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Denmark and the USA

Denmark and the USA, Stories about life in Denmark, Working in Denmark: Danish Business Culture

Working with Danes: Tips for Americans – Get the book!

Working with Danes: Tips for Americans, Kay Xander Mellish’s new book, is now available in eBook form.

The print book will be published in October 2020.

Denmark is a great place to do business. Infrastructure is superb, corruption minimal, and the Danes sincerely enjoy a good business deal.

Yet when Americans arrive with their burning ambition and enthusiasm, they sometimes experience tensions with the modest, calm, practical Danes.

This book is a companion volume to last year’s popular book, Working with Americans: Tips for Danes.

Working with Danes: Tips for Americans covers aspects like:

  • How to manage the anti-authoritarian Danes and build consensus
  • Why your Danish colleagues may undersell their products or skills
  • What times of year you should avoid for campaigns and launches
  • Why giving too much positive feedback can be a turnoff for Danes
  • How transparency and trust is key to negotiating in Denmark
  • Why you should never say “let’s have lunch” unless you mean it

The book also includes tips on dining, driving, and diversity in Denmark, plus tips on what to wear, how to give gifts, and why someone might put a Danish flag on your desk on your birthday.

It also includes a short section with ideas for how to prepare for long-term stays in Denmark.

For the moment, the eBook is available exclusively on Amazon.

Visit our Books about Denmark page for information about all our books, including How to Work in Denmark: Tips for finding a job, succeeding at work, and understanding your Danish boss; How to Live in Denmark: An entertaining guide for foreigners and their Danish friends; and Top 35 Mistakes Danes Make in English.

Denmark and the USA, In the Media

USA Denmark Cultural Differences

Interested in the USA Denmark cultural differences?

As a companion to her new book, “Working with Danes: Tips for Americans”, Kay Xander Mellish has created a selection of articles about US business culture vs Danish business culture.

Kay discusses business culture in Denmark, with its emphasis on low hierarchy and trust, as well as business etiquette in Denmark, such as highlighting group achievements over individuals and not singling any person out for blame.

She even offers a few quirky tips for people interested in moving to the USA from Denmark or how to move to Denmark from the USA.

Kay is an author, speaker, and cultural coach based in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Her new book is a companion volume to her previous book, “Working with Americans: Tips for Danes” which was published in 2019.

 

Hear all our How to Live in Denmark podcasts on Spotify and on Apple Podcasts (iTunes).

 

Get the How to Work in Denmark Book for more tips on finding a job in Denmark, succeeding at work, and understanding your Danish boss. It can be ordered via Amazon or Saxo.com or from any bookstore using the ISBN 978-743-000-80-8. Contact Kay to ask about bulk purchases, or visit our books site to find out how to get the eBook. You can also book a How to Work in Denmark event with Kay for your school, company, or professional organization.

 

 

 

 

 

Want to read more? Try the How to Live in Denmark book, available in paperback or eBook editions, and in English, Chinese, and Arabic. If you represent a company or organization, you can also book Kay Xander Mellish to stage a How to Live in Denmark event tailored for you, including the popular How to Live in Denmark Game Show. Kay stages occasional free public events too. Follow our How to Live in Denmark Facebook page to keep informed.

Books, Denmark and the USA, Stories about life in Denmark, Working in Denmark: Danish Business Culture

Working with Americans: Tips for Danes – Get the book!

Working with Americans: Tips for Danes, my new book, is now available!

Many Danes work for companies that are US-owned or have US divisions. Others deal with American colleagues on the telephone or online every day. Some even travel to the US to meet customers, suppliers or colleagues.

Because Danes speak great English and are exposed to so much American TV, movies, and radio, they tend to think that they have a handle on the American culture and way of doing business.

As the great American composer George Gershwin once wrote, “It ain’t necessarily so.”

Working with Americans: Tips for Danes covers aspects like:

  • What should you expect in meetings and negotiations with Americans?
  • How can you make small talk with your American colleagues – and which topics should you avoid?
  • What do American employees really want from a manager?
  • Why do your US customers expect you to be available all the time?
  • Why won’t American employees go outside their job descriptions?

How to buy the book
You can buy the paperback book from Saxo.com, Amazon.com, or direct from our webshop. You can also order it from any bookshop using the ISBN 978-874-301-0111.

Contact me directly if you’re interested in a bulk order for your team. The book can also be branded with your company’s logo on request.

If you’d prefer an eBook, you can download it from Amazon, iTunes, or Google Play.

A companion volume, Working With Danes: Tips for Americans, will be published in 2020.

