Danes don’t beat about the bush and get to the point quickly. Communication is goal-oriented and direct, the language style clear and distinct. People in Denmark tend to use low-context communication: you don’t have to read between the lines, things are spelled out. Well-structured statements with figures and data to support what has been said is […]
Danish meetings (Møder) are targeted. Of course, this also applies to meetings with foreign business partners. Beyond any concrete goals, such as the start of the project, meetings are also about establishing a sense of trust and community. Accordingly, the term “Fælleskab” – “community” – is central to Danish culture.
The Danish designer Erik Magnussen once said to me: “You can only work with people you like.” This is why Danes like to find out during a meeting if they like one another and if they would like to take a next step in building and further developing this relationship. Creating an appropriate atmosphere is at least as important as the content and outcome of the meeting.
You can assume that your Danish counterparts don’t have a hidden agenda and aren’t playing tactical games. You should behave and communicate accordingly.
Disciplined meeting culture
The meeting culture in Danish companies is disciplined. This is due to the fact that Danish interlocutors usually have little time to spare. There is usually an agenda, you will start punctually and get to the point quickly. The meeting will also end on time. A special seating arrangement is rather unlikely.
The meeting will be attended by those from Denmark who are involved in the issue. Here, too, the number of participants is kept small for reasons of time. People are usually well prepared, and all participants might be involved. The boss does not necessarily have to have the last word or dominate the conversation.
Meetings take place in an open and informal atmosphere. The tone is casual, but respectful. Participants do not interrupt each other. Something that has been stated already is not repeated. That would be rude and would also suggest that someone wants to show off.
It may happen that one of the participants receives a call during the meeting. He may have announced this at the beginning of the meeting. Otherwise, he will say that the call is important and briefly leave the meeting.
Present with substance, but briefly
You will find that the quality of Danish presentations vary depending on the company or person who created them. In general, however, the slides are of a very good graphic quality.
Your presentation should be substantial and on the short side. You should avoid exaggerations and any kind of aggrandizement at all costs. Humor may be included in your presentation, but it should keep within the limits and not distract from the content. Self-irony is appreciated.
Cancellations at short notice without false excuses
It can happen that a meeting is cancelled at short notice – for reasons that would never lead to cancellations in many other countries. For instance, if the managing director’s child has fallen ill and his spouse cannot get out of her obligations as well as he can, he will postpone your business meeting. It is not a given that the wife of your business partner (if he is a man) stays at home.
There are very few differences in gender roles in Denmark. This is true even for absolute top positions: Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen once cancelled an appointment with a large group of ambassadors because his daughter had sprained her foot. The Prime Minister’s wife had important appointments as well. There was a public discussion about it, held in the Danish newspapers. After a short time, however, the consensus was clear: it was okay for the Prime Minister to take care of his family instead of his ambassadors.
Incidentally, history also shows how openly and transparently Denmark communicates. They don’t make excuses; they just say what’s what.