Language, Culture, Customs and Etiquette
Facts and Statistics
Location: Northern Europe bordering Germany 68 km
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
- 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.
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
- 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.
- 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.
Can you hit 85% or more on our Quiz about Denmark?
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