot longer, often due to economic reasons. Even after moving out, they visit the family regularly, usually on Sundays. If possible, every Sunday. Food, of course, plays an important part in these gatherings!

Which brings me to my next point…

Cultural Differences in Food and Dining

When you get invited to a Hungarian’s home, be punctual. A five-minute leeway is allowed, however. Try to not be over punctual, that is to say early. Do not be surprised when you arrive as you may get asked to remove your shoes and leave them in the hallway (so make sure your socks are clean and without holes…).

So far, there is no difference to when getting invited into a Danish home. However, when it comes to the actual food, be prepared to eat a lot at a Hungarian home. And I mean, a lot! Hungarians are famous for their hospitality and you will often get served a three-course meal. When offered a second or even third helping, do not refuse as it will be seen as rude. And whatever you are drinking, your glass will always be filled by an invisible hand when empty. If you do not want to drink more, it is best to leave your glass half full. (Psst… here’s advice on maintaining your dietary lifestyle in food-rich cultures like these.)

Danish people are less ‘invasive’ and rejecting a second helping does not offend the host. Of course, Danish people are also very hospitable and like to show their guests their home. Denmark is known for its design and architecture. Homeowners often decorate their houses themselves and are proud to show them off.

In both cases, when you get invited to a Danish or Hungarian home, a small gift like chocolate, flowers, or a good quality bottle of something is always welcome.


Contribution by Gabriela Hallas

Gabriela has been working as a Global Researcher for IMPACT Group since July 2016. Born and raised in Germany, she has since lived and worked in various EMEA and NASA countries. She enjoys her work helping others as she knows very well the pitfalls and difficulties of settling into a new place and finding one’s way around. Gabriela enjoys singing, dancing, reading and exercising.

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