The Culture of Denmark is inherently hard to define. None the less, there are some general characteristics often associated with Danish society and every day culture. Danes are generally a reserved people, though they are often considered positively outgoing compared to their more distant northern cousins in Norway and Sweden. Danes are fun loving, as a trip through any town on a Friday night can attest, but hard working when there's something to be done. They are noted for their very 'civilized' nature. They are generally compassionate, articulate, and clean. Consequently, there is also a sense of arrogance and smugness sometimes associated with the Danes. Equality is an important part of Danish culture, so much so that, 'success' or what may be seen as a deliberate attempt to distinguish one self from others may be viewed with hostility. This characteristic is called Janteloven or Jante's Law by Danes.
Denmark has a rich cultural and intellectual heritage. The astronomical discoveries of Tycho Brahe (1546-1601) and the brilliant contributions to atomic physics of Niels Bohr (1885-1962) indicate the range of Danish scientific achievement. The fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen (1805-75), the philosophical essays of Søren Kierkegaard (1813-55), and the short stories of Karen Blixen (penname Isak Dinesen, 1885-1962) have earned international recognition, as have the symphonies of Carl Nielsen (1865-1931). Danish applied art and industrial design have won awards for excellence. The name of Georg Jensen (1866-1935) is known worldwide for outstanding modern design in silver. The Royal Danish Porcelain Factory ("Royal Copenhagen") and Bing & Grøndahl , renowned for the quality of their porcelain and ceramics, export their products worldwide. Ceramic designs by Bjørn Wiinblad also are well known and popular.
Visitors to Denmark will discover a wealth of cultural activity. The Royal Danish Ballet, an exceptional company, specializes in the work of the great Danish choreographer August Bournonville (1805-79). Danes have distinguished themselves as jazz musicians, and the Copenhagen Jazz Festival has acquired an international reputation. International collections of modern art enjoy unusually attractive settings at the Louisiana Museum north of Copenhagen and at the North Jutland Art Museum in Aalborg. The State Museum of Art and the Glyptotek, both in Copenhagen, contain treasures of Danish and international art. The Museum of Applied Art and Industrial Design in Copenhagen exhibits the best in Danish design.
Among today's Danish writers, probably the most well-known to American readers is Peter Høeg (Smilla's Sense of Snow; Borderliners ) and the most prolific is Klaus Rifbjerg – poet, novelist, playwright, and screenwriter. Benny Andersen writes poems, short stories, and music. Poems by both writers have been translated into English by the Curbstone Press. Kirsten Thorup 's Baby, winner of the 1980 Pegasus Prize , is printed in English by the University of Louisiana Press . The psychological thrillers of Anders Bodelsen also appear in English. Suzanne Brøgger and Vita Andersen focus largely on the changing roles of women in society. In music, Hans Abrahamsen and Per Nørgaard are the two most famous living composers. Hans Abrahamsen's works have been performed by the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, DC.
The Ministry of Cultural Affairs was created in 1961. Cultural life and meaningful leisure time were then and remain subjects of debate by politicians and parliament as well as the general public. The democratization of cultural life promoted by the government's 1960s cultural policy recently has come to terms with the older "genteel culture;" broader concepts of culture now generally accepted include amateur and professional cultural, media, sports, and leisure-time activities.
Denmark's cultural policy is characterized by decentralized funding, program responsibility, and institutions. Danish cultural direction differs from other countries with a Ministry of Culture and a stated policy in that special laws govern each cultural field--e.g., the New Theatre Act of 1990 and the Music Law of 1976.
The Ministry of Cultural Affairs includes among its responsibilities international cultural relations; training of librarians and architects; copyright legislation; and subsidies to archives, libraries, museums, literature, music, arts and crafts, theatres, and film production. During 1970-82, the Ministry also recognized protest movements and street manifestations as cultural events, because social change was viewed as an important goal of Danish cultural policy. The current government exercises caution in moderating this policy and practice. Radio and broadcasting also fall under the Ministry of Culture.
Government contributions to culture have increased steadily in recent years, but viewed against the present government's firm objective to limit public expenditures, contributions will stabilize in the future. Municipal and county governments assume a relatively large share of the costs for cultural activities in their respective districts. In 1996, government expenditures for culture totalled about 1.0% of the budget. Most support went to libraries and archives, theatres, museums, arts and crafts training, and films.
Last updated: 09-03-2005 18:37:12