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The business culture in Denmark is often relaxed and down to earth, but try to be on time for meetings. Danes are in general quite friendly towards each other and get along with expats quite well. Freedom of speech is quite central in the Danish liberal culture. There are though limits, and you should try to avoid racial and sexist humor, until you know the company culture.

Morten Thygesen

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Business Culture in Denmark

Updated 7.11.2018

Danish workplaces are often characterized with a low level of hierarchy and a short distance to the (closest) boss, who are addressed by first name. People are seen as equal and a higher level of education does not automatically give a higher status. The tone at work is often full of humor, its informal, open for discussions and small talk is definitely allowed. Very often you find teamwork, open office spaces, and open dialogue to come up with creative ideas and new solutions. Due to the low level of hierarchy, there is a tradition to engage employees and make them participate in decision-making and motivate them to achieve more.


Danes at work has some kind of low-key attitude and some tend to underplay their own role and qualifications, and they do not tell that they are the champions of the world. Often the competent people like to show their skills and content instead of talking about it. Those that are expressing their competencies too much are met with some suspicion among colleagues. As the work place is full with humor and small talk there is also space for laughter and smiles, but do not go too far with racial or sexual jokes before you understand the work culture. Not everything is allowed.


Denmark is known for its smooth work-life balance, actually the best country according to OECD as World Economic Forum concludes. Professional unions have for the last 100 years actively supported the workers by decreasing their work time, getting more holidays, improving the work environment, fight for better salaries and a paid maternity leave. Thus, the Danish employers are typically flexible in adjusting work time, if you for instance need to work a few hours less according to picking up children from kindergarten etc.


As being a liberal country known for tolerance and gender equality, Denmark has the highest percentage of women working outside home compared to other European countries, and women are also presented in the upper management of the companies. In general women work less hours than men, and women also receive less salary compared to the man.


Punctuality matters in Denmark. It is important to be on time for a meeting, so it would be wise to show up a few minutes earlier, and it also gives you space for small talk and meeting people, which are quite important aspects of networking at work. If you are part of the upper management or work positions with some level of responsibility - you would typically wear a suit. While it can be more casual according to your place in the organization (hierarchy). The business meeting culture is often conservative and efficient. If its within a conference there will be time for small talk and exchange of business cards or LinkedIn information during a break and afterwards the meeting.


There are many social or informal meetings at work and you need to participate in these meetings to get to know your colleagues, and once in a while getting important work information, and still not spend too much time on the meetings. Some social meetings could be an informal celebration of somebody's birthday, and it would be impolite not to participate in the event. Even though you are extremely busy, you need to participate even though its for a short time and greet the person. In many companies it is expected (once in a while) to participate in the Friday bar and have a chat and some beers with your colleagues, but do not get too drunk. A traditional party, which you have to attend is the Danish Julefrokost - it means Christmas Lunch. The concept is that you eat a lot of Danish Christmas food, have fun with your colleagues and drink a lot of Christmas beer. It can be quite hefty and entertaining.


It is often so that you will have a lot of lunch breaks and time with your colleagues eating and talking together. Some colleagues appreciate to talk of other things during lunch than their work. If your colleagues invite you for a dinner it is important to dress nicely and bring a bottle of wine or some flowers for the host. You can also invite your colleagues out for food, coffee or even a beer.

If you are looking for general guidelines on what to focus on when you start working in a new country, take a look at the advice on business culture in the advice section.

 World Economic Forum on work life balance