How to Work in Denmark


With its high salaries and good work-life balance, Denmark is an attractive place to work. But the Danish workplace, like Danish culture as a whole, is built on unwritten rules and unspoken expectations. "How to Work in Denmark" explains some of the rules of the road in the Danish workplace, as well as how to find and keep a job in Denmark. This 2022 updated edition includes three new chapters.

Available as an e-Book and in paperback

Working with Danes: Tips for Americans

Denmark is a great place to do business. Infrastructure is good, corruption is minimal, innovation is respected, and business structures are flexible. Most people speak excellent English. Still, many Americans put a foot wrong. This fun, easy-to-read book by an American who has worked with several Danish companies will help you avoid simple mistakes.

Working with Americans: Tips for Danes

Doing business in the US is challenging and exciting. The size, wealth, and diversity of the American market is hard to beat. But when it comes to business culture, too many Danes assume that the US is basically just like Denmark - only bigger. This can be the first of many expensive mistakes.

How to Live in Denmark

Are you moving to Denmark, or already living in Denmark and trying to fit in? Kay Xander Mellish, a foreigner who has lived in Denmark for more than a decade, offers a look at the joys and absurdities of daily life as a non-Dane in “the happiest country in the world.”

"Witty insights." - Huffington Post

Top 35 Mistakes Danes Make in English

Danes speak excellent English, yet they make a few simple errors over and over. This collection of easy-to-fix mistakes will help Danes make their spoken and written English even more smooth and impressive. It is a useful tool for anyone who uses English in business or while travelling.

Also by Kay Xander Mellish

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The Danish job interview

Job interviewing in Denmark is a difficult balance, because the "Jantelov" makes all forms of bragging or self-promotion distasteful to the Danes. You’ve got to convince the person interviewing you that you’re skilled and capable without sounding like a used car salesman.

Understanding your Danish boss

In an anti-authoritarian country like Denmark, being a boss is a precarious social position. Danish bosses don’t like to flaunt their authority. In fact, when you enter a room of Danes, it is often difficult to tell which one is the boss.

Danish humor at work

Having a sense of humor about yourself is one of the most important elements of fitting into the Danish workplace. In Denmark, you’re supposed to be able to laugh at your own mistakes, and even buy "failure cake" to admit you're wrong.

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Selling to Danes

While Danes admire the dynamism and creativity of American business, they do not envy the American way of selling. The idea that someone should pretend to be your very best friend until he succeeds in selling you something is upsetting to them. Danes believe a good product sells itself.

Managing Danes

Traditional top-down American bosses can struggle to lead their teams in Denmark, where the management culture is very different. Part of this is the Danish social welfare system: "management by fear" is less effective when employees have access to two years of unemployment payments should they leave their jobs.

The enthusiasm gap

Friendliness and familiarity are hallmarks of American culture, yet they can be exhausting for Danes, who dislike small talk and draw a sharp line between professional and personal relationships. Danes can also be rubbed the wrong way by too many exclamation points.

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The Litigation Machine

Why is it important to keep so many records? Why do I need a lawyer to review all my contracts? And why can’t I hire who I want? Many Danish business people get in trouble doing business in the US because they operate on the principles of trust that work in Denmark.

Meetings and Negotiations

Many Danes are surprised at how their American counterparts can be so friendly before a meeting, then shark-like when negotiations start – and then friendly again afterwards as if nothing had happened. Why are they so confrontational? How should Danes react?

The importance of compliments

Americans love positive feedback and are surprised and a little uneasy when they don't get it from Danes, who often only offer comments when something goes wrong. That can make them seem grouchy and nitpicking to their American business partners.

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“Danes dress to match the Danish landscape. That means grey. And brown and green, and some blue. Maybe some beige for the adventurous. Wear purple or orange and you will stand out in Denmark. Bright colors are worn only by children, or by middle-age ladies trying to make a statement.”


“Rugbrød is a big deal in Denmark. It is not just a bread: it is a moral imperative. Packed with healthy fiber and vitamins and almost no sugar or fat, it is considered a form of perfect food. Many Danes believe the world would be a better place if they could go around handing out slices of rugbrød.”


“For Danes, bicycle lanes are the Vikings’ last stand. Armed with a bike, these gentle blond people turn vicious and brutal. They will shout at you, lecture you, or nearly run you over. They will ring their bell aggressively if they think you are holding up their all-important trip to the supermarket.”

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Translating 'derfor' directly

“Derfor is an ordinary part of Danish, but its direct English translation, therefore, is stiff and pompous. It makes you sound like a bald professor explaining chemistry. Instead of Therefore, she loves disco, try a more modern construction like That’s why she loves disco.”

Confusing fun and funny

Both fun and funny are covered by sjov in Danish, which can make it difficult for Danes to figure out which one to use in English. Fun lines up with general enjoyment – Vi har moret os translates to We had fun, not the often-heard We had a very funny time.

Not knowing ‘obviously’ is obnoxious

The Danish 'klart' is a friendly word, suggesting that the listener and speaker agree. But 'obviously', a common English translation, is a word with hostile undertones that suggests that the listener is a moron who needs simple things explained.