Doing Business in Denmark
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Denmark has an open and robust economy driven by technology and innovation. This, along with world-class infrastructure, a highly educated workforce and a standard of living among the highest in the world, means that doing business in Denmark is an attractive prospect.
As the southernmost Scandinavian country, Denmark occupies a strategic position as a gateway into the rest of the region. As such, many international corporations have regional offices in Denmark. The country is also home to a number of internationally recognised Danish companies such as Maersk, LEGO and Carlsberg.
Denmark’s appeal as a business destination is demonstrated by its excellent ranking in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Survey for 2018; the country was ranked third out of 190 countries surveyed. The country scored particularly highly for trading across borders (1st), dealing with construction permits (1st), resolving insolvency (7th) and paying taxes (8th).
The business week typically runs from Monday to Friday from 8am or 9am to 4pm or 5pm.
Danish is the official language, although English is widely spoken and understood in business circles.
A firm handshake with direct eye contact is the appropriate greeting in most business contexts.
Business attire tends to be smart casual, although suits and ties may make an appearance in the financial, corporate arena. Nevertheless, being well-groomed and neatly dressed is important.
Gift-giving is not common in business circles, but if invited to a Dane’s home, flowers, chocolate or wine are a good choice. Gifts are opened right away.
Gender equality is important in Danish culture and women have equal work opportunities and equal salaries. Many women hold senior positions in Denmark.
Business culture in Denmark
Denmark is an egalitarian society, which is evident in its business culture. The country has one of the world's lowest levels of income inequality, gender equality is promoted, and the welfare of the team is seen as more important than the individual.
Most Danish businesses are characterised by a relatively flat structure and relations between different levels within an organisation are usually informal. This means that decision lines are sometimes less obvious. Great importance is placed on discussion and reaching consensus; team members are expected to make a positive contribution to discussions and decisions. In line with this, Danes generally avoid conflict and confrontation. It’s best to remain even-tempered and not display anger in meetings or public settings.
Danes are generally open-minded and tolerant. Family is at the heart of Danish social structures and this extends to the working environment; Denmark has generous allowances for both maternity and paternity leave, and working hours are often flexible to fit in with family time.
Danes prefer to get down to business immediately, leaving little time for small talk in meetings. Danes are also generally reserved and are honest in such a way that may seem overly blunt to outsiders. These traits, accompanied by the fact that there are fewer words in the Danish language compared to English, and no specific word in Danish for ‘please’, means that Danes can sometimes come across as unfriendly and rude. However, this is not necessarily the case, and they do in fact have a good sense of humour, which is usually quite dry and sarcastic.
Punctuality is essential if expats are to maintain a good impression. Danes are hard-working and expect employees to be motivated and committed to doing their best. Danes generally do not mix business with pleasure, so work and personal relationships are kept strictly separate. It is therefore unusual to be invited to a Danish colleague’s home or to socialise with colleagues outside of working hours.
Dos and don’ts of business in Denmark
Do be punctual for meetings
Don't expect business relationships to be personal or to extend beyond the office as Danes prefer to keep business and personal relationships separate
Do expect to work hard and make a positive contribution to the team
Don't be boastful of personal achievements; Danes are reserved and modest people who believe in the team rather than the individual
Do expect equality in the workplace and a relatively flat management structure
Don't raise your voice and always remain respectful of colleagues in meetings; confrontation should be avoided at all costs