Work in Denmark: 5 myths VS Danish reality

Let’s move to the happiest country in the world! And work in Denmark! This is what many Westerners say when they find a job opportunity in Denmark. Hooray!

Well, first, Denmark is the 2nd happiest place in the world (Finland is 1st) but this is another myth that was created back when this tiny Scandinavian country indeed ranked top of the list. Second, deciding to move to Denmark for work is tricky. No, don’t get us wrong.

The Danes are wonderful people. And the Danish work culture is amazing with so many perks. Plus, the Danish economy is booming and screams for more people to settle in and work there. But the Danish work culture is also interesting, sometimes incomprehensible to many foreigners, from the East and the West alike.

A couple of months ago, we talked about why people say Danes at work are like cats. But this time we sought the perspective of a professional expert in Denmark. Kate Dahl, a Job Consultant for internationals in Aarhus, Denmark, helped us shed some light on all things work-in-Denmark. And bust the most common myths too, so we can really understand how Danes are the jolliest people at work.

Read on, whether you seek or not a job in Denmark. Trust us, it gets so interesting!

Myth #1: Friends

Danes are very relaxed and friendly at work. Then, you have Christmas parties and company events to bring people together. In this cheerful and happy environment, you really feel that these colleagues actually are your friends. But in reality, they are just co-workers.

Danes take friendship very seriously. And most of them have friends since their early school days. And that’s it. They prefer to invest their time and energy in solid long-lasting relationships. So, what happens if you become friends and then you quit the job or even worse go back home?

But that doesn’t mean they won’t treat you right. You can count on them and they will help you as much as they can. And maybe after some time (usually a long time), you may become friends forever!

Myth #2: Humour

Danes are fun. If you happen to observe them in their casual gatherings, you will realise they tell a lot of jokes and laugh a lot. It’s the same at work. You should behave professionally. There is a no-gossip and no-chit-chat mentality. But having fun is also part of the game.

No racist jokes of any kind (like women, other nationalities, homosexuals etc) are generally well accepted. But humour? They say “dark humour has its birthplace in Denmark”, too! Imagine Monty Python but a darker tone.

Myth #3: Danish language.

If you can’t speak Danish, there is no room for you in Denmark. Well, it is not exactly true. It is possible to get a job in Denmark without speaking fluent Danish (Kate is the pure example of that). However, in some areas, you need to speak fluent Danish (for example, being a teacher at a Danish public school or a nurse).

But if you try and become fluent in Danish, you will be taken more seriously and can much more easily climb up the ladder of promotion. If you invest in learning the language, the Danes will most probably be happy to invest in you as well.

Myth #4: Teamwork

Yes, the Danish culture includes a lot of that. But it is about results. And despite the close and friendly collaboration needed, independence works best. Here is the deal! Being independent means that you solve your own problems.

If you ask too many questions or want constant feedback, it is a big turn off. So try to work as much as you can on your own and only ask for help if absolutely necessary. There must be a balance between teamwork and independence.

Myth #5: Networking

Danish society is very egalitarian. So it usually comes as a surprise when people find out that networking plays a major role when it comes to working in Denmark. But this is a matter of trust.

Kate says that “there is no room to be shy in Denmark. You need to join clubs, communities, organizations, courses and participate in events. In this way, you can grow your network and meet new people, possibly meet new friends”.

If you have a network on Linkedin, post on Linkedin or ask your network to post for you. According to Kate, Danish culture is so kind, caring and helpful. Some will even go out of their way to help you and this is a rare gift, so don’t abuse it.

If interested for more tips about making it to Denmark for work, here is the place.


Image: Robin Skjoldborg / VisitDenmark