A guide to Danish work culture

In this article we are going to give you a quick insight into the Danish work culture, and how the
Danes operate in a workplace.

The Danish work culture is quite unique and there are important things that you need to know as
an international who wants to work in Denmark.

Hierarchy

The Danish businesses prefer a flat hierarchy and an even power balance. They firmly believe
that everyone is equal in the workplace, from the boss to the cleaning personnel. They do not
appreciate authority, and if a boss gives a straightforward order to an employee, it will most
likely make the employees lose respect for the boss.


Danes expect a leader, not a boss, and bosses in Denmark do not like to give out orders; they
want to communicate orderly. The system is based on trust in each other’s professionalism, and
the entire society in Denmark is built around faith and belief.


Commonly, you will hear a Danish boss say things like:
“My door is always open.”
“Remember to give me feedback.”
“It is human to make mistakes.”


The Danish workplace is a flat hierarchy built on trust, and everyone is worth the same no matter
what title you have. Everyone is a part of the company, and therefore, everyone matters the
same.

Danish Work Culture - A Guide To Danish Work Culture - Career Denmark
Danish Work Culture - A Guide To Danish Work Culture - Career Denmark

Direct, honest and open communication

The Danes communicate very direct and honestly. They do not small talk that much and like to
go directly to the case. It might seem a bit unpolite in the beginning, but it is not meant to be
unpolite or personal. Danes love to be direct and efficient when they communicate, and
therefore, they go straight to the case.


They love a good honest debate, and they believe it is vital in a democracy. It is okay if we
disagree, but we must use our freedom of speech to learn more about each other and share our
opinions. It is crucial in the workplace, and the Danes look positively on feedback and coworkers
sharing their views on processes that could be improved or implemented.


It’s expected that you give inputs and share new ideas with your coworkers, you are a part of the
company, so it is your responsibility to communicate and provide inputs. In addition, you must
share information with your coworkers so everyone can help each other and become better every
day.


The Danes conduct a lot of meetings, so that everyone can share their knowledge and
communicate with each other. They believe that informal communication and sparring gives a
common understanding in the workforce. This informal way of communicating also means that
the Danes will eat lunch together and have coffee breaks during the day, so they can discuss
work and private subjects.


Many Danish workplaces will arrange social activities after work, so that the social bonds with
the colleagues are strong. The social activities could be a beer after work on a Friday or a dinner
around the holidays especially Christmas dinner is a big thing in Denmark. There is always a
chance that there will be a fitness or running club at your workplace and everyone is invited.

Danish Work Culture - A Guide To Danish Work Culture - Career Denmark
Photo by LinkedIn Sales Solutions on Unsplash

Danish humor

The Danes love an informal setting, and they have a black sense of humor that can be very hard
to understand for internationals in Denmark. They use a lot of sarcasm, irony, and self-irony.


They use their sense of humor to make settings informal and relaxed, and they like to tease each
other and use a lot of ironies. It is always meant positively when a Dane makes an ironic joke
towards you, and it is used to praise each other or give out compliments. It might be hard to
understand, but let’s say a coworker says, “You work way too fast, and you make the rest of us look bad, and you are properly cheating.” It may sound weird to you, but this is a joke and a
massive compliment to your job performance.

Below are a few examples of Danish comedy films to watch.

An average work week

An average work week in Denmark is at 37 hours, and the work is done between Monday until
Friday. In most jobs there is a certain flexibility, when it comes to meeting time, but in most
cases the office hours are from 8 am – 4 pm.

Most Danes appreciate a healthy work life balance, but some lines of industries are a bit old
school, like law they do expect people work hard and stay until you are done with your case.
There is the greatest probability that you are going to be in a workplace that wants their
employees to have a healthy work life balance.

Trust

The Danish people believe in trust and their society is built around it. So, it is not just in the
workplace it is everywhere, and trust is a really big thing for the Danes. The Danes trusts the
authorities and their leaders at their workplace to do the right thing, and the leaders at the
workplace trust the employees to do the right things as well. They expect you to take the
responsibility and do the job, without them looking over your shoulder.

The Danes scores the highest in trust in Europe according to a study conducted by the European
Social Survey
, that have compared the ranked 36 different European countries on a scale of 1-10.
The social trust is measured as the percentage of a population that answers yes to the question,
“Do you think you can trust most other people, or can you not be too careful?”
0 being: »You cannot be too careful«, or 10 being: »You can trust most people. «

In this survey the Danes scored the highest in the period 2002-2018 followed by the other Nordic
countries.
The score from the survey

  1. Denmark 6,92
  2. Norway 6,69
  3. Finland 6,61
  4. Sweden 6,20
  5. Iceland 6,26
Danish Work Culture - A Guide To Danish Work Culture - Career Denmark
Image by Adam Radosavljevic from Pixabay

Check out our Organisations page to learn more about our Danish culture talks

Kate Dahl

Kate Dahl

4+ years of experience as a career consultant for internationals in Denmark. Founder of Career Denmark. American living in Aarhus.
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