Visit our Books about Denmark page for information about all our books, including How to Work in Denmark: Tips for finding a job, succeeding at work, and understanding your Danish boss; How to Live in Denmark: An entertaining guide for foreigners and their Danish friends; and Top 35 Mistakes Danes Make in English.

Denmark and the USA, In the Media, Stories about life in Denmark

Copenhagen vs New York City: Reversal of fortune?

“When I first moved to Copenhagen from New York City, more than a decade ago, Danes used to ask me why I wanted to come to a little place like Denmark after living in glamorous Manhattan,”, writes Kay Xander Mellish in a new article for Berlingske.dk (in Danish) and The Copenhagen Book (in English).

“Nobody asks that any more. In the time since I’ve been here, Copenhagen has increased its confidence while New York City as a cultural capital seems to have lost its mojo.”

Continue Reading

Denmark and the USA, Working in Denmark: Danish Business Culture

Danish managers and American managers: 5 big differences

As a keynote speaker, I’m often asked to give presentations that help Danish companies understand their American colleagues and vice-versa. One of the biggest cultural clashes between the two countries is the differing role of the boss. Here’s a look at the contrasts between Danish managers and American managers.

1. The motivator vs the consensus-seeker

American bosses see themselves as motivators, cheerleaders, energizing their team to get the best performance out of them. A great boss is inspiring and able to bring employees along on a journey that can boost their own careers. This is why Americans buy books and watch TV shows about charismatic business leaders – from Lee Iacocca to Donald Trump to Jay-Z to millennial “Girlboss” Sophia Amoruso. A boss is a star, and employees revolve around her like planets revolve around the sun.

There are few books about famous Danish bosses. Danes are, in general, suspicious of people who think too highly of themselves and make too much money.

Continue Reading

Denmark and the USA, Stories about life in Denmark, Working in Denmark: Danish Business Culture

Tips for Danes working with Americans, and Americans working with Danes

As an American who has lived in Denmark for more than 10 years, I’m often asked for tips by Danes working with Americans.

It’s usually the smartest people in the organization who ask the question: others seem to assume that because they speak great English and have watched every episode of “Friends” or “Breaking Bad” they have a good enough handle on the American culture way of doing business. As the great American composer George Gerwshin once wrote, “It ain’t necessarily so.”

Here are a few tips taken from my new book “Working with Americans: Tips for Danes“, which is available on Amazon, Saxo, Google Play, iTunes, and from our own webshop.

Fear of lawyers and lawsuits

U.S. companies and employees live in constant fear of litigation. When I first arrived in Denmark, I remembered being shocked at traditions that could make an American liabilities lawyer rich. Whether it was bonfires at a børnehave, hot coals to warm your hands on at Tivoli, or drunk studenter falling off the back of trucks, I couldn’t help thinking about how a stupid or careless person might injure himself and sue.

American businesses think about this all the time, since they have two things on their mind: how to stay in business at a profit, and how to avoid litigation, since the second can make the first impossible. Every business decision, every product development or marketing technique, every hiring and every firing, has to be looked at through the lens of : Can we be sued for this?

Even official social events take place in the shadow of possible litigation. This is why Americans have trouble understanding the amount of alcohol served at Danish office parties. An American boss has to keep in mind that if someone misbehaves at or on the way home from one of these parties, the company may be held liable. And if the boss herself makes has one too many cocktails and makes a smart remark about an employee’s anatomy or ethnicity, she could end up in trouble with HR at best, and with a career-ending lawsuit at worst.

Better to stay sober and go home early, or stage the party at a local bar where people buy their own drinks and are therefore responsible for what they do afterwards. (The bar, however, might be held liable in some cases.)

American diversity is a wonderful resource – and a constant challenge

The U.S. is no longer the mostly White and Black populace you might imagine from the movies and music videos popular on Danish TV. While the greatest number of immigrants to the U.S. now come from Asia, the country is also home to Arab-Americans, Native Americans, and Hispanic and Latino Americans, who have roots in Central and South America but can be of any race.

Most Danish companies who do business in the U.S. have figured out that it’s no longer OK to produce marketing materials showing only White faces. But diversity is more than skin color and ethnic background. It includes other ‘protected classes’, including women, older Americans, people who are ‘differently abled’ (from using a wheelchair to suffering from mental illness) and LGBTQIA+ Americans.

For example, I had a Danish client who had put together a “Valentine’s Day Quiz” to sell its product – but based the entire game around heterosexual couples. These days, that’s a turnoff to straights as well as gays. Better to make the whole thing gender neutral.

