This week, a few of us at Pine Tribe decided to unwind after work and have some bonding time at a small cozy bar here in the heart of Copenhagen. As the conversations started flowing, the topic of cultural differences between the USA and Denmark was brought up. After listing off quite a few differences, one that really stuck with me was someone noting the differences in how each culture goes about saying their good-byes, and the cultural insights we could derive from them.
In America, I can confidently say that a majority of casual Good-byes are built up around forward planning. For example, “See you later,” “Talk to you soon,” or “We should do this again!” With these phrases, we basically state that we enjoyed the time we had together; therefore we need to recreate this or maybe even advance the fun. It feels completely natural to say these things, and why wouldn’t you want to have fun again? The only issue is that not all of the greetings are that sincere. A lot of the time we will say “We need to do this again,” and then there is no follow through. Sometimes we even say it to people we don’t particularly like, just because we’re used to a default sign out phrase.
In Denmark, as my colleague noted, it seems a lot more common using past reflection compared to future planning. “Tak for idag,” which directly translates as “Thanks for today,” is one of the most common concluding phrases. And when you do meet again, it’s normal to say “Tak for sidst,” which means, “Thanks for last,” referring to the last time you were together. It’s this use of reflection of what has happened as a good bye, compared to one based on forward planning, that makes a perfect example of cultural difference between the two countries.
America is the land of opportunity—where we strive for success and aim for the “American Dream”. There is always a place to go, and a goal to be met. This is one of America’s greatest strengths, as it makes the American people incredibly driven. This drive is what has led it to becoming a world superpower. However, it also indicates that perhaps Americans are doing too much forward thinking and neglect to live in the moment as much as they should. Now, of course, I don’t intend to generalize that this applies to all Americans, because I know plenty of Americans who are quite good at living in the moment. But even those people will use phrases like “See you later,” which goes to show that the culture is built around a forward thinking mentality.
In Denmark, it’s a little different. Due to the equality factor here and the government support, Danes historically have not needed that same drive for success as Americans. Instead of focusing on what needs to be achieved, they focus more on what they have and what they have experienced. Again, I do not mean to generalize, but even the most driven Danes will say “Tak for idag,” showing the cultures impact on the language.
This made me think about something that Thomas Flindt, Scandinavia’s leading Laughter Guru, mentioned in one of his recent posts here on Pine Tribe. He said, “Laughing is all about accepting this moment.” Since Thomas explains how there is a strong correlation between using laughter to achieve happiness, it must also mean that happiness can be found in accepting the moment. Accepting the “Now,” not the “Now what?” Even though not all Danes live in the moment, our culture makes it easier to appreciate what we have. Again, I believe this is just another reason that helps us Danes rank so highly on the global happiness index.
If you want to learn more about how laughter can be the key to enjoying the moment, and more of Thomas’ thoughts, check him out here and get updates about his upcoming book Happy Lemons: How Laughter Breeds Success.