AAU Career

Danish workplace culture

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.

➡ Even though some company cultures may differ, some points can be made about the Danish workplace culture in general. Here, we will explain it to you and also guide to other places you can learn more.

Some points about the Danish workplace culture

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    What is the tone and management like in a Danish workplace?

    Denmark's work culture and professional environments can be challenging for internationals. We completely understand - everything is new and different!

    Don't worry if you feel that you are struggling. It's normal!

    Danish professional behaviour can be relaxed and informal. Irony and sarcasm is a normal way to communicate in Denmark - even at workplaces - so don't take offense.


    Flat hierarchy and the importance of punctuality

    When arriving at a Danish company, most expats experience a much more informal tone:

    • Everyone, including the management, is known by their first name
    • Titles seem unimportant
    • The dress code is often casual, neat and simple clean clothes
    • Having a good sense of humour is valued - often, it is even listed as a requirement in job ads


    Management in Danish workplaces

    Danish companies are often structured with a flat hierarchy, and many decisions are made by the employees without consulting management. The management usually act more like coaches than instructors. It may be a bit difficult for foreigners to work within this informal environment whilst avoiding constantly getting comments from the management.

    The manager trusts that everyone is doing their jobs and will not chase or question the employees. The leader may act like a friend in a relaxed atmosphere, but you still need to be responsible to do your tasks and meet the deadline.

    Don't be afraid to ask for help! It shows that you are professional and want to learn and improve aa well as get input from your manager or colleagues in order to get the best possible result for the company.

    It's freedom with responsibility.


    Teamwork in Danish workplaces

    A lot of work is done through projects, where teamwork is the cornerstone of the process. Everybody is expected to contribute and there is an equal distribution of labour as well as responsibility. Being able to show initiative and speak up about challenges is important.

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    What if I don't speak Danish?

    In general, learning to speak Danish is key when you live and work in Denmark - and especially if you are searching for a job.

    Even though almost all Danes are close to fluent in English, they tend to prefer speaking Danish with their co-workers, especially in the break room.

    Not understanding any Danish might leave you feeling excluded and isolated. However, if you remind your colleagues of your presence, most of them will of course switch back to a common language.

    Some companies provide language courses for expats and there are also different language schools around the country.

    You may feel some pressure to do well with your studies, having a great student job as well as study Danish, but remember that Danes appreciate effort! Learning Danish at an professional level may be an impossible task while you study. What makes the difference is your attitude: that you are trying and making progress. Keep your spirits up and stay motivated.


    Places to learn the Danish language


    In Aalborg:


    In Copenhagen:


    In Esbjerg:

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    How can I create value for Danish companies?

    Being an international student or graduate means that you have language skills and understanding of cultures in other countries, which can be very relevant for Danish employers doing business internationally – and this is an area where you can clearly distinguish yourself from Danes!

    If you e.g. are Chinese, you both speak the language and know the do's and don'ts when collaborating with Chinese as well as you have your knowledge and experience from your education. This is extremely valuable for a Danish company wishing to expand its business to China.

    Besides your native language, your second language might also be very relevant.

    So please take time to research relevant companies, see what markets the company is already involved with, and sell your expertise of becoming their future international employee!

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    What is the Danish work-life balance like?

    Ideally, securing and having a job is not an objective in itself, but should emphasise balance between the time and energy you spend in the job and your spare time. This is called work-life balance.

    It can be difficult to see if a balance is possible to achieve based on a job description when looking for a job. However, there are some points to know about the Danish workplace culture when it comes to maintaining a work-life balance.


    Working hours in Danish workplaces

    In Denmark, a normal business week  usually contains 37 hours with office hours Monday – Friday between the hours of 8am and 5pm. However, many academics also tend to work a bit more.

    The majority of academic positions have great flexibility when it comes to working hours.Often, it is possible to work from a home office or leave early for a family event one day and then just catch up on lost hours later. Generally, as long as you get the job done and meet deadlines, you will be able to plan your schedule the way it suits you and your family best. 


    Social life at Danish workplaces

    Social activities at work are often planned in the form of Summer or Christmas parties, some companies practice joint breakfast or afternoon tea on Fridays.

    Very few Danes socialise with their colleagues outside of work, and you cannot take this personally. The Danes value their spare time because it allows them to do sports, take their children to after school activities etc.


    Qualities Danes appreciate in internationals

    • If you participate in planning social events if will meet Danes and international in a more informal way.
    • Be curious about Danish traditions and ways of doing things – share you own traditions.
    • Make use of baking skills, bonding over cake and coffee can brighten any rainy day. Food and sweets build a common language in any environment – in your studies or workplace.
    • Joining sports clubs will bring many valuable connections. You never know who you can meet! Danes value health, exercise and staying active.
    • Doing volunteer work and showing that you are participating and contributing in your community.

    If you are new in town, get to know people by volunteering or joining a club or association where you can practice a hobby of yours – and of course invite your colleagues over for coffee and cake.

    Never give up. Be the one who takes first steps, even if it is more than once.

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    Where can I learn more?

    • Do you need help with your communication in this new environment? We have some advice ready for you in an online course that will help you in many aspects!
      Sign up: AAU Career E-learning

    • Want to participate in events about Danish Culture?
      Have a look at: International House North Denmark

    • Want to know more about workplace culture and life in Denmark?
      Go to: Workindenmark
    • Want to read humorous articles about living in Denmark ?
      Read it here: How to live in Denmark 
    • Want to know more about cultural differences?
      Have a look at: Hofstede insights

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