Survival Guide to doing business in Denmark

Aug 31, 2018 | Industry & Cleantech

Denmark, which is the most “Mediterranean” country of Scandinavia, has always had a taste for adventure and international trade. The Danes are curious business people eager to explore new horizons and to conquer foreign market shares. Learn more about their business culture and their practical approach.

Happiness and business life

Denmark is often topping the ranking of ‘The happiest country in the world’ and has been first for four times in a row (learn their secret recipe for happiness). The country is described as calm, friendly, safe, social-oriented and ‘hyggeligt’. ‘Hygge’ is the new hype word which means in Danish a mood of cosiness and comfortable conviviality with feelings of wellness and contentment. But at the same time the Danes can be somehow difficult to do business with. The Danes like to illustrate their arguments by figures and statistics, to be prepared well in advance for any presentation or pitch, but at the same time they want to move forward very quickly. So, make sure to always be prepared as a business deal can be concluded very quickly.

Trusting and Task Oriented Business Culture

In Denmark, a word is a word, and the society is built on trust such as the:

  • trust in the Danish government to take care of its citizens,
  • trust in the other Danes not to take advantage of any situation, and
  • trust in the future.

In business talks, Danes value honesty to move forward faster. The Danes are also task-oriented, and not much focused on chattering when at work. They arrive and depart right on the hour, and the meetings are organized the same way and cannot be extended. In the Danish society as in the companies you will experience a very low, almost non-existing hierarchy. What matters the most is the group, and the trust you put in your employees. Keep old hierarchy schemes at home when dealing with Danes, it might be perceived as out-of-date and even as disrespectful.

In Denmark, they work as hard as they play hard and both in their own time. The society is built on balancing work and family with times dedicating for sports, to pick up the children, and to be able to go home at a decent time which is often early. Danes are equally ambitious in their professional and private lives. Danes love their habits and working-life balance so make sure to plan events or meeting well in advance.


Time is money: Rude or just saving everyone’s time?

The Danes are very direct in their talking. This can somehow lead to misunderstandings or be perceived as a lack of politeness or even as blunt rudeness. The Danes often say: ‘time is money’ and really believe the more direct talk they use, the more you understand their thoughts and intentions the more efficient you both are and of course you can leave early. This also means that the attention is more on the words and less on the body-language or subtlety of language.


Some tips for your next business deal in Denmark:
  • Be careful in early negotiations at how you present your quotes because Dane don’t have time for long negotiations. And if a competitor is giving them a better deal, they won’t bother or waste their time to negotiate if you don’t make an honest effort from an early stage.
  • Make sure to be brief, impactful and to inspire trust to your potential business partner.
  • When doing business in Denmark be prepared to come in early, eat lunch in 30 minutes, and leave work or your clients early. And remember it would be bad manner to organise a meeting after 5pm.
  • Don’t take any offense if a Dane tell you exactly his thoughts. He thinks it’s a gain of efficiency and time to go right to the point.
  • Final tips: Be ready to deal with a low hierarchical system in the companies, where time is money. And be prepared to follow the rules, they are an important part of society. Do not let any suspicion arise that you casually break rules or that you approve any kind of corruption. And remember the Danes are much future-oriented, so do not hesitate to change and move forward.


Some facts about Denmark
  • Did you know? Danish people let their babies sleep alone in their strollers outside coffee shops, while enjoying their coffee inside with friends.
  • Did you know: Denmark thinks green, and its goal is a 100% renewable energy by 2050. In Copenhagen the number of bikes has overcome the number of cars.
  • The Danish idiom: ‘Man skal yde før man kan nyde’ which means ‘you must provide before you enjoy’. Participating in the system and economy is mandatory, and the government has decided to remove any financial aid if an unemployed person twice refuses a job offered to him by the job-center.
Background of the author Pia Abildgaard

This French Nordic consultant and trainer has been living in France for over thirty years. Her career has been built within agencies specialised in international development. Pia has capitalised on her good management practices and a thorough understanding of the world’s export companies. Since 2008, she took a step back on this experience and now shares, as a consultant, her expertise on French Nordic intercultural relations.


Aldes, Amadeus, The Danish Embassy in France, The French Embassy in Denmark – Business France, Arval – Groupe BNP Paribas, AXA Coorporate, Besix, BNP Paribas, Bonduelle, Bouygues Construction International, Chanel, Electrolux Professionnel, Essilor, Engie (GDF Suez), Exhausto, Euler Hermes, Gevelot, Haanpaa, HEC Business School, Imerys, Klepierre + Steen and Strøm, Legrand, Leoni, Leo Pharma, Mærsk Maritime and Maerks Oil, Man Diesel & Turbo, Mckinsey, Mecaplast, Michelin, Midtfactoring – Natixis, Nestlé and Nestlé Waters, Pierre Fabre, Renault Trucks/ Volvo, Safran, Samat France & Nordic, Sanofi, Servier, Siraga, ST Microelectronics, Thalès, Total Groupe, Valeo, Vestas, Volkswagen Bank France, Volvo and French exporting companies from the Chamber of Commerce and Handcraft….


Pia Abildgaard
+ 33 6 79 90 67 24