Business culture in Denmark

Business culture in Denmark places a high priority on trustworthiness, efficiency, and quality.

The most significant cultural differences in Danish business culture compared to elsewhere in the world are the differing attitudes towards hierarchy and ambition, and the contrast between Danish trust and the US tendency towards litigation and lawsuits.

In addition, Americans like to show off their energy and enthusiasm, which can create conflicts with the calm, reserved, practical Danes.

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Culture shock for an American in Denmark might include:
– Long paid vacations, including a minimum of three weeks in the summer
– The high cost of driving – new cars are taxed at up to 150% of their purchase price – and the difficulty of obtaining a drivers’ license
– Alcohol use among children as young as 12, and heavy alcohol use even among well-educated adults
– An emphasis on cooperation over competition, and an occasional dislike of elites and excellence
– A lack of ethnic diversity, and a humor that can seem harsh to outsiders.

Business etiquette in Denmark

Guides to business etiquette in Denmark don’t usually focus on arcane points of manners like who sits where and who speaks first: the Danes are too relaxed and egalitarian for that.

What’s most important when it comes to business manners in Denmark is showing the appropriate respect to every individual and every level in the company.

Just greeting the big boss while forgetting to acknowledge his or her team will get you off on the wrong foot.

When you enter a room full of Danish businesspeople, it’s important to introduce yourself individually to each person, making eye contact, and shaking hands if possible.

Cultural differences between the US and Denmark

The cultural differences between the US and Denmark have to do with the countries’ differing histories, differing climates, and different population mixes. As Kay Xander Mellish says in her book “Working with Danes: Tips for Americans”, Danes willingly pay very high taxes in order to support the Danish social welfare state.

“Danes love their cradle-to-grave welfare state. In two decades of living here, I’ve never met a single person who wanted it dismantled, ” writes Mellish, a dual citizen of the US and Denmark. “But it is a commitment, a national commitment. Everyone with the ability to work must work, and must pay substantial taxes, in order to finance the services shared by all. At the same time, everyone accepts that there will be limits on services so there is enough to go around.”

Mellish points out that, for example, annual physicals are unknown in the Danish health system, and that mammograms are given only once every two years starting at age 50, as opposed to every year starting at 40 many places in the US.

Doing business in Denmark

Six quick tips for doing business in Denmark:
– Act humble.
– Opt for transparency.
– Respect Danes’ time.
– Don’t be dramatic.
– Avoid business gifts.
– Consider hiring a cultural trainer.