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

Working with a Danish boss? 5 tips for Swedes

While outsiders sometimes see the three Scandinavian cultures as “pretty much alike”, there are significant differences when it comes to working styles, in particular Danish working culture vs Swedish working culture.

Working with a Danish boss can be a shock for Swedes, with their extreme need for consensus and passion for sticking to whatever has been agreed on by the group.

The Danes’ more free-form, flexible approach can take Swedes by surprise, as can the Danes’ directness and sometimes lack of political correctness.

Here are a few tips for Swedes (or anyone else!) working with a Danish boss.

Tip #1: “The plan” is whatever works best today.

Swedes are famous for their careful planning process, spending all the time they need to collect consensus and make sure that everyone is on board with the plan. And once the plan is agreed upon, it is carefully followed by all.

Danes aren’t quite as keen on long planning processes: they’d rather put their oars in the water and start rowing, correcting course as needed.

If new information emerges or customers don’t respond as expected, “the plan” may be ditched without hesitation – and without discussion.

As an employee, it can be disconcerting to be working in one direction and then suddenly be pulled in another, but the Danes are proud of what they see as their practicality and flexibility.

This approach may also mean that the Danes on your team will follow a consensus agreement only to the extent that they think it is useful. If not, they may try to wiggle out of it, or “forget” to implement some of the measures you thought you’d agreed upon.

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Podcasts, Stories about life in Denmark

Danes and Swedes: The world’s worst haircuts are Swedish

I don’t regret many things in life, but I do regret not going to a party I was invited to almost fourteen years ago.

That was in 2000, when I first arrived in Denmark. It was a party to mark the opening of the Øresund Bridge, which connects Denmark and Sweden. There were no cars on the bridge yet, so you could easily walk or bike between these two countries that had been bitter enemies for hundreds of years. At one point, Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark and Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden – who were both young and unmarried at time – met and shared a hug and kiss in the center of the bridge, right across the national dividing line.

Now, that’s a party.

I won’t be able to walk or bike across the Øresund Bridge any time soon. Half a million cars per month drive over it now, plus a train every twenty minutes, full of commuters.

There are Danes that live in Sweden, and Swedes that work in Denmark.

Personally, I love the Swedes who work in Denmark.  Most work in restaurants or are shop assistants, and they have revolutionized customer service in Denmark by being cheerful.  They say things like ‘Hello!” and “Can I help you?”

This is in contrast to traditional Danish service personnel, whose default approach is “Are you still here? What do you want?”

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