Host a foreign exchange student from Denmark
It’s no coincidence that two Danish cities (Aarhus and Copenhagen) are ranked in the top 5 of the latest World Happiness Report. Danes are happy, straight forward people who are passionate about clean energy, furniture and interior design.
By understanding more about our Danish exchange students’ lives back home, it will help you gain insight into their culture and background and prepare you for a successful hosting experience. Let’s start by learning about what’s typical in Danish communication, home life, education and food, as described by our program participants.
Denmark spends more on education than almost any other country in the world. The Danish government pays for their citizens’ education with their welfare system and high taxes. Group projects and class discussions are common in Denmark. Every student in Denmark has a midterm and final exam in junior high school. The results of these are important in granting admission to high school and college. These exams cover many subjects including Danish, English, religious studies, history, math, physics and social studies. Frequent, short tests in class are uncommon. Danish students typically begin to learn English around first grade. In middle school, they will often begin to learn an additional language such as French or German. Around ninth grade, students may choose to attend upper-secondary school, which prepares them for university. They may also choose vocational schools, which prepare them for a profession.
Tip From EF: Talk with your student about the importance of tests in their classes; the impact that tests have on their grades may be unexpected. Also, Danish students may not be used to spending time on homework daily, so discuss the importance of remembering to get their homework completed and turned in every day.
Danes freely express their feelings and may come across as blunt. It is culturally acceptable to talk about sex, relationships and politics. The Danish language has no word for “please.” It is rude to keep your hands in your pockets during conversation in Denmark. Denmark is an egalitarian society. This is reflected in the Danish language, which employs gender-neutral words.
Tip From EF: Share expectations clearly and directly with your student to ensure that they are understood. Give space for students to ask direct questions, knowing that likely their intention is not to be harsh or offensive, but to better understand. Discuss appropriate language and expectations around using please and thank you.
Hvordan har du det?
How are you?
Most Danish families have dinner together every evening if possible. Family time is valued. In Danish homes, the host will ask the guests for second helpings to ensure each person is satisfied. Guests will choose food items directly in front of them, as reaching over a plate is considered impolite. A typical Danish breakfast includes coffee, tea or fruit juice; rolls with cheese or jam; or cereal and milk. Open-faced sandwiches known as “smørrebrød” are the traditional Danish lunch. Rye bread is the traditional bread used for sandwiches. Danish diets are heavy in fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains. It is uncommon to eat frozen meals, quick meals and fast food.
Tip From EF: If not already a part of your family routine, plan weekly family meals to focus on spending time together. Share your family’s typical meal schedule and menu, and be sure to provide your student the opportunity to obtain their own extra fresh fruits/vegetables if desired.
Danish children are allowed a great deal of freedom in making their own decisions. They may be responsible for household chores such as cleaning their own rooms, cooking and other household duties. They also take public transportation regularly at a young age and often ride bicycles. Both Danish parents generally work outside the home. Purchasing some kinds of alcohol is legal at age 16. At the age of 18, Danish youth gain all legal rights, including the right to vote. Danish teenagers tend to go to their room and shut the door to relax after school to get privacy. Danish families may take frequent family vacations as parents usually have around six weeks of paid vacation each year.
Tip From EF: Shortly after your student’s arrival, share your household rules and expectations of them. Share your house rules around keeping their bedroom door open or closed, and speak with your student about good times for them to be alone in their room. Explain to your student that a shut door in the US can sometimes mean something is wrong or that you are trying to keep people out.
Jeg glæder mig til at møde min danske udvekslingsstudent!
I am so excited to meet my Danish exchange student!
Pas på vikingerne!
Watch out for Vikings!
Hosting advice from our Danish exchange students
“I wish my host family knew that it would be great if they were more clear on the chores they would like me to do in the US. I’m not familiar with the same chores in Denmark.”
Tip From EF: It is helpful to be clear and direct with household rules and expectations early. If there are any misunderstandings or issues that come up, communicate with your student and IEC to ensure everyone is on the same page. Additionally, Danish students may not understand suggestive communication. Instead of saying “your room is looking a little messy today,” it will be easier for them to understand “please clean your room.” It is helpful to review and reiterate the rules occassionally.
“I wish my host family knew that I’ve never played after-school sports or activities before because my school in Denmark doesn’t have them.”
Tip From EF: The commitment level of an after-school activity may be new to your student. Discuss those commitments prior to their participation, but also express how it is a great opportunity to meet new people. Help your student by encouraging them to try new things and teaching them best practices for time management.
“I wish my host family knew that I wish there was more to do here in my American town.”
Tip From EF: Encourage your student to see what extracurricular activities are available at school, such as clubs, theater or even joining/managing sports teams. Share how other teens in the area spend their time. Ask your IEC about any local events for your student to participate in. Also, discuss the student’s bucket list and establish realistic expectations on what they will be able to do and see while on exchange. Discovery Tours are a great way for your student to see more of the country on an EF guided and chaperoned adventure!