Browsing Tag


In the Media

The “13 Scale” and what it means for Danish working culture

Kay says: Something I often talk about when I talk about Danish working culture is the 13 scale.

The 13 scale was a grading scale used in Danish schools from the 1960s until about 15 years ago, so it’s likely to be influential on the people you do business with, even though it’s since been replaced.

Under the 13 scale, an excellent piece of work, a student paper that was pretty much flawless, would get a grade of 11. But….there was the opportunity to get a 13 – if you went beyond perfect, did something exceptional, and taught the teacher something.

This willingness to challenge authority, challenge the status quo and the accepted wisdom, is one of the reasons Denmark is so innovative and punches far beyond its weight on the world stage.

But for international managers, it can be tricky. When they are challenged by their team, they can confuse this lack of deference with lack of respect.

I’m the boss, thinks the international manager. I give you my wisdom, I make the decisions, you carry them out.

But that’s not where their Danish team is coming from. They believe that challenging the accepted wisdom is the best way to get to an inventive result, maybe even something groundbreaking, maybe even earn the workplace equivalent – of a grade of 13.


Book Kay for an in-person or virtual event: Read more.

See our previous video: “The Kvajebajer and Danish working culture

In the Media

The Kvajebajer, or “Failure Beer”, and what it means for Danish work culture

Kay says:  It’s hard to understand the Danish style of working without understanding the kvajebajer. This is a word that translates roughly to “failure beer.”

It dates all the way back to the Vikings, but I see that a Danish brewery just introduced a whole new selection of Failure Beer earlier this year. No, I’m not getting paid to advertise it.

A failure beer is something you provide to all your colleagues when they’ve just seen you make a foolish or avoidable mistake.

If it’s working hours, you might opt for a failure cake instead. For example, I had a client, a small tech firm, that was three days late with an important delivery. When they brought the  delivery, they brought a failure cake along too.

Failure cake or failure beer is about an acceptance of human frailty. And it’s rooted in the Danish passion for equality. We’re all human, we all make mistakes, so let’s have a beer.

But this approach can be hard for internationals to handle. If you come from a very litigious society, like the USA, admitting that you made a mistake can make you feel like you’ll be the target of a lawsuit. Better to find someone else to blame.

Or if you come from an honor-based society, like China or Pakistan, you may feel that to admit you’ve made a mistake is a loss of face, a humiliation, a loss of honor.

But honor is not a big part of Danish culture. Surveys show that Denmark has the world’s lowest rate of gelotophobia, that is, fear of being laughed at.

The Danish way, if you’ve made a mistake, is to admit it, analyze what went wrong, plan to do it differently and, if time allows, buy everyone on your team a kvajebajer, or failure beer.


Book Kay for an in-person or virtual event: Read more.

See our video about how the 13 scale of grading affects Danish working culture.

In the Media

See the “How to Live in Denmark” podcast on YouTube

There are now more than a hundred episodes of the How to Live in Denmark podcast available, and a few of them are now also available as “lyric videos” on our YouTube channel.

If you’re not a native English speaker or just enjoy seeing the words to the podcast while you listen, the lyric videos (which you may be familiar with from your favorite pop songs) might be a good solution for you.

Check them out on the How to Live in Denmark YouTube Channel.

You can subscribe there, or on any of the most popular podcast services, including iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Castbox, or Gaana.

In the Media

Amerikansk foredragsholder Kay Xander Mellish

Amerikansk foredragsholder Kay Xander Mellish leverer informerende og underholdende præsentationer om kulturelle forskelle og dansk arbejdskultur – samt hjælper danskere og udlændinge til at le, lære, omgå og forstå hinanden bedre.

Firmaeventsene How To Live in Denmark om dansk kultur er designet til at hjælpe internationale medarbejdere, deres og studerende med at føles sig bedre tilpas i Danmark og til at forstå den danske mentalitet bedre. Danskerne går som regel derfra med en større forståelse af både dem selv og deres udenlandske kolleger. Vores arrangementer er både underholdende og lærerige!

Kontakt os for at planlægge dit næste event.

Kay Xander Mellish har boet i Danmark i over 10 år. Hun har et konsulentfirma, der hjælper danske virksomheder med at kommunikere på engelsk. Hendes oplæg om dansk arbejdskultur, at finde sin plads i det danske samfund som nylig tilflytter, og de ”dangliske” ord, som sniger sig ind, når danskerne taler og skriver på engelsk er yderst populære.

Kay er desuden forfatter til bøgerne “How to Live in Denmark” (2014), “Top 35 Mistakes Danes Make in English” (2016), “How to Work in Denmark” (2018), “Working with Americans: Tips for Danes” (2019) og “Working with Danes: Tips for Americans” (2020.)

Amerikansk foredragsholder

“Jeg rejser rundt i hele landet og holder foredrag om en række forskellige emner,” siger Kay. “Jeg hjælper danskere og amerikanere med at få et bedre samarbejde ved at undgå kulturelle misforståelser. Jeg hjælper også med at introducere nyankomne til den danske kultur. Der findes mange uskrevne regler i den danske kultur. Danskerne kender til dem, men det gør udefrakommende ikke.”

“Derfor henvender jeg mig også til et dansk publikum og hjælper dem med at formulere deres forventninger og med at undersøge ting, de altid har taget for givet. Jeg besøger også skoler og fortæller om amerikansk kultur og om hvordan, det engelske sprog er under forandring. Jeg har skrevet adskillige bøger om dansk kultur og er også stemmen bag podcasten How to Live in Denmark, som har eksisteret siden 2013.”

“Hvis du vil vide mere om dansk kultur, kan du altid booke mig til at lave en præsentation for dit team eller din organisation – endda også virtuelt.”

Læs mere om Kay Xander Mellishs events.

Flip Book Working with Americans Working with Danes

Buy Kay Xander Mellish’s new book, Working with Danes: Tips for Americans/Working with Americans: Tips for Danes on our webshop, or at Amazon, Saxo, Google Books, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble Nook, or via our webshop.

Or follow Kay on LinkedIn.

Read in English: Kay Xander Mellish, American keynote speaker Denmark.