Communication In Denmark

Danes don’t beat about the bush and are quick to get down to brass tacks. Communication is goal-oriented and direct, and their way of speaking is clear and precise. Regarding this please keep in mind that people in Denmark tend to use low context communication; there is no need to read between the lines, things are spelt out.

Well-structured statements with figures and data to support what has been said is appreciated as being professional. When doing business in Denmark, it is important to be credible and authentic. Honesty and integrity are highly valued.

Danish communication is, therefore, more fact than relationship-driven. However, interpersonal relationships and with them a degree of “emotionalism” do play a role in Danish communication.

Modest behaviour

It is advisable to behave modestly when communicating with Danes. In Denmark, the Law of Jante applies. Much like the Ten Commandments of Moses, the Laws, which are based on a novel by the Danish-Norwegian author Aksel Sandemose, contain ten rules. These rules can be boiled down to one basic idea: “Do not believe that you are something special”.

This is why people who come across as overconfident or even as showoffs are not appreciated at all. Showing that you have a sense of humour or, even better, being witty will score you brownie points, and if you can convince your Danish counterparts that you can combine virtues such as reliability with humour, you will have already won them over.

Voicing criticism

Even if Danes don’t tend to beat around the bush and prefer to speak factually and directly, you should still refrain from direct criticism.

Also, Denmark is a collaborative rather than a competitive society. Conversations should therefore be as pleasant as possible and emphasize common ground. In Danish communication, criticism is turned into a positive suggestion for improvement and is always attached to processes, never to individual persons.

Also, note that Danes are great improvisers. If things don’t go as planned, then you simply do it differently from then on. They will not understand if you harshly criticize such adjustments in procedure. As a result, Danes apologize far less than one may assume since things going wrong doesn’t usually mean that an apology is necessary.

Say thank you!

Expressing gratitude is an important part of Danish communication. Saying thank you for the meeting, for the fact that the other person showed up, for their response to an email, etc. is common practice. It is better to thank once too often than once too little.

Excerpt from Business Culture Denmark Compact by Reiner Perau. Courtesy of Conbook Verlag
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