Living in an Expat world | Coffee – connecting people
You probably know the popular notions about Danes being closed off to strangers and that it can be difficult to adapt to the country’s social norms. For instance, Danes seem to plan everything two months ahead, and if something is put in their calendar, it is the same as carving it in stone. The appointment is definitely taking place and it is going to be great! What Danes lack in spontaneity they make up for in enthusiasm when they finally participate in their much anticipated plans.
I have made tons of ‘mistakes’ while trying to connect with Danes. I have showed up late for appointments, been sober at parties, stayed longer than expected and even crashed in at dinner-time. Danes like to keep up appearances, and showing up without an appointment is just not the Danish way of socialising (even though some of my friends have come to expect it from me). Basically, I learned the hard way that planning is the key word, and you are best advised to save your spontaneity for other times.
These rules apply in Danish society regardless of where you go. Of course I am generalising, but if you join a sports club there is a fixed schedule, job meetings start the minute you agreed on, and even hanging out with friends is carefully planned. For instance, if you go to the movies with a Dane, you have to decide on the movie before going, and if you want to go out for a beer or a cup of coffee afterwards, it has to be agreed upon beforehand.
Actually, coffee seems to be a worldwide mediator of people, and Danes particularly like their coffee, so is there a better way to connect with the Danes than a well-planned cup of coffee? At International Community we planned 50 coffee meetings at Danish homes around Aarhus earlier this year. The idea behind the meetings is simple: to connect Danes with internationals in a traditional Danish setting. Domestic bliss, coffee and cake on a Sunday afternoon – it does not get much more Danish than that.
Truth be told, initially we expected to connect ten to fifteen Danes with internationals, but the demand was overwhelming. Many of the Danish hosts went out of their way to make their guests feel comfortable. A woman even decided to have someone babysit her dog in case the guests were not into pets. Everyone had a great time and many became friends. Now we are planning about 100 new meetings across Central Denmark Region with our local partners. The goal is to make a national campaign the next time.
The success of the coffee meetings prove that Danes are not only curious and interested in meeting foreigners, but also willing to open up their homes as long as it is well-planned and hyggeligt. Once they open up, Danes often go all the way and become friends for the long haul. Coffee really has a magical effect on people …