Danish Communication Styles

Although Denmark does not have the same high numbers of large multi-nationals as the Netherlands or Sweden, a high percentage of Danish industry is export-oriented.

As few non-Danes speak good Danish, Danes have therefore had to become proficient in other languages – often speaking two or three to a high level of proficiency. Thus, Danes tend to be good communicators on the international stage.

Danish communication patterns, however, when taken into a second language can be somewhat problematic to cultures more used to a diplomatic approach to communicating in business. Plain speaking is admired and being frank is viewed as a sign of respect to the person you are dealing with. This directness can sometimes be mistaken as rudeness when encountered by cultures which place diplomacy and tact at the forefront of business interactions.

It should not, however, be assumed that because Danes can be direct in their use of language they revel in confrontation. Danes value direct debate (which is very different from confrontation) and will avoid any personal references or overtly confrontational situations.

Danes use humour in most business situations and see the judicious use of humour as a key weapon in the search for hygge which translates as a kind of cosiness in which everybody feels at ease in each other’s company. Feelings of hygge are much prized but poorly explained by Danes and it is an atmosphere which non-Danes find difficult to comprehend.

As with other Scandinavians, body language tends to be quite restricted and this can make interpreting responses and understanding feedback quite difficult. Questions will often come at the end of a presentation but that does not mean that no interest has been generated during the presentation.

A brief overview of some key concepts to consider when doing business in Denmark

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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Denmark is often cited as the ‘happiest’ country in the world. Whether or not this is true (Danes are also high consumers of anti-depressants), Denmark certainly seems to have a lot going for it. As a small country with a tiny population, the country has been able to develop an enviable level of affluence and great standard of living for most of its people. Danes enjoy good levels of social security, universal healthcare plan and a very generous universal pension for which the quid pro quo are high taxes. It would appear that, for the time being at least, Danes are very satisfied with this balanced approach.

What fuels this level of affluence and contentment? How can a small country deliver such great economic results? The answer must be something to do with the Danish approach to business. Denmark has managed to carve out very specific niches for itself across a range of different sectors and at the same time develop a reputation for very high levels of quality. Danes strive for excellence in delivery and on many occasions, they are able to achieve it.

If you have a product or service which really does deliver in terms of quality, then you should consider doing business in Denmark. However, as with all countries, Denmark has its own way of doing things and if you are looking at doing business in Denmark you are best advised to develop an understanding of the key drivers that underpin the Danish approach to business. Danes are happy to adapt their approach to new markets so maybe you should consider adapting your approach when you go to Denmark.

This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of Danish business culture in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on:

  • Background to business
  • Business Structures
  • Management style
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Women in business
  • Entertaining
  • Top tips