WORKING ABROAD / JUN. 10, 2014
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How to Master Business Etiquette in Denmark

If you travel to Denmark from North America, you might be happy to learn that these two regions share similar business etiquette. Therefore, adapting to the local business culture won't be too difficult on your next business trip.

But despite the similarities, there are a few key differences that you should be aware of. To make the most of your trip -- and to ensure that you don't offend your colleagues, here are several tips to help you master business etiquette when traveling to Denmark.

Business appointments

The same way you wouldn't want someone to drop by your office unannounced during normal business hours, the same culture applies when conducting business in Denmark. For the most part, Danes prefer to schedule appointments in advance, and then confirm appointments in writing.

Also, do not schedule an appointment between mid June and Mid August. This is the holiday season in Denmark. Therefore, if you're traveling to the region during this time of the year, it might be difficult to schedule appointments or meetings with other business professionals.

Other meeting tips:

  • It doesn't matter whether you're attending a social or a business event, Danes are very punctual and they place a lot of emphasis on timeliness. Therefore, even if you're only a few minutes late to a meeting, immediately notify the person of your tardiness.
  • Because Danes are well-organized and prefer to be prepared, the person you're meeting with will anticipate a complete agenda before your scheduled meeting.
  • If you're scheduled to give a presentation, make sure that you include facts, statistics and other figures to support your claims. Danes are meticulous and they will analyze all information before making a decision.
  • In other cultures, it might be customary to engage in small talk before getting down to business -- a way to build a common ground with other professionals. This is not always the case in Denmark. After the initial greeting, professionals in Denmark typically jump straight into the meeting.

Greetings

When arriving to a meeting, immediately greet those in attendance. The appropriate greeting is a firm handshake. In addition, it's normal to shake the hands of female colleagues first. Always maintain direct eye contact when offering a greeting. Do not use the expression, "how are you?" This is considered a personal question and should only be asked if you have a close relationship with the other person. Rise when greeting another person and say "hi."

Business Cards

Danes regularly exchange business cards at the beginning of meetings. Make sure that cards include the physical address of the company you represent. Business cards with P.O. Box numbers are frowned upon in Denmark.

Professional Titles

It is inappropriate to refer to someone you've recently met by his or her first name. Instead, use the person's title or surname when addressing them in meetings and other settings. Wait until the person says that it's okay to use his or her first name.

Gift Giving

Gifts are not exchanged at business meetings. However, you may exchange gifts after completing negotiations. Gifts shouldn't be fancy or lavish. You can offer your host liquor, wine, chocolates or perhaps gifts with a company logo. 

Dress Code

Some business people in Denmark prefer suit and ties; however, business dress tends to be less formal -- perhaps trousers, shirts and a blazer. In fact, many business professionals dress business casual when meeting with someone they already know. Although suits are less common, a business suit with a tie and white shirt is the norm when meeting with high-ranking executives.  

Dining Etiquette

Dinner is a long event, and one meal can take four or five hours. Name cards are usually presented to male attendees, and these cards also include the name of female companions. It is acceptable for a business person to bring his or her spouse to a business dinner. Toasting is also customary. However, guests should only offer a toast after the host. Additionally, it's rude to toast someone of a higher rank or age. As a guest in Denmark, you're expected to finish everything on your plate.

A business trip to Denmark might be the trip of a lifetime, but if you're looking to impress your colleague, it's important that you recognize acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Do you have any experience of conducting business in Denmark? Your thought sand comments please…

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