Adapting to a new work environment

Workplace culture in Denmark

Work-life balance

Understand Danish workplace culture and have a good start to your work life in Denmark.

Danes are some of Europe’s most efficient workers – but we do not just live to work. Maintaining a good balance between time on the job and personal life is important to them, and employers respect this.

Be aware of the cultural differences when you start a new job in Denmark. This will ease your process of integrating yourself into the workplace and help you connect better with your Danish colleagues.

Flat hierarchy

Flat hierarchy, ironic comments, direct communication, and a willingness to take responsibility. According to Danes, these are the most important aspects of Danish workplace culture that you need to understand if you are a non-Dane working with Danish colleagues or counterparts.

A good team worker

Work culture in the typical Danish workplace is based on teamwork and knowledge sharing, where the distance between senior and junior employees is generally quite small.

Employees are encouraged to actively participate and voice their opinions in the workplace, regardless of position.

It is expected that employees take the initiative, and the competence of being a good team worker is more important than professional skills.

Direct and open communication

The Danes communicate very direct and honestly. We do not small talk that much and like to go directly to the case. It might seem a bit unpolite in the beginning, but it is not meant to be unpolite or personal. Danes love to be direct and efficient when we communicate, and therefore, we go straight to the case.

We love a good honest debate and we believe it is vital in a democracy. It is okay if we disagree, but we must use our freedom of speech to learn more about each other and share our opinions. It is crucial in the workplace, and the Danes look positively on feedback and coworkers sharing their views on processes that could be improved or implemented.

Many Danish workplaces will arrange social activities after work, so that the social bonds with the colleagues are strong. The social activities could be a beer after work on a Friday or a dinner around the holidays especially Christmas dinner is a big thing in Denmark. There is always a chance that there will be a fitness or running club at your workplace and everyone is invited.

Acting proactive

Danish employees generally have a lot of influence in their daily job. We like to be autonomous, and we are very self-driven. That’s why we also like to take responsibility and are empowered to make our own decisions.

In Denmark it’s definitely better to make a wrong decision than to make no decision at all. As long as we are honest and quick to speak up about the mistake so it can be fixed, there’s no harm done. It’s human to fail – you just have to learn from your mistakes and improve your work.

Punctuality and trust

Trust is a key factor in both Danish culture and Danish business culture. Having hired you, your Danish boss will assume she / he can trust you. Danish bosses and colleagues can accept the occasional error, but they won’t accept a lie or a cover-up.

Another concept that is pertinent to Danish work culture is punctuality. Danish employees are given a lot of independence and trust, which is exchanged for timeliness and commitment to one’s tasks. If you say you can handle a project, your superior will believe you. It’s assumed that you will meet the deadline, and be transparent about any difficulties you may run into.

Danish humour 

Can be difficult for foreigners to understand…. It’s based on the “law of Jante”, an informal concept that nobody can think themselves better than anyone else. At its best, Danish humour involves gentle self-mocking, like the “failure cake” or “failure beer” people buy for friends after making an embarrassing mistake. At its worst, it can be sarcastic and unkind. If you’re not sure about whether something a Danish colleague said was supposed to be joke, ask.

The importance of language

In general, learning to speak Danish is key when you live and work in Denmark. Not understanding any Danish might leave you feeling excluded and isolated.

It’s possible to live and make a career in Denmark without speaking Danish. Still, for most internationals, it strongly elevates their social and professional experiences if they study Danish. If you don’t understand or speak Danish, you may feel challenged in social situations with your team. 

4 quick tips on Danish work culture

✅ Be on time; never late nor too early.

✅ Join your colleagues for lunch. Most socialising and networking takes place here.

✅ Learn Danish! It shows commitment and the will to integrate into Danish society and the workplace.

✅ State your opinion and contribute your viewpoint to a conversation. Your colleagues and managers will appreciate it

So, what is Danish workplace culture like?

Now you know the ins and outs of the Danish workplace. It’s independent, friendly, and social. It’s “flat”, informal, and embedded with mutual trust and respect. It’s a culture where companies work with their employees in how work can be a valuable part of life rather than be detrimental to one’s overall well-being. It’s at its core just very… Danish.

Leaning into learning Danish will be very valuable and fun for internationals working in Denmark, and it will be for YOU too.