Walk like a Dane, talk like a Dane

Entering a new workplace for the first time can be a daunting prospect anywhere but it is likely to be even more so as an international in Denmark.

2024-05-08 13:27:00
Move On

How to fit in at your new Danish workplace

Entering a new workplace for the first time can be a daunting prospect anywhere but it is likely to be even more so as an international in Denmark.

Even for those of us with a similar social/cultural background to what you find in Denmark, subtle differences at our new employers can make a big difference.

Many international graduates working in Denmark can relate to difficulties with integrating in the workplace, often due to language barriers. Exclusion from work-related tasks because colleagues naturally speak Danish, a cultural subtext being taken for granted in communication and having to adapt to a different social and work dynamic are common experiences. 

An engineering graduate from DTU explained, ”Danish people are very hard to get to know personally. People are friendly and helpful at the workplace but it is difficult to meet people after work.”

Another graduate, originally from Canada, said, ”Everybody in Denmark thinks that they are not culturally biased, but they are. There is a certain way of thinking that is very Danish.”

Mostly, however, Denmark is a brilliant place to work, with 81% of international graduates working in Denmark being either very satisfied or satisfied with their job. Also, 75% of international graduates report to work in a company with an organisational culture that values diversity. 

Why work in Denmark? The standard of living, the quality of pay, the development opportunities and the high level of innovation are, for a start, very good reasons. Also, you’ll have heard about the pleasantly flat hierarchical structure and, of course, the great work life balance.

While socialising after work with colleagues may be less common, eating lunch together daily and taking any opportunity to enjoy a slice of cake together goes a long way to compensate. Naturally, the larger companies have various social and sporting activities to get involved with and can be a very international environment. 

Learning a little Danish is a very good idea: it is always appreciated by Danish colleagues and it will surely help you integrate.

We asked a group of internationals working in Denmark to share their tips on integreating in the Danish workplace:

”The key to success in a Danish workplace is to be able to say ”Tak for kage.” Between Friday breakfasts, birthdays, and general celebrations, cake is an ever present element in the Danish workplace, learning to thank people for the cake, and which one to bring when it’s your turn, will be invaluable in graduate’s efforts to integrate into the Danish workplace.”
/Paul at Novo Nordisk

”Learning a little Danish is a very good idea: it is always appreciated by Danish colleagues and it will surely help you integrate.”
/Chiara at A.P. Moller – Maersk

”Being International you just have to be happy, being happy really helps …and smiling. I didn’t have difficulties here it was fairly easy.”
/Manas at Nordea

”I don’t think I have a specific advice for a Danish workplace. I think this goes well for all kinds of workplaces: they should respect their colleagues and the differences between their personalities. Moreover, they should find occasions to socialize with their colleagues: company parties, sports initiatives etc. I think this should bring them closer to their colleagues and improve their work collaboration as well.” 
/Vlap at Microsoft

”Learn Danish ASAP. While everyone speaks English very well, you will never enter into any social circles unless you speak Danish. From all the international students that I have met, those that flourished were those that made an effort to learn Danish. Those that did not make that effort were the ones who left disappointed and complained about how cold and unapproachable the Danes are.”
/Simon at Terma

”When you come to a country to study, you have to make up your mind. Do you want to study and go home or do you want to study and then leave for another country. Or will you stay. If you want to stay you have to take steps to learn the people, learn the country. It is so much easier when you go for an interview and you say a couple of words in Danish or you are asked how was your weekend and you have a story to share. You traveled around the country, you went sailing or you simply stayed home and enjoyed the fantastic Danish weather for example.”
/Ruslan at ÅF Consult

”Learning the Danish Language is a top priority. Then being open minded and joining different activity clubs is a good idea.”
/Yang at Foss

Denmark has something unique to offer both in the professional working environment but also in a social work-life balance.

But do Danish companies want international students?

Morten King-Grubet, head of the talent attraction department at Copenhagen Capacity, thinks so:

”International talent strengthens the companies in Denmark by enhancing diversity, innovation and productivity. Moreover, imminent demographical changes are likely to increase the demand for well-educated employees in a number of professional fields in the coming years. Danish companies have great interest in hiring the right international talent.”

There is such a need for international talent that Copenhagen Capacity is actively working to promote Denmark as a workplace for internationals.

”Denmark has something unique to offer both in the professional working environment but also in a social work-life balance, private context and an internationally recognized brand to support this. However, most Danish companies are finding it difficult to identify, recruit and integrate the highly-educated talents in Denmark that they need to continue their economic growth.

Copenhagen Capacity is engaged with Danish companies of all shapes and sizes working with them to connect with internationals like you who are young, talented and eager to find a position.”

148.533 læsere
Opdateret d. 08.05.2024

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