Doing business in Denmark


Doing business in Denmark can be a pleasure for internationals: the Danish business culture prizes transparency, trustworthiness, and innovation. Yet Danish business manners aren’t always clear if you come from abroad.

Should you bring a gift for your Danish business contact? How much small talk is required before you get down to a business deal in Denmark? Does Danish business etiquette require you to treat men and women differently, or show special respect for the management team versus other employees?

Kay Xander Mellish is a cultural trainer and speaker based in Copenhagen, Denmark who offers tips on working in Denmark for internationals. Kay is a US-Danish dual citizen and the author of  “How to Work in Denmark” and “Working with Americans: Tips for Danes.”


Culture shock for an American in Denmark

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.

Danish workplace culture: A few quick tips for internationals

Danish workplace culture is admired all over the world. Its flat hierarchy, participatory management, trust and transparency make for an excellent working environment, and the flexible working hours, extensive paid vacation, and parental leave allow for a good work-life balance.

Meanwhile, Denmark’s national “flexicurity” model allows businesses to hire and fire easily, knowing their workers have the soft pillow of the Danish welfare state to catch them if they fall.

While Denmark’s workplace culture attracts people from all over the world, it’s a good idea to review the basics before your first day of work in Denmark.

Amerikansk foredragsholder Kay Xander Mellish

Amerikansk foredragsholder Kay Xander Mellish leverer informerende og underholdende præsentationer om kulturelle forskelle og dansk arbejdskultur – samt hjælper danskere og udlændinge til at le, lære, omgå og forstå hinanden bedre.

Podcasts about Denmark: The “How to Live in Denmark” podcast

One of the most popular podcasts about Denmark is the “How to Live in Denmark” podcast, which has been running since 2013. It focuses on contemporary Danish culture, doing business in Denmark, and living in Denmark for internationals. Kay Xander Mellish, an American living in Denmark, is the voice behind the podcast and the author of the “How to Live in Denmark” book and blog.

Danish working culture vs Swedish working culture

Comparing Danish working culture vs Swedish working culture results in a lot of similarities, but a few significant differences. Both countries shy away from hierarchy and rarely use job titles. Both place a strong emphasis on job satisfaction and work-life balance. And both offer extensive benefits to workers, including generous time off to care for children. But Swedes are more consensus-oriented than the Danes, while Danes are more spontaneous and rely more on humor in the workplace.

Danish workplace culture – What the flat hierarchy means in practice

Danish workplace culture reflects the flat hierarchy and egalitarianism Danes value so highly. In practice, this can mean skipping over several layers of management to speak directly to the big boss. This is often not well-received by their counterparts in other business cultures.

Doing business in Denmark: Six top tips

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.

Selling in Denmark: The Danish approach vs the US approach

Selling in Denmark isn’t about exaggeration or appeals to the emotional side of buying. Danish customers want deep product knowledge and a readiness to explain specific benefits, delivered in a calm, steady tone. Trustworthiness is the most important factor when selling in Denmark, as well as a comprehensive understanding of what the product can offer and how it performs against its competitors in the Danish market. In general, the Danes believe that a good product sells itself.

Why the ‘flat hierarchy’ isn’t always a good thing – Danish working culture

If you ask the Danes what they like about their business culture, they’re sure to mention the flat hierarchy. What they mean is that a management pyramid that might have ten or more layers in a hierarchical country like Japan has only two or three layers in Denmark. The flat hierarchy is a virtue born of necessity: salaries are high in Denmark, so middle managers are expensive. And because Danes aren’t supervised or monitored as much as Americans, middle management isn’t as necessary.

The Kvajebajer or “Failure Beer” – and what it says about Danish working culture

A kvajebajer, or “failure beer” is a Danish tradition. You buy one for all your colleagues when they’ve just seen you make a foolish or avoidable mistake. Another option is a kvajekage, or “failure cake”, which serves pretty much the same purpose without alcohol.