Entering business meetings in Denmark requires knowledge concerning their individualistic approach. Consequently, it might be handy to keep in mind that their straightforwardness is part of their culture, and carries no intention to come across as offensive. They preserve similar treatment of individuals.
The business etiquette conforms to the formal way of greeting by giving a not too firm handshake and addressing your counterpart by the first-name. In addition, one should arrive at the agreed time with a small gift and exchange business cards, which are written in Danish and English. As a matter of course, while participating in the business meeting, it is recommended to be silent and avoid interrupting the speaker. The motive behind this is their belief in the term jantelov, which means respect for all no matter their position.
It is important to underline the cultural differences when doing business internationally. To start with, it is useful to know that working days in Denmark are from 6am till 6pm.To avoid interruption of a working day, it is advisable to schedule meetings during lunch time (on a weekday from noon till 2pm), usually in an informal environment or cafeteria. Punctuality is a must, since business meetings usually commence and conclude at a prior agreed time. Business lunches tend to be short and to the point, never takings more than 30 minutes.
The first step to organizing a business meeting with a Dane is to arrange all the details (topic points, duration etc.) at least two weeks in advance. Call ahead one day before the meeting to confirm your Danish partner’s attendance. Furthermore, it is handy to avoid arranging business meetings during July and August because these are when most working Danes go on holiday.
Secondly, according to the Dutch cultural researcher Geert Jan Hofstede, Denmark scores high on the “individualism” scale. This indicates that the Danish have a preference for a “loose-knit” relationship and prefer to get down to business straight away rather than first entering a personal relationship. Trompenaars (1997) shares more or less the same point.
Denmark is a specific-oriented country which means that Danish people are perceived as straightforward and open. However, when entering a meeting for the first time they may come across as reserved. Once a personal relationship is built they might loosen up a bit. Therefore, a meeting with Danes might start with two minutes of small talk, but after a while everyone gets straight to the main point. During these short and well-structured meetings the secretary notes only the most important points made during the discussion. The first meeting is not necessarily arranged to end up in a decision being made and a binding contract. Thus, it can be done in the near further and agreements can be made orally or in written form.
Lastly, managers follow strict rules when entering a meeting room. It is not uncommon for the Danish partners in attendance to say very little. Silence is highly valued. Therefore, individuals show respect and involvement through listening effectively and avoid interrupting the speaker. Yet one may break those rules if an effective contribution is added to the conversation. Thus, subjects that deviate from the conversation will not be tolerated as well as small talk that last more than a couple of minutes.
A simple “hello” and a firm handshake are the formal way of greeting in Denmark. Direct eye contact during this exchange of greeting is highly welcomed. Men are not obligated to stand when a woman leaves or enter the room, but shaking a woman’s hands first is customary. However, be aware to keep a distance while communicating with Danes because they are highly sensitive to intrusion of their personal space. The distance should be at least two arms of lengths from the business partner.
Addressing business people with “Mister” or “Misses” is considered inappropriate as this gives an impression of adoration. As mentioned before, Danish people treat one another equally reflecting to their egalitarian mind-set.
Before the start of the meeting, business cards, written in both English and Danish explaining the title and status of the counterparts, are exchanged when meeting for the first time. In addition, it is common for Danish people to present a small gift that can be opened right away. Your Danish counterparts will present themselves in suits and tie ready to get down to business.
The Danish meetings rooms are set in other ways rather than round table settings to avoid open sitting spaces in cases of sickness (Helle, Andersen, Asmuß, & Thomsen., 2009). In the meeting room, all members are given the chance to give feedback, and their own opinion before the final decision is made. This further highlights the democratic nature of Danish business culture.
In Denmark, the communication style is to arrive at the conclusion all at once, where all arguments are put forward. The business negotiations start with discussing the arguments with a strong use of logos, such as the use of facts and charts (Peterson, 2004).
Patterns of information sharing
It is crucial to emphasize the peculiarities of decision making internationally. Danish business culture acknowledges similar values as Nordic, Germanic and Anglo cultures. According to American anthropologist Edward T. Hall (1977), Danish culture is categorized at the level of low context communication, characterized by individuals who dare to express emotions and address their criticism readily.
However, conversations regarding academic background, professional qualifications and reputation are discussed humbly, as this is a sign of respect related to the Danish value of jantelov. As a result, bragging and exaggerating your performance are considered inappropriate, despite the fact that the speaker might indeed have an academic or professional status (Trompenaars, 1997).
In low-context cultures people prefer verbal communication and directness, not with the intention to be rude, but they do not believe in “beating about the bush” This direct approach of communication can seem blunt to high-context cultures, who tend be more indirect and group oriented.
Emails and business cards are both written in English and Danish. The majority of the business people speak English, and secondly German, but Danish is the official language.