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Denmark - Language, Culture, Customs and Etiquette

Danish Flag Facts and Statistics

Location:  Northern Europe bordering Germany 68 km

Capital:   Copenhagen

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

Population:  5,413,392 (July 2004 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 SocietyMap of Denmark

 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 marriage.

Etiquette & Customs in Denmark

Meeting EtiquetteEtiquette 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.

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.



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