Denmark proper is made up of the mainland peninsula of Jutland, which shares a small border with the northernmost portion of Germany, and more than 400 islands, about 70 of which are inhabited. Located at the eastern end of the North Sea, the country of is the smallest in Scandinavia by land area and among the smallest in Europe.
Despite its small size, Denmark is a highly developed country, with the 34th highest nominal GDP in the world. Two of Denmark’s inhabited islands are occupied by Copenhagen, Denmark’s capital and economic hub, and home to 1.2 million of the country’s 5.7 million inhabitants. The Danish economy is supported primarily by small and medium-sized businesses, largely because the popular Danish business model is one of specialization, not mass production. Danish companies have historically focused on craftsmanship over volume, and Denmark’s business climate and customs are also uniquely Danish.
Here are some tips for doing business in Denmark.
- Create consensus. In Denmark, as is true throughout most of Scandinavia, managers are consensus-builders. The Danish culture is one in which an egalitarian approach is highly valued, and often those in positions of authority are hesitant to take a difficult stand against the majority. Those who do could be seen as selfish or arrogant by their team members.
- Forgo hierarchies. As part of the deeply held egalitarian belief structure, most organizations in Denmark are flat and free of excessive layers of hierarchy. Decisions are made in a collaborative manner, and titles do not equal authority. Danish businesspeople will gravitate to the person who exudes the most competence, not the one with the fancy title or prestigious college degree.
- Communicate clearly. Because of the flat, team-oriented structure of many Danish businesses, open communication is a critical ingredient in running a successful team, department or company. Danish workers perform at their best when each person feels he or she is kept in the information loop, and when every person’s voice is heard.
- Speak candidly. As a general rule, Danes don’t dance around an opinion. An egalitarian system works when everyone in the room is free to express their unvarnished opinion on the subject at hand, and Danes do exactly that. What is perhaps blunt, or even rude, to someone from another culture is simply direct communication to Danes.
- Develop a knowledge of multiple languages. The entire population of Denmark is smaller than the population of the Philadelphia metropolitan area. With such as small population, there are relatively few native speakers of the Danish language, and even fewer abroad who have learned Danish as a second language. As such, Danes have had to learn other languages to communicate on the international stage. English is one such language, but Danes also speak Dutch, Swedish, German and other languages from nearby countries. It helps to know which languages members of your team speak and develop a working knowledge of them.
- Dress casual, but prepare for the weather. Denmark isn’t a buttoned-down country when it comes to business attire. Except for traditional fields such as law and banking, business casual attire, as understood in the U.S., is usually acceptable daily wear. However, remember that you’re in Scandinavia, and it gets quite cold in the winter. Denmark is a marine country, so weather patterns bring cool temperatures and rain, even in the warmer months of spring and summer. Pack for cool or cold weather and rain, depending on the time of year.
- Embrace progressive benefits. Denmark is one of the world leaders in integrating women into the workforce. Relative to the population, few countries can boast a higher number of women in the workplace, and many women attain high-ranking positions within companies. As is the case throughout much of Europe, maternal (and paternal) benefits such as daycare and leaves of absence are more robust than what you might find in other parts of the world.