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If you happen to be in Denmark in the last week of June, you’ll notice things are a bit more…chaotic than usual.

With Danish graduation traditions basically requiring a bus or a truck to be involved, not to mention the sea of Danish graduation caps (or “studenterhue” in Danish), you wouldn’t be blamed for wondering what exactly is going on here.

Even if you’re not at the age of finishing high school, you can still be swept up in all the excitement as it spreads throughout entire cities. Keep reading to find out just what this entails – including the Danish graduation cap rules which you need to follow.

Danish graduation cap or studenterhue

How do Danish students celebrate graduation?

Danish students celebrate graduation by wearing special graduation caps (studenterhue) and driving with the whole class on the back of trucks around their city, going to each students’ home to eat and drink, doing other activities in public and following a key set of graduation rules.

It’s a super fun time and, like I said above, even if you’re not graduating, it’s really great to watch (and hear!) the trucks going around the city. 

If a graduation truck goes past you with a bunch of Danish graduates wearing sailor hats (or so they appear) on board, you’re fully encouraged to cheer for the students, offer them drinks if you happen to have one in your hand (Danes are allowed to drink beer and wine from the age of 16 and drinking in public is also legal) and just generally join in the festivities.

The appearance of the Danish graduation caps though is the first sign of what’s coming. If you’re used to the mortar board look of graduation though, it’s going to look a bit different for you here.

You may also be interested in: 9 Best Cities to Live in Denmark (For Your Best Life)

What’s a studenterhue?

A studenterhue is the Danish word for the cap that students wear when they graduate. Having first appeared in 1856, the studenterhue is usually white with a black shade and a ribbon on it that’s most commonly burgundy, but can be other colors, and has a cross or other symbol in the middle.

The color of the ribbon and the symbol in the middle will vary depending on where you graduated from. For example, a student that graduates from high school will generally have a burgundy ribbon and a cross, which is why this is the most common combination you’ll see in late June.

student wearing the Danish graduation cap (studenterhue)
Danish student wearing the studenterhue. Source: storebukkebruse (CC BY 2.0)

However, if, for example, you complete your training to be a hairdresser, you’ll also wear the cross but with a more pink ribbon. Similarly, a butcher will have the cross with a yellow ribbon.

Students also often choose to change the cross for a different symbol depending on their beliefs. Jewish students can switch to a Star of David, for instance, or those who aren’t religious can choose to add a maple leaf instead.

The symbol can also change for those with specific talents. You might see those who achieve a high level of music abilities switching theirs to a G clef or highly ranked sporting students putting the Olympic torch with the Olympic rings in the background on theirs.

What are the Danish graduation cap rules?

There are a ton of Danish graduation cap rules that students should follow. Here are just a few of them:

  • Students have to wear their graduation caps for at least a week before the graduation ceremony. 
  • The colors of the cap indicate the level, length and type of each student’s education and often the school that they attended.
  • You need to select a family member or friend to give you your graduation cap when you step out of your last exam. They can write notes inside your cap.
  • Secret admirers can write notes or their number on the rim inside the cap.
  • Your friends will bite the shade of the cap for good luck.
  • You need to write the grade of your last exam in the middle of the hat and next to this should be the name of your partner (if you have one).
  • The students with the largest and smallest hat sizes and with the highest and lowest average grades each give a box of beer to the class.
  • If you have 24 drinks within 24 hours, you must cut a square in the sweatband or rim of the hat. 
  • If you see the sunrise after having 24 drinks, you have to add a house to the sweatband. However, if you see the sunrise without having drunk that much, you need to cut a triangle into your cap.
  • If you’re awake for 24 hours, the cap is turned around.
  • If you vomit, a cut is added to the shade of your hat. If you go to hospital because of drinking too much, the shade is cut off. 
  • If you go swimming while only wearing the hat, a wave is cut into the rim.
  • If you hook up (I’m talking about a homerun here…) with a partner while wearing the cap, a heart is cut into the sweatband. However, if you do the same with someone who isn’t your partner, a lightning bolt is cut into the rim.
  • If you make out with someone of the same gender, the cross (or symbol of your choice) is turned upside down. It’s then turned back the other way around if you kiss someone of a different gender afterwards.

Want to know more about a different type of Danish “cap”? Check out: Danish Frogmen Helmet and Net: All About That Uniform

What are other Danish graduation traditions?

Besides the graduation cap, the most well known Danish graduation tradition is all the students in a class driving around town in a truck, known as the “studenterkørsel” or “student drive”. They go to each student’s home and spend about 15 minutes there getting either a drink or a snack at each.

If you happen to be in Denmark in late June, you’ll definitely notice them. They play loud music as they drive around with the graduates dancing and cheering on the back at people and cars passing by. They also often have signs encouraging cars to honk for different reasons.

A truck with students on it as one of the main Danish graduation traditions
Source: Al Case (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

(I know this makes it sound a bit disturbing for other people but I promise, it’s a really fun experience to see.)

You’ll also sometimes see students running behind the truck – those are often the students who received an A on their last exams, who have to run after the truck until it gets to its first stop.

Another thing is that you’ll also often see them doing various other activities all together. One that I personally saw last year was when I was walking down Strøget (the biggest pedestrian street in Copenhagen) in the middle of the day past one of the largest fountains in the city. Suddenly, a graduation truck pulled up and out jumped all the students who stripped down to underwear and went swimming in the fountain.

students celebrating as a tradition while following the Danish graduation cap rules
I didn’t take this photo but this is actually a picture of exactly where I saw the same thing happen – just, ahem, with less clothes.

I also know someone who was going on a morning swim in a canal when suddenly an entire truckload of naked students jumped in around him. Apparently it was a pretty interesting experience, as you can probably imagine!

Why do Danish graduates wear caps?

Danish graduates wear caps as a tradition dating back from 1856, inspired by Nordic student meetings in 1849. It was previously worn throughout one’s higher education and was only removed when a student received their master’s degree. Now, it’s primarily worn during the period of partying following graduation. 

Basically, it’s a fun graduation tradition that’s also a way to highlight the students that have accomplished a milestone in education. 

Of course, it also helps that those students who wear them during their graduation week often get a ton of free drinks too…

Where to find a Danish graduation cap for sale?

Only a few companies have the right to sell the studenterhue in Denmark, with the main one being CL Seifert A/S. At the time of writing, one of the Danish graduation caps retails for around DKK 1,700 (about USD 230).

CL Seifert is the supplier to the Danish royal court. However, you can also buy the studenterhue at Smartcap Aps and ABC-Gruppen Norden.

You can buy these online or, for example, go to CL Seifert’s store in-person in Copenhagen.