Award-Winning Culture Guides

Award-Winning Culture Guides

80+ country-specific guides covering country characteristics, the people, language, culture, etiquette, business protocol, communication styles and much more .

Language, Culture, Customs and Etiquette

Facts and Statistics

Location: Northern Europe bordering Germany 68 km

Capital: Copenhagen

Climate: temperate; humid and overcast; mild, windy winters and cool summers

Population: 5,569,077 (July 2014 est.)

Ethnic Make-up: Scandinavian, Inuit, Faroese, German, Turkish, Iranian, Somali

Religions: Evangelical Lutheran 95%, other Protestant and Roman Catholic 3%, Muslim 2%

Government: constitutional monarchy

The Danish Language

Over 98% of the population speak Danish. German is recognised as an official regional language in the Nord-Schleswig region that borders Germany, where it is spoken by 23,000 people, about 0.4% of the 5.2m Danish population. Greenlandic, an Inuit language, is spoken by 0.1% of the population.
Why not learn some useful Danish phrases?

Danish Society & Culture

Egalitarianism in Danish Society

  • Denmark is an egalitarian society.
  • Interestingly this is reflected in their language, which employs gender-neutral words.
  • Most Danes are modest about their own accomplishments and are more concerned about the group than their own individual needs.
  • Maternity and paternity leave provisions are particularly generous in Denmark.
  • Men are more actively involved in child-rearing activities than in many countries, although the division of domestic chores is similar to other developed countries.

Women in Danish Society

  • Women are highly respected in business and generally receive equal pay and have access to senior positions.
  • Working mothers can easily arrange flexible hours so that they can maintain both a career and a family.
  • Danish women expect to be treated with respect in the office.

Proper Public Behaviour

  • Danes believe there is one proper way in which to act in any given circumstance.
  • If someone is not following the rules, be they written or merely understood, someone will generally speak up and admonish them to obey the accepted protocol.
  • They expect courteous behaviour from everyone.
  • Talk in moderate tones and do not do anything to call attention to yourself.

Danish Family Values

  • Most families are small.
  • The nuclear family is the centre of the social structure.
  • Children are raised to be independent from an early age.
  • Most are put in day care centres at about 1 years old.
  • Marriage is not a prerequisite to starting a family. Many couples live together without legalizing the arrangement with marriag.

Etiquette & Customs in Denmark

Meeting Etiquette

  • Greetings are casual, with a firm handshake, direct eye contact, and a smile.
  • Shake hands and say good-bye individually when arriving or departing.
  • Shake hands with women first.
  • Danes tend to introduce themselves with their first names.

Gift Giving Etiquette

  • Danes give gifts to family and close friends for birthdays and Christmas.
  • If invited to a Danish home for dinner, bring flowers, good quality chocolates or good quality wine. A bouquet of mixed wildflowers makes an excellent gift.
  • Flowers should be wrapped.
  • If you are invited to dinner or a party, it is polite to send flowers in advance of the event.
  • Red wrapping paper is always a good choice.
  • Gifts are opened when received.

Dining Etiquette

If invited to a Danish home:

  • Arrive on time. Danes are punctual in both business and social situations.
  • Check to see if you should remove your shoes before entering the house.
  • Contact the hostess ahead of time to see if she would like you to bring a dish.
  • Offer to help the hostess with the preparation or clearing up after a meal is served.
  • Danes enjoy showing off their homes since they have usually done the decorating themselves and are proud of their accomplishments. Therefore, they are happy when you ask for a tour of their house.
  • Do not discuss business.

Watch your table manners!

  • Wait to be told where to sit. There may be a seating plan.
  • Table manners are Continental -- hold the fork in the left hand and the knife in the right while eating.
  • Always keep your hands visible when eating. Keep your wrists resting on the edge of the table.
  • Try everything.
  • Expect to be offered second helpings. You may refuse without offending your hosts.
  • Finish everything on your plate. Danes do not like wasting food.
  • When you have finished eating, place your knife and fork across your plate with the tines facing up and the handles turned to the right.
  • The man seated to the left of the hostess generally offers a toast of thanks during the dessert course.
  • Do not begin eating until the host toasts with 'Skol'.
  • When toasting, raise your glass about eye level and make eye contact with the people seated closest to you.

Business Etiquette and Protocol in Denmark

Meeting Etiquette

  • Appointments are necessary.
  • Confirm appointments in writing.
  • Initial correspondence should be made to the company and not an individual.
  • Do not try to schedule meetings from mid June through mid August as many Danes are on vacation.
  • You should arrive at meetings on time. The Danes you are meeting will be punctual.
  • Telephone immediately if you will be detained more than 5 minutes.
  • Shake hands with everyone upon arriving and leaving. Handshakes should be very firm and rather short. Maintain eye contact while being introduced. Always shake hands with women first.
  • Business cards are exchanged. Your business card should have the physical address of your company and not a post office box.
  • Danes use their professional title and their surname. If someone does not have a professional title, use Herr (Mister), Fru (Misses) or Froken (Miss). Danes move to first names quickly. Nonetheless, wait to be invited before using someone's first name.

Business Negotiation

  • Send an agenda before the meeting and work from it without deviation.
  • Decisions are made after consulting with everyone involved.. Presentations should be well-organized and factual. Use facts, figures and charts to back up statements and conclusions.
  • Maintain eye contact while speaking.
  • There will be a minimal amount of small talk. Danes prefer to get down to business quickly.
  • Communication is direct.