Danish Work Culture Misconceptions Debunked


You arrive to Denmark and everything seems so new, exciting and fascinating! 

But once you get over that honeymoon phase of your new life in Denmark, you might start to wonder - or maybe even feel frustrated at times - about why the Danes do the things the do and why they say the things they say.

Welcome culture shock!

This, of course, can also go for how you experience your first months at Danish work place. 

Your perception of what is "normal" behavior at a workplace doesn't aways go hand in hand with how things unfold here.

The Danish work culture can seem strange and confusing...

Why are Danish bosses so absent much of the time? Why don't they tell you what to do? And why do Danish bosses accept that their employees openly tell them when they disagree with something? Don't they find it disrespectful? And what's with the constant meetings?

In this blog post, you'll learn about 3 common misconceptions about the Danish work culture that exist among many newly arrived foreigners.

We're going to debunk these 3 misconceptions so that you get a better understanding of why your Danish colleagues say or do the things they do - So that you can go to work feel much more at ease with how the Danes roll it at work!

Let’s not wait any longer! Let’s get started!

ONLINE WORKSHOP

How to Talk to Your Danish Boss

When: Monday, 30th November

In just 90 mins, you'll learn about the "flat structure" of the Danish work culture and how you should you navigate it in.

You'll also learn some useful Danish phrases how your boss will ask you to do something and how should you reply - without being impolite.  Join now!

3 Common Danish Work Culture Misconceptions

1

Danes Discuss More Than They Work

If you work at a Danish office, you’ve probably already noticed that your calendar is full of meetings: Team meetings, department meetings, client meetings, etc. 


So many things to discuss: Strategy, planning, execution and after all that - evaluation.

This way of spending so much time discussing how to do the things is especially true for bigger companies.

Maybe it feels like a waste of time to be spending hour upon hour discussing things instead of doing things. 


So, what’s with all the meetings?


Well, put shortly: The Danish work culture is essentially very consensus-based. And equality, that’s another big thing here. It’s the idea that you’re not more important than me, and I’m not more important than you (you might have heard about “Janteloven”?). In the same way, my opinion is as valued as yours - and vice versa.


Plus, another benefit of all the meetings: if a new initiative or a certain job, procedure or strategy has been discussed and decided by a larger group of employees, the individual employee feels more - and is more - involved because he or she has had the chance to voice their opinion and shape the decision -  so he or she will be more likely to take on the job with dedication and commitment.


So, while the long hours of meeting upon meeting might seem tedious - and sometimes even a waste of time - if done correctly, they also come with benefits.

2

Danish Bosses Don't Act Like Bosses

"Why doesn't my boss tell me what I need to do? Why does he just leave me here on my own?"


Have you ever wondered why your Danish boss stays so much in the background?

He or she probably did tell you what to do - once, but then you’re expected to do your job by yourself.


In the Danish work culture, every employee is expected to do his or her job without their boss controlling them constantly and telling them what they need to do. As an employee, you're expected to arrive on time, do your tasks as you should and work the amount of hours you’re supposed to.


This means that you need a certain amount of self-discipline and autonomy when at work.


Also, if any minor problem occurs at work, you’re expected to think on your own and try to find a solution. Of course, your boss is there to help when there are things you cannot handle on your own, and there might be bigger things that your boss needs to know about, but as a rule of thumb: Try to solve the small everyday issues on your own.


If you come from a culture with a clearer hierarchy and with more control from the boss, the Danish way of doing things might seem strange at first. But once you get used to it, I can almost guarantee that you’ll like the responsibility and trust that is given to you to do your job.

3

Danes Are Rude

“I don’t agree with that. I think it would be a better idea if we...”


Have you ever experienced a Dane say totally bluntly that they don’t agree with something? 


If you’re used to those messages being sugar coated to soften the way they’re being delivered this will probably come across as quite rude. But in the Danish work culture, you’ll hear people say out directly when they don’t agree with something. And that’s totally acceptable - as we learned in point 1 about why the Danes hold so many meetings at work.


So, just to be clear, when you hear the Danes talk to you and each other in a very blunt way, in most cases, they’re actually not being rude. They’re just more direct than what you’re used to. 


In the Danish work culture - and in general - Danes prefer to get right to it. Why waste time on fluff and empty talk, when we can just get straight to business.


While this attitude can come across as abrupt or even rude or aggressive, don’t misunderstand. In most cases, it’s just the translation from Danish that can leave a bad impression.

***


So, these were the 3 common misconceptions about the Danes - debunked.

I hope you agree with me that there’s no “right” or “wrong culture”. It’s just different ways of being around each other. 

So, what did we learn?

First of all, we learned that the Danish work culture is very consensus based - and that your opinion is as much valued as mine. That’s why Danes love meetings. We also learned that you, as an employee, are expected to approach your job with self-discipline and responsibility. And finally we learned that Danes are actually not rude, they’re just more direct than what you’re used to.

That’s it for now! I hope this blog post helped you understand your Danish colleagues a whole lot better! 🤩

👉  Any big aha moments? Let me know in the comments! 👇

Founder of Lingua Danica

ONLINE WORKSHOP

How to Talk to Your Danish Boss

When: Monday, 30th November

Danish work culture is known for its "flat structure". But how does it manifest itself? And how should you navigate it in? And more importantly: How much respect should you show your Danish boss? 

At the workshop, jointly held by the Welcome Group and myself (Sigga Nordgaard Hansen), I will also teach you some useful Danish phrases: How will your boss ask you to do something, how should you reply - without being impolite. And how can you ask others for help - so that you come across polite and according to normal Danish workplace manners.


Join the 90 mins online workshop! It's already on Monday, 30th November.