The Difference Between “Danish” and “Dutch”

The difference between Danish and Dutch
If you know your geography and have a basic understanding of the names of the languages spoken in European countries, this might sound like a dumb question. If you live in the US and you don’t know much about European countries, you’re much more likely to be confused about these two words. Danish people come from Denmark, and they speak a language called Danish. Dutch people come from The Netherlands, and they speak Dutch. How much easier can things get?

I recently read a blog post by a Dane that showed a surprising tolerance for the way these two countries are confused by Americans. The author even called it “understandable confusion.” Naturally, you wouldn’t want that confusion to happen when booking a flight, since you’d end up in the wrong country and have to book an (admittedly short) second flight.

Similarities Between the Danes and the Dutch

Apart from both words beginning with a D, there are national similarities between the Danish and the Dutch. Both countries are small and peaceful, which means they’re seldom on CNN Breaking News.

They also speak Germanic languages, although you’d see many more differences between them than you’d find if you compared UK, Australian, and American English. It’s possible for Danes and the Dutch to find each others’ languages completely incomprehensible unless they’re written down, and even then they might struggle with some words.

Both countries are reputed to be full of healthy, blond, blue-eyed people, although having been there, I can tell you that this is a stereotype these days. But the riding of bicycles to get around is definitely no stereotype. I actually found the bicycle traffic more dangerous than the motor traffic when crossing the road since there are so many bicycles. That’s because both countries are remarkably lacking in anything resembling mountainous topography.

Last, but not least, there’s the preference for wind power, although windmills are more common in Holland. The Danes have acres of wind turbines, some of them standing in the middle of the sea, to generate electricity.

Differences Between the Dutch and the Danes

Apart from slight differences in geographical location and rather marked language differences, The Netherlands doesn’t have LEGOLAND, which is of great importance to those who love LEGOs. Other differences include the amount of taxes paid and the average number of hours worked every week. The Dutch pay way less tax than the Danes, but the Danes spend fewer hours at work on average.

The Danes also have a very casual approach to authority. Children will call adults, including teachers, by their first names. The formal version of the word “you” is seldom used, even in business letters. Danes don’t find this rude or offensive, but the Dutch are a little more inclined to use formal titles and the formal version of the word “you.”

Beer plays a big role in Danish culture, with special beers being brewed for both Christmas and Easter. Although the Dutch invented Heineken, they don’t brew special, seasonal beers.

Historically speaking, these nations have very different backgrounds. The Dutch are known for their farmlands and always have been, but the Danes are famous for “going a-Viking” which involved getting into long ships and trading and raiding their way around the coastlines of Europe.

If you had grown up on the Irish coast in those times, there would have been absolutely no confusion between the Danish and the Dutch. As you saw the long ships approaching, there is just no way that you would have yelled out “The Dutch are coming!” and if you had, you wouldn’t have struck terror into the hearts of your listeners. The Danish nation, on the other hand, is proud of its Viking history, as it should be – after all, the Danes discovered Greenland and are believed to have sailed to the Americas long before Columbus did.

Know your English Heritage

If you have English or Irish ancestors, there’s a very good chance that you also have some Danish blood in your veins. The Danes weren’t always hit-and-run raiders. They often established settlements in the countries they came across in their voyages, and England was even ruled by a Danish king Canute (or Cnut) between 1016 and 1035 AD. Your chances of having Dutch ancestors is much less likely.

Further Reading

It’s worth finding out more about these two cultures. Both the Danish and the Dutch have some impressive achievements to their names. Perhaps one day, you’ll visit the Danish city of Copenhagen and the Dutch city of Amsterdam. Like me, you’ll probably be surprised at how similar many of the older buildings in these two cities are, and how different the two languages sound. If you’re considering traveling to Europe, I recommend these two cities. Spend at least a week in each. You’ll never be confused about the difference between Danish and Dutch again.

  • This just proves how America-centric Americans are. They seem to know nothing outside the US which is really sad. You would think they would want to take more interest on what’s going on in the world.

    • I don’t know. There are a lot of people in Europe that don’t know much about the US. I think people tend to focus on where they live and not on other countries that are far away. It doesn’t bother me if Americans don’t know the difference.

  • And they both have a tradition of generosity to neighbours and strangers.

    There’s a special word in Danish and Dutch to describe this.

  • For much more confusion that should be cleared up, tell people, especially in the U.S., about Dutch and Duetch. For instance, the “Pennsylvania Dutch”, who are not Dutch, but Pennsylvania Germans.

  • I think that a lot of people are really self-centered to not know the difference between these two words. It’s sad if someone needs to write an article about it because people don’t know the difference between the two. Everyone in Europe knows the difference.

  • It’s crystal clear, the difference between danish and dutch. But i would love to know the difference between Danish and Swedish too.

  • What about the difference between Dutch, Danish, and Deutsche? You can’t forget the third word when you’re writing an article about this topic.

  • The Dutch definitely do have a beer culture, probably more then the Danish. Seasonal beers are brewed there too.

  • I am a native Dutch and have been to Scandinavia and Denmark especially. People who say it is stupid that Americans think we are the same because we are so different are themselves ignorant. Language: the biggest difference between the two. And to put it in perspective: when I was in Denmark talking to my son a Danish lady remarked that she was very surprised becaue she understood us perfectly fine. Written Danish, Swedish and norwegian is easy also because you can read the sentence a few times if you do not immediately understand. After an hour of so of reading a book in either of these languages you already start to become fluent.
    Other than that…there is just no real difference. Indeed Copenhagen is a lot like Amsterdam. Customs are the same. We do have a beer tradition and many regional and seasonal beers btw. And we call almost everyone by their first name. Just like Danes do. We do not adhere a lot of value to authrority and we are (in general) not afread to confront our boss and others head on when we disagree. There are clearly and easily way more cultural differences between us and Belgium people as well as Germans. We also noticed a clear difference between Denmark and Sweden btw. While we love Sweden and the Swedes it is very clear they have no clue what Hygge means. Their cities and towns in general are completely boring and their cafes lack ANY atmosphere. Much to our dismay. In Denmark…again…it is just like being at home and to summ it up: for us Denmark simply does not feel like being abroad. Danes told me the exact same thing btw. Swedes and Norwegians also say that working in NL and living here takes no adjustment to them: the cultures are virtually identical.

    In short: Denmark and The Netherlands ARE indeed so similar that we should not be surprised nor offended by people mixing us up.

  • I love this article! OMG before this day I thought that Dutch is a language spoken in Denmark… Now I know that Dutch refers to Netherlands and Danish to Denmark! And this article also made me to think about Greenland: I knew it belonged to Denmark, but now I’ve looked at the map and realized that Denmark is farther from Greenland that Iceland! So why doesn’t Greenland belong to Denmark then? It’s so unusual.
    I’m actually very glad that discovered this difference. As the article says, on day I will visit both Netherland and Denmark and compare them! (I’m from Russia btw)

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