A Guide to Denmark
The Kingdom of Denmark consists of metropolitan Denmark in northern Europe, as well as the self-governed constituent countries of Greenland in North America and the Faroe Islands in the northern Atlantic Ocean. Metropolitan Denmark, also known as Denmark proper or simply Denmark, comprises the Jutland peninsula and five major islands, as well as hundreds of smaller islands collectively known as the Danish Archipelago. Denmark shares its southern border with Germany and resides across the water from its northern neighbours, Norway and Sweden.
The name Denmark was originally inscribed on the famous Jelling Viking rune stones dating back to the 10th century. Although the name’s origin is subject to debate, most sources agree that the first syllable means “flat land” and the second part likely refers to the forest on the country’s southern border. Denmark is a constitutional monarchy with Queen Margrethe II as head of state. The Danish government, headquartered in Copenhagen, is a parliamentary democracy with Helle Thorning-Schmidt as the country’s first female prime minister.
The Kingdom of Denmark’s official language is Danish, but Greenland and the Faroe Islands also retain their own officially recognized minority languages. The primary language of Greenland is Greenlandic, an Inuit dialect. Faroese, descended from Old West Norse, is the main tongue of the Faroe Islands. In addition, German is an official minority language in parts of Jutland that once belonged to Germany. English is a predominant second language, since it is a required subject in Danish public schools.
Geographically, Denmark consists of relatively flat terrain surrounded on three sides by water. Bridges connect many of Denmark’s bigger islands, and some smaller Danish islands are accessible by ferry or plane. Since Denmark resides so far north, sunrise and sunset times vary greatly with the seasons. Due to the surrounding seas and west winds, Denmark boasts a temperate climate with mild winters and warm summers. Although rain is common year-round, snow is relatively rare.
Denmark has enriched the world with many contributions in the sciences, technology and the arts. Known worldwide for its functional architecture and furniture, Denmark is also a world leader in pharmaceuticals, farming, wind power and green technology. Denmark gathers more than 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources, and many Copenhagen residents embrace the environmentally friendly bicycle as a primary mode of transportation. Denmark has also gained recognition in recent decades for its avant-garde films and its New Nordic Cuisine, which reinvents traditional fare with an emphasis on fresh seasonal produce and healthy food preparation methods.
Denmark boasts one of the world’s most competitive economies, and its inhabitants enjoy a high standard of living. A socially progressive nation, Denmark provides its citizens with free education and health care, as well as free child care for working parents. In addition, culture and the arts are well funded. Furthermore, Denmark boasts the world’s lowest level of income inequality and the world’s highest minimum wage. Along with punctuality, modesty and equality, one of the highest Danish values is “hygge,” a Danish word that roughly translates as “cosiness,” but connotes a broader all-around sense of security, belonging, conviviality and well-being in a given place or situation. It is no surprise that quality-of-life surveys laud Denmark as one of the world’s best places to live.
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