Podcasts, Stories about life in Denmark, Working in Denmark: Danish Business Culture

Your first day at work in Denmark: Flowers, handshakes, passwords, and several people named Mette

On your first day at work in Denmark, you may find a pretty bouquet of flowers on your desk to welcome you.

(This terrified a Chinese acquaintance of mine, who was accustomed to receiving flowers on her last day at work. She thought she’d been fired before she ever sat down.)

In Denmark, the bouquet is just a way to say “welcome” and to add some sunshine to an arduous day that is sure to include many handshakes and computer passwords.

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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.

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Podcasts, Stories about life in Denmark, Working in Denmark: Danish Business Culture

Understanding your Danish boss: Less like a general, more like a sports coach

In an anti-authoritarian country like Denmark, being a boss is a precarious (social) position. Danish bosses don’t like to flaunt their authority.

In fact, when you enter a room of Danes, it is often difficult to tell which one is the boss. The social cues that point to a big cheese in other cultures – the flashy watch, the oversize office, the glamorous yet servile executive assistant – are considered poor taste in egalitarian Denmark.

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In the Media

Dansk kultur set med amerikansk øjne: HTLID i “Vores Villa”

“Dansk kultur set med amerikansk øjne” was the topic when Kay Xander Mellish was interviewed for Vores Villa, Denmark’s most popular interior design magazine with a circulation of more than 1 million homeowners.

In a light-hearted article entitled Sådan ser danske boliger ud – set med en amerikaners øjne, the magazine quoted Kay as saying ““I er et folkefærd, der går efter kvalitet frem for kvantitet. Jeg oplever, at danskere har færre, men gode venner og færre, men bedre ting!”

According to Kay, these are the “10 særlige kendetegn ved danske hjem”:

DE 5 FANTASTISKE:
🇩🇰 Færre ting giver mindre at fokusere på og gør det nemmere at slappe af
🇩🇰 Dansk designhåndværk – som fx Georg Jensens frugtskål
🇩🇰 Naturens farver spiller en stor rolle i danske hjem.
🇩🇰 Velholdte trægulve

🇩🇰 Gardiner og vinduer, der er designet til at lukke lys ind

DE 5 KNAP SÅ FANTASTISKE:
🇩🇰 Stor ensartethed, fordi der er en frygt for at sprænge rammerne.
🇩🇰 Isolation, der er designet til at holde på varmen – smart om vinteren, men upraktisk en hed sommerdag.
🇩🇰 Hårde sofaer og senge – og der er ikke nok puder i dem!
🇩🇰 Amatørmalerier på væggene, der slet ikke lever op til de smukke, dyre verdensklassemøbler
🇩🇰 Stole, der er rene kunstværker, men som man sidder elendigt i.

Read more in the article in Vores Villa.

 

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.

In the Media

The How to Live in Denmark Game Show in Kalundborg

One of the most popular events for internationals in Denmark is the How to Live in Denmark Game Show.

We brought the game show to a group of newly-arrived students in Kalundborg, and the local press had this to say:

I Danmark kommer man klokken otte nul dut, hvis man er inviteret til klokken otte. Kommer man for tidligt, så venter man pænt i bilen, indtil klokken slår otte – og Gud nåde og trøste dig, hvis du kommer fem minutter for sent.

Sådan er en af de uskrevne regler for etikette og god tone her i landet, og det blev udlændinge bosat i Kalundborg torsdag aften klogere på, da den amerikanske journalist og foredragsholder Kay Xander Mellish holdt foredrag på vandrerhjemmet i Kalundborg.

Kommunens bosætningsteam var værter for kulturmødet, og de havde inviteret udvekslingstuderende på gymnasierne, udenlandske medarbejdere fra byens virksomheder, folk fra Sprogskolen og de nye internationale studerende fra Professionshøjskolen Absalons ingeniøruddannelse til at lære mere om normerne i den danske kultur.