Diversity also requires strict protocols for hiring and firing. You must have everything written down so, if necessary in a court of law, you can prove that person A was treated exactly like person B. This kind of record-keeping can seem annoying and petty for Danes accustomed to informality and used to operating with a high level of trust.

“Toot your own horn”

Americans are taught to ‘sell themselves’ and will expect Danes to do the same.

One of the worst things a Dane can be called is a bilsælger, a pushy promoter. But Americans have grown up in a much more competitive environment than Danes have, and have learned from an early age that getting into the ‘best’ schools, the ‘best’ universities, the ‘best’ internships and the ‘best’ jobs requires a good dose of self-promotion. My mother used to tell me that in the business world, I’d have to “spend 80% of your time doing a great job, and 20% of your time telling people you’re doing a great job.”

This can leave Americans at a loss when dealing with Danish understatement and self-irony. Unless they’ve received cultural training, they might take Danish self-restraint as lack of confidence, laziness, or even ‘dead wood’ that the company no longer needs.

I remember being involved in a project in which a Danish company had been purchased by an American one, and a team of mid-career Danish engineers was set for one-on-one meetings with their new bosses.

My advice was that they should explain to their new bosses exactly what their work had produced and how it had contributed to the company’s successful products, and would continue to do so. They should ‘toot their own horn’ as the American expression goes.

The engineers were, understandably, horrified.

Working hours, work-life balance, and Danish welfare state envy

If the Danish working model is built on flexicurity, the American model is built on fear. Since there is very little safety net in the U.S., an American who loses his or her job can fall very far, very fast.

This is one of the reasons Americans with well-paying jobs take so few vacations, and when they do, they tend to take short ones. The fear is: If my boss notices that everything runs smoothly when I’m out of the office, I might not have a job when I get back.

This is also why your American colleagues repeatedly emphasize that they very, very busy – joining to a phone meeting 15 minutes late, for example, because they were so very, very busy doing something else extremely important. The fear is: If I’m not busy all the time, the company may realize they don’t need me.

Your American colleagues will no doubt comment on the short Danish working hours, with the office a ghost town by 5pm while the Americans work on into the evening.

But having worked at Fortune 500 companies in both countries, I can say that Danes work fewer hours because they work efficiently, and with focus.

When I worked on 12-hour days on Wall Street, there were a lot of long lunches, taking a quick nip out to pick up my dry cleaning, or using the company’s secure IT network to send Grandma flowers on her birthday. In other words, those 12 hours weren’t 100% work.

Danes, by contrast, want to get the job done quickly so they can go home to their families.

While Americans love their families as much as Danes do, an American executive who leaves a position because he “wants to spend more time with my family” is using a code word for “I got fired.”

If you’d like more tips and observations for dealing with your American colleagues, book my presentation Working With Americans.

Hear all our How to Live in Denmark podcasts on Spotify and on Apple Podcasts (iTunes).

Image mashup copyright Kay Xander Mellish 2020

Denmark and the USA, Events, Working in Denmark: Danish Business Culture

Book a ‘Working With Americans’ presentation

Danes grow up watching U.S. movies and T.V. shows and listening to U.S. music, so they sometimes assume they ‘know’ how to work with Americans – but that’s not always true.

In this presentation, Kay Xander Mellish – an American who has lived in Denmark for more than a decade – talks about how Danes can survive and thrive when working with the multicultural, competitive, sometimes excitable Americans, and how Americans can understand Danish priorities and the culture of dry, sometimes aggressive humor and Jantelov. Kay is personally familiar with some of the misunderstandings that can take place when Danes and Americans work together.

‘We are an international marketing team with people working together across the Atlantic with offices in Copenhagen and Minneapolis. We were very happy to have Kay run a session with us that in an entertaining and interactive way provided insights into the differences and similarities between the US and Danish cultures – and how these impact the collaboration and interaction between our teams. We had a lot of fun and at the same time we are now able to talk more openly about who we are and why we behave in certain ways in our daily collaborative situations we find ourselves in.
– Lars Kristian Runov, CMO, Siteimprove A/S.

A trained journalist and a former member of the communications staff at Danske Bank, Carlsberg Breweries and Saxo Bank, Kay Xander Mellish runs her own communications consulting business in Copenhagen, Denmark. She is behind the podcast series ‘How to Live in Denmark’ and is the author of the books Working with Americans: Tips for Danes, How to Work in Denmark and How to Live in Denmark.

Book Kay for your group
If you represent a corporate or community group and would like to have Kay make a presentation about working with Americans at your location, please get in touch via this site’s contact form for more information. Or read more about Kay’s other events.

Return to the How to Live in Denmark events page