You want to do business in Denmark? Then you should familiarize yourself with the Danish way of doing things! We have put together the most important things to remember so that you don’t drop any clangers.
Using the informal form of address is totally OK
It may not be normal in a lot of countries to switch from the formal form of address straight away. In Denmark, on the other hand, it is perfectly acceptable. If you are addressed by a business colleague using the informal form for you, you should respond in kind or risk putting unnecessary distance between you. In Denmark, it is important that relationships are conducted on an equal footing.
Say thank you
Danes like to say thank you – a lot. Which is why you shouldn’t miss any opportunity to offer your (effusive) thanks – for an invitation, for offers of food or drink. Use every opportunity that arises to say “Thank you”.
Small talk is important
Take care of personal relationships first and business second – that is the motto according to which Danes approach business relationships. It is therefore advisable to engage in casual conversation before getting down to the nitty gritty of negotiating a deal. Be prepared to invest in your relationship with your opposite number first before getting down to what you actually want. Make sure you allow enough time for both.
Don’t be late
Even when a lot of time is spent engaging in small talk, the Danes are sticklers for punctuality. Make sure you are not late for your appointment.
Danes like to dress in jeans and a shirt for business meetings. They rarely wear a tie and blazers are often left at home. Don’t make the mistake of dressing too formally. It doesn’t have to be a suit.
Watch out for their sense of humour
Danes like to joke about and will often pull their colleagues’ or even business contacts’ leg. Don’t take it personally, it is not meant that way. Show that you have a sense of humour of your own and laugh along with the joke – it is a good way to break the ice.
Leave ostentation – and your car – at home
In Denmark, an incredible number of people ride bicycles, cars are seen as a luxury verging on profligacy. Danes expect their business partners to be economical with their resources. That’s why it is not a good idea to roll up in a company car – at the end of the day, you don’t want to give the impression that you like to splash money around and harm the environment to boot. Modesty is a virtue in Denmark. Try to adapt your behaviour and opt for understatement.
Danes don’t care about academic titles
Something that is hugely important in Austria and to some extent in Germany is seen as confusing in Denmark. Titles such as Dr. or Prof. are not used either in written communications or in conversation. Danes don’t see these as part of a person’s name and are not accustomed to these abbreviations – which is why you shouldn’t use them. Don’t rely on job titles on business cards – Danes often play down their role so that they may have a lot more responsibility than their title suggests.
Fly the flag
When you are in Denmark, you will probably see a lot of flags, as office decorations, in shop windows or outside many private homes. Danes are proud of their country and don’t mind showing it. Don’t be surprised if that is not the case where you come from and don’t make a big deal out of it – you will only reap amazement.
Don’t be a tightwad
If you are invited out to a business dinner, these often take place in a restaurant. After the meal, you should invite your business partner for a drink in the bar, the gesture goes over well with Danes.
Private invitation home? Take off your shoes!
If you are invited home by your business partner, then make sure you take your shoes off without being asked when entering the house. Look where your host puts their shoes and put yours there too. Don’t forget to bring a small gift such as flowers, a bottle of wine or boozy chocolates. Thank your host (profusely) for the invitation (see point 2). In Denmark, the flowers for the host are often delivered the day before by a floral delivery service – if you can arrange it, you will earn additional Brownie points.