Med glimt i øjet gav hun de fremmødte humoristiske eksempler på, hvad man gør og ikke gør over for danskere.

– Har I prøvet at sige godmorgen til nogen efter klokken 9? Den går bare ikke. Folk tror, I gør grin med, at de lige er stået op, lød det blandt andet fra den amerikansk foredragsholder.

Efter foredraget blev der leget lege – et jeopardy-spil om danske værdier samt en leg, hvor udlændingene skulle svare på, hvad de troede danskere ville svare til konkrete spørgsmål.

Et af dem lød: »Hvilken dessert er danskernes foretrukne?«.

Hertil blev der svaret »rødgrød med fløde« – så lidt har da sat sig fast.

See all our events for internationals on our events page.

 

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.

Podcasts, Stories about life in Denmark

The Danish Flag: 800 years old and going out of style?

I’ve never seen a country that loves its flag as much as Denmark does – and that’s a big statement, coming from an American. But foreigners who come to Denmark can’t help but notice that the Danish flag is everywhere.

People love to fly Danish flags over their summer houses – the bigger the better. Christmas trees in Denmark are decorated with little Danish flags. Cucumbers in the supermarket have Danish flags on the label to show they’re grown in Denmark. Whenever a member of the Danish royal family has a birthday, two little Danish flags are stuck on the front of every Copenhagen bus.

The Danish flag is closely associated with Danish birthdays. If you have a birthday when you’re working in a Danish office, one of your colleagues is likely to put a Danish flag on your desk. It means – happy birthday! You may see a birthday cake with tiny Danish flags stuck into it, or the Danish flag recreated in red frosting.

And if you’re invited to a party by a Danish friend – any kind of party – you may find paper Danish flags stuck into the ground to guide you to the right house.

The Danish flag is not really a statement of nationalism. It’s a statement of joy.

I’ve never seen anyone say anything negative about the Danish flag – until a couple of weeks ago.

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Podcasts, Stories about life in Denmark, Working in Denmark: Danish Business Culture

Your free daily banana and five weeks off: Job benefits in Denmark

On-the-job benefits in Denmark come in three categories: the kind every Danish worker gets, the kind everyone at your company gets, and the kind only top dogs at your company get.

When you talk with a future employer, there’s not all that much room for negotiation, unless you’re coming in at a very high level or have a highly sought-after specialty.

In most cases, as American kindergarteners say, “You get what you get and you don’t get upset.” Fortunately, job benefits in Denmark tend to be generous.

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Podcasts, Stories about life in Denmark

Danish gangsters: Night-time helicopters and the risks of a knit cap

 

If you live in Denmark or follow the Danish media, you’ll know there’s been a lot of talk of gangsters over the past week. One Danish gang is trying to expand at the expense of another gang, and this summer there have been about 25 shootings in Copenhagen, generally in the northern neighborhoods – my neighborhood.

Somebody was shot outside my supermarket, somebody else was shot outside the school near my house, and a couple of people have been shot just walking down the street.

Most of the victims are other gangsters, but a few have been unlucky civilians in the wrong place at the wrong time. All have been young men, and the Copenhagen police went so far as to suggest that young men stop wearing knit hats. Knit hats can be a gang sign.

I should point out that this summer in Denmark has been so cold that wearing a knit hat in August can actually seem like a good idea.

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Podcasts, Stories about life in Denmark, Working in Denmark: Danish Business Culture

Trailing spouses and working in Denmark

If you’re coming from abroad to work in Denmark, you may be bringing along your spouse. That can be great – it’s nice to have someone to shiver through the Danish summer with.

But unhappy spouses are one of the main reasons that people who come to work in Denmark end up leaving.

Denmark is not an easy place to make friends, given that Danish culture tends toward “respecting your privacy” by not striking up conversations with strangers.

It can also be tough for spouses to get jobs in Denmark, particularly well-educated spouses seeking jobs at their level of expertise.

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