Viking Diet

One of the first things you’ll notice in Denmark is that everyone is beautiful. After about two weeks, you MIGHT be able to pick your jaw up off the ground when you’re riding the metro and stop staring at all the tall, striking Norse gods you’re surrounded by. American students studying in Denmark often have long conversations trying to figure out what the trick to being a hot Scandinavian in this freezing cold weather is.

Throughout my time here, I’ve decided it must have something to do with what people eat and drink, so I’m going to share what’s bound to be the fad diet of the century. I’ve been in Denmark since August, and I even lived at a folkehøjskole last semester with an awesome Danish cook named Nicolaij (who complimented my banana bread once) so I’m basically an expert.

First, say goodbye to white bread. In Denmark, you have to embrace rugbrød which literally means “rye bread” in Danish, but this is not the slightly mutated dark bread that you’re used to being called rye in the US.

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No more of this.

Danish rugbrød is crunchy, dense and has sunflower seeds in it. The idea is for it to be something like horse food, except baked into bread.

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Next, you have to embrace the smørrebrød;

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mmm. Smørrebrød

a traditional, and absolutely delicious open-faced sandwich. Unsurprisingly, it starts with the aforementioned rugbrød as a base, and is topped with no less than four more ingredients, including but not limited to: potato slices, onions, remoulade, and prawns. The Danes have truly turned sandwich making into an art, but you have to make sure you buy your smørrebrød somewhere Danish, because mere mortals are incapable of navigating the lackadaisical rules of smørrebrød making. It’s worth noting that the stacked ingredients will get smeared all over your face and hands, but make sure you keep your cool because Danes are never embarrassed as far as I can tell.

If you like Coffee, Denmark is definitely your kind of place. Unless you like coffee shops, in that case it’s insanely expensive. But in a home setting, coffee accompanies pretty much every meal, and is a great compliment to hygge. According to this, Danes are 4th in the world in coffee consumption, beat only by the Netherlands, Finland, and Sweden (which is really part of the old Danish empire anyway)

Another essential component of the Viking diet is Carlsberg, the Bud Light of Denmark that the Danes drink like water. The open container laws are very laissez-faire in Denmark, so it’s not uncommon to see someone cracking open a Carlsberg on the train at 8 am on a Friday morning. Despite the amount of Carlsberg, a true Viking is never more than buzzed, perhaps allowing a smile to crack through the trademark icy stare.

Since you’ve worked hard to earn the status of a Norse God, you can skip the vegetables and smoke 5 or 6 cigarettes a day, as long as you ride your bike everywhere (and look wonderfully stylish while doing it). Despite the massive amounts of bread, beer, and cheese you will consume on the Viking diet, you will mysteriously stay tall, svelte, and beautiful.

Despite my efforts to embrace the Viking lifestyle, with the bike, bread and beer, I’ve yet to transform into a Nordic Goddess, but perhaps once I’ve learned to pronounce these impossible Danish words, the transformation will be complete.

*If there is any time to break the Viking Diet, it’s definitely when it comes to spicy food. For some odd reason, spicy flavors never made it into the Nordic culinary tradition, the seasonings of choice are salt and pepper. Thus, even though Vikings are indestructible and perfect, they have one downfall—the inability to handle spicy food.

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Viking Kryptonite

If you love spicy food, have someone from the US send you habanero peppers and prepare to amaze Danes who cower in the face of chili powder. For bonus points, feed a Dane a hot pepper and be ready with a vial to collect rare Viking tears, said to have magical transformative properties

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4 comments

  1. hey! i’m a (prospective) student for next year & i’m wondering if you could talk a little more about the folkehøjskole you’re living in? i studied abroad last year & the housing i was in sounds similar to a kollegium. originally that’s what i was set on for DIS, because i really want to be around danish/international students & not just americans, but now i’m starting to think that since i experienced that kind of housing arrangement already, maybe i should try for a folkehøjskole. i guess i’m wondering especially about the social life in folkehøjskoles (do people living in these go out at night, are most in small towns, similar to a dorm at all? etc etc) but really anything you want to add i’d love to hear about. thanks!!

    1. Hi Chrissy,
      I personally would ABSOLUTELY recommend a folkehøjskole, it was the best possible immersion I could have gotten. My experience at Krogerup, (where I lived last semester) and I wrote about it in several posts if you look under the housing category.

      The social life was fantastic, I made friends from Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Tunisia, Ghana, & Germany as well as from all over Denmark. It’s similar to a dorm in many ways, but with more common areas, and even more freedom than many in the US. Every week a group of students would plan a big party for Saturday night at the school, so we didn’t tend to go out in the city much, but I personally thought it was much better than dropping big bucks at the same bars a couple nights a week.
      Lastly, they’re all in small suburban areas outside of Copenhagen, the commute is killer–but totally worth it in my opinion. Hope this helps, feel free to ask me specifics 🙂

      hilsner, Molly

      1. thanks for the quick answer! i read all your housing posts (along w basically every other haha) & i’m still so torn between the two especially since i finally got my acceptance email ahh! where are you living now/why’d you change (sorry if you said somewhere & i missed it)?

        hope this isn’t a dumb question but can you cook your own food at all in folkehøjskoles or were there enough options for meals, at least in yours? i only ask because i’m a vegetarian & like to eat really healthy. alsooo access to a gym… idk if any housing has one or if you have to just join one in copenhagen?

        just a few more questions! i asked another blogger as well, but in your experience, was it difficult to get a seat in the program or classes you wanted in the spring? same question applies to “adventure tours” 🙂 a little bit worried if i don’t sign up for something in the fall now, while there’s space, it might be too full in the spring.

        thanks so much! love reading your blog.

      2. The main reason that I left the folkehøjskole is because the students who actually attend to school only stay 4-5 months, I loved living there, but it would have been weird for me to just replace my friend group with whoever was a new student at the folkehøjskole. On the food point, We had access to a kitchen at the folkehøjskole, but there were generally enough options at meals, even for vegetarians, depending on how picky an eater you are. I personally did not join a gym when I lived at the højskole, but I did keep running, and sometimes did yoga, cross fit, and other active things with students from the højskole. The general rule with gyms is that you have to join one in Copenhagen. My current kollegium has a gym, but you still pay to join it, and it’s rare.

        If access to a gym and control over your own food are the most important factors in your choice, it sounds like you might prefer a kollegium, which is a lot more independence–but a lot less immersion.

        On classes, I didn’t have any trouble getting any of the courses that I wanted, or the DIS trips. I’d recommend doing your classes now, but you can wait to sign up for trips until the summer.

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