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“Danes have found a lot of unique ways to get drunk“

Emma Hahn sheds light on how the Danish drinking culture looks and feels when you are born and raised in a country on the other side of the world. She moved to Denmark in 2020 where she began studying Cognitive Science at Aarhus University.

Emma Hahn is half Danish and half New Zealander. She spent her entire childhood in New Zealand but came to Denmark to go to “efterskole” (best translated to boarding school). Here she had her first experiences with alcohol. Compared to her friends at home it was a bit earlier than usual.

“When I returned to New Zealand, I was more aware of my tolerances compared to my friends, who were a bit more out of control when they were drinking. They had not learned their tolerance yet. In New Zealand it does not go from low to high. You are allowed nothing until you are 18 years old. And then you are allowed everything. So, people have a hard time managing the different types of alcohol whereas in Denmark you get a bit more of an easing into hard liquor.”

Emma Hahn thinks that this is why the drinking culture in the university in New Zealand can seem more intense than the Danish one.

“For my experience in Denmark people like to “hygge” drink and then eventually get drunk, but in New Zealand, if you’re drinking, you are doing it to get really wasted. (…) We have what you call benders.”

A bender is when you plan to be completely drunk several days in a row, and according to Emma Hahn, there are especially a lot of these in the first year of university.

“I have not seen that [benders] in Denmark. Maybe it is because I have not experienced the gymnasium drinking culture. I think this can be a bit more intense than university drinking.”

Even though the drinking culture in the university in New Zealand can be intense, alcohol is more common in the Danish social life on an everyday basis. As Emma Hahn puts it:

“New Zealanders cannot drink as much as danes do.” 

The culture around grabbing a beer in Denmark does not really exist in New Zealand.

“Not many young people in New Zealand drink beer at all. Unless it is men who work in trade and builders and such. Beer is not a drink that people like to drink. (…) I had my brother visit me recently and he was very shocked that you could buy a beer at a café or anywhere. We went to the botanical garden, and he was very surprised that you could get a beer there.”

And when we danes drink our Carlsberg, we like to do it in creative ways.

“Danes have found a lot of unique ways to get drunk. There are not as many drinking games in New Zealand as there are in Denmark. (…) Danes are very creative in their way of drinking.” 

Overall, Emma Hahn has not felt challenged by the Danish drinking culture. She came here at an early age and has gotten used to the way danes interact with alcohol. There was just one thing that took some getting used to. 

“The only part of the drinking culture that took some adapting, which maybe is a bit ironic, is the smoking culture that occurs when people are drinking. In New Zealand smoking is extremely frowned upon. People think it is gross if you smoke. So, it took some getting used to that, and the fact that if you want to have good conversations, you kind of have to go out with the smokers.”

“A lot of my closest friends smoke when we drink. I just go out with them. I do not smoke. They are party-smokers, and that is not very common in New Zealand. Smoking is a very integrated part of the drinking culture here and that was the biggest surprise for me.”