Doing business in Denmark
Six top tips
Denmark is a lovely, quiet country with well-educated people who speak excellent English. Infrastructure is superb, with well-paved roads and buses and trains that run mostly on time. Internet access is universal, and digitalization has made the Danish government largely paperless. Corruption is minimal.
But understanding the Danish culture, and in particular Danish business culture, isn’t always easy. Here are six quick tips.
Doing business in Denmark: Tip #1
The Danes are unlikely to be impressed by your job title or academic title – in fact, they very rarely use their own titles. They’re interested in what you can offer their business or add to their organization.
Showing up for an in-person meeting in overdone designer clothing, heavy jewelry or perfume will be a turnoff – simple clothing for both men and women is best. And expecting reverence or obedience because of your position, or bragging about your past achievements, will make you unpopular among the Danes.
Doing business in Denmark: Tip #2
Opt for transparency.
Danish business partners and employee team members expect to know a lot more about what is going on in a business deal or environment than their counterparts in many other cultures.
In order for them to “sign on” to your project and give it their full enthusiasm, they’ll want you to explain exactly why you are making a specific business move and how it will help achieve their business goals.
Be prepared for Danish employees to ask tough questions and even disagree with the boss about where the project is going. This willingness to question authority is encouraged by the Danish educational system.
Doing business in Denmark: Tip #3
Respect Danes’ time.
In a country where status isn’t very important and the government taxes away much of their income, nothing is more important to the Danes than their time.
Not only should you not be late to any business appointment, you should prepare to finish your business in precisely the time your contact has allotted to you. For any meeting, it’s a good idea to know precisely what you want to achieve with the time you’ve been given, and get right to the point. The Danes are direct speakers and waste very little time on small talk.
Danish employees generally work hard on the job, but they rarely stay extra hours, which is why you’ll find most offices vacant at 5pm. Employees have gone home to spend time with their families, although depending on the job, some may log on later in the evening when the kids are in bed.
Doing business in Denmark: Tip #4
Don’t be dramatic.
Some cultures value the public display of passion – loudly declaring how much you care about your product or business, or wailing about unfairness when your expectations or price levels cannot be met.
Denmark is not one of these cultures. Your business partners here will be enthusiastic in their own quiet way, but they will be calm – sometimes almost monotone – and controlled throughout your business discussions.
If you lose your temper or raise your voice, the Danes simply won’t know what to do about it. They may simply write you off as childish, or someone who cannot be trusted or depended on.
Doing business in Denmark: Tip #5
Avoid business gifts.
Denmark is one of the least corrupt societies in the world, so if you show up with expensive gifts for your Danish colleagues, they might not be able to accept them. At best, the gifts might be donated to the company’s human relations department for distribution to employees at the annual holiday party.
Danes are not expecting any gift at all, but if you insist a small item of food from your native country is usually appreciated. Most Danes have a sweet tooth and the country actually records one of the world’s highest per-capita consumption of candy.
If you work at a Danish company, you do not have to give gifts to your boss or co-workers. Occasionally, if a co-worker is getting married, having a baby, or retiring, everyone in the office will chip in for a single gift.
When invited to a Danish home, a good bottle of red wine is the standard gift. If you avoid alcohol, flowers or prettily-packed candies are also appropriate.
Doing business in Denmark: Tip #6
Consider a cultural trainer.
If you feel you need more clarification on doing business in Denmark, consider hiring a cultural trainer. A good cultural trainer can tailor an in-person or virtual presentation to your team and its plans for doing business in Denmark or with Danes.
Hiring a skilled cultural trainer for just a single workshop can help you avoid embarrassing and expensive business mistakes that can hold back your project and result in you losing money.
Most companies wait until they run into conflicts before hiring a cultural trainer, and then wish they’d done it sooner.