Those three little words can only elicit one of two responses:
1) The Dane slowly backs away as though you are threatening to shoot him or her in the face.
2) The Dane stops to think for a moment before saying, "Well, my ulcer is taking a break, but I seem to have a herniated disk so I went to the doctor and he told me I should stop cycling until it gets better, but of course I don't want to and then..."
Or something to that effect. So what is it about our beloved American expression that seems to push Danes into a paranoia/overshare dichotomy?
They take it literally. What is a synonym for 'hi' to most Americans is considered by Danes a genuine inquiry after a person's well-being. Saying "how are you" (notice I didn't say "asking 'how are you'" to a stranger in Denmark is insulting and an invasion of privacy at the worst, and at the least, very confusing for the Dane. It shares space with the breach of etiquette that is telling inside jokes around outsiders.
Once you know someone, though, it's alright. For the record, it's 'Hvordan g