Eating Habits in Denmark

When I had a first look at my timetable for the semester at Aarhus University, I already wondered whether the Danes did not consider lunch as an important meal during the day. This is because two of my three classes took place from 11am to 2pm. At home, I am used to having lunch as the biggest meal of the day – and now I was supposed to basically not have lunch at all? As the canteen served lunch exactly between 11am and 2pm, there was not even a possibility to have a very early or a very late lunch before or after class. Having no other possibility I started to do what most of the Danish students did: Run to the canteen in one of the two 15-minutes breaks and grab some food to go, usually some salad or a sandwich – and then eat it during class. In the beginning I felt very uncomfortable eating during class as I considered it rude, particularly because we were only a small group of students. In fact, it turned out to be quite usual, at least tolerated if not welcomed. There was this one guy who always got himself the full menu in the staff canteen and used to bring the whole tray to class. It was even not uncommon to see our lecturer holding the lecture while eating a sandwich. The first few times I had lunch during class I tried to be very careful and as quiet as possible because I somehow felt ashamed although I was not the only one eating. During the course of the semester I got more and more relaxed and in the last few weeks I did not even give it a thought anymore. Having lunch during class has become a routine on lecture days.
But the having lunch during class issue was not the only eating habit that I struggled with during my semester abroad. In compensation of the small lunch it seems to be common in Denmark to have a big and early dinner. Many people go out for dinner but, nevertheless, most restaurants close at 9 o’clock in the evening. It is absolutely normal to have dinner at 6 o’clock or even before. At home I was used to having dinner not before 7 o’clock. Until the very end of my stay in Aarhus I never really got used to this. I always had to force myself to go out early in the evening in case I wanted to have dinner somewhere in town. So most of the time I used to have dinner at home – sometimes alone, sometimes cooking with friends, but never before 7 o’clock! And to bridge the gap between the small lunch and dinner, I used to try some of the excellent Danish sweets in the afternoon…

When I reflect on the described eating habits, I come to the conclusion that I did not fully adapt to the cultural practice I observed. I did not mimic it. Instead, I found my own way to live with it. I somehow managed to become familiar with the new cultural practice without giving myself up.

Karin Frick

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