ASA 008: How to Make Friends with the Danes

Get a bunch of best practice today!

Monika Chutnik
How to Make Friends with the Danes

Many people wish to work in companies with a Nordic corporate culture. The Nordic countries are known for their particular approach to the employee and to work. An approach that is both individual and business oriented. We have the opportunity to learn from Kathy Borys Siddiqui more about business culture in Denmark and about what Danes are like.


In this episode you will learn about:

  • What is Denmark like?
  • Moving to another country
  • Hygge in practice
  • Danish sense of humour
  • How to make friends with Danes?
  • Danish corporate culture


Three things that I take away as key messages from this conversation:

  1. Moving to another country is always a process in itself, and we are all a part of it.
  2. Be present and be involved – find opportunities to meet Danish people where they naturally spend their time – hobbies and leisure, or professional.
  3. Learn new ways and extend your flexibility – but also stay yourself in whatever you do! 🙂


When you listen to this conversation, please think about who else might be happy to know what we are talking about and share with this person later on. I really care to be reaching the right people with my content, so thank you very much for this in advance.

I wish you fun and discovery!


Leave your comments below or on A Step Ahead LinkedIn profile. If you want to stay in touch, sign up for the newsletter and ✔follow A Step Ahead Podcast in your favourite streaming service 🧡.

If you need to educate leaders in how to create psychological safety in your remote teams, or if you would like to increase  inclusive leadership practices, or resilience of your employees – please contact us at ETTA

Additional materials:

  • Visit Denmark website
  • ASA 002: Ukrainians – how to find a great candidate and ensure good onboarding
  • ASA 003: Psychological Safety in a Virtual Team – 4 Steps to Mastery
  • ASA 004: What are Microaffirmations and why you want to have them in your team



Why Denmark?

I came to Denmark because of love. My husband is Danish. So if we were to label, I could call myself a love-pat. And it was about 14 years ago that I arrived in Denmark.

First I clashed a bit with Denmark and with the Danish culture. Partially probably because of my assumptions and expectations that I had in my head of how it would be to move to this country.


Moving to another country

The experience of each person will be very different. I think it requires a lot of good communication, awareness and understanding ourselves. This is a process. People may experience cultural adjustment phases in different ways. It also depends on our personality and the country that we’re in. I believe that sometimes it’s like a relationship. We click with certain countries, and there’s a chemistry. And it’s easier for us in some places than it may be in other places. It’s important to know that it’s not always an ideal match. 


What is Denmark like?

Trust and safety

There’s a lot of trust. People trust each other. Most of the time people say that they feel safe in Denmark. They also feel safe with their kids.

Outdoor activities

Being outside is very important to Danes. When you live in Denmark, you quickly learn, especially in spring and summer, that if there are sunny days, if there’s lovely weather, people just tend to gravitate and be outside and really soak up that good weather, the sunshine. Because in winter we really have a lot of darkness.

No small talks

There’s not as much engagement between people who don’t know each other. You wouldn’t really find yourself in a small talk situation on a train or at the supermarket with a stranger.


There’s much more distance and privacy, and it’s not because people are not friendly. It’s just a matter of respecting each other’s privacy. Especially if we don’t know each other.

Directness and flat hierarchy at work

People are usually surprised about the directness and the flat hierarchy at work.

Co-workers will openly disagree with each other. People will openly voice their opinions during meetings. And also challenge their bosses. That’s very welcome. Everyone is expected to participate in meetings, from top management to student assistance. Everyone has a voice. And it’s really, really seen as that you are taking initiative and you’re being active and interested in your work.


Hygge in practice

My personal opinion is that Hygge has become a huge product and is sold in many, many different versions. From socks, mugs, the way kitchens look to lighting.

Hygge is something very special. It is more about people than things.

It’s about spending quality time together in a circle of people that we trust, that we feel comfortable with. And it doesn’t really matter what we’re doing. It’s about the togetherness. That’s the essence of hygge for me and what I’ve observed with Danes.


How to make friends with Danes?

For many internationals it’s much easier to become friends with other internationals. It’s easier to meet each other, especially if you don’t know the language. So that is what very often happens.

But if you want to meet local people, you need to think about where to find them. Denmark is full of associations, clubs (sports clubs, clubs of any kind of hobby). You can join them, but they are in Danish. If you don’t know the language, you will have a difficult time. But it’s also changing.

So trying to learn the language is a one important step. And another one is really taking the initiative and looking for opportunities to meet locals.


Sense of humour

It is very direct and very sarcastic. Some people might say that it’s inappropriate. So it can be a little bit crude at times. There is also no filter between private and work.

There are also a lot of nuances when it comes to humor. It’s important to discuss it and talk about it, especially if we have people from different countries. Because translating jokes into another language, that’s where things can really go wrong.

Ofen people don’t know if someone is joking because Danes will joke and they will have a serious face.

It’s good to know an unwritten rule about joking. If a Dane is joking with you, that means they like you. That’s actually a sign of affection.


Danish corporate culture

The first important thing is honesty. We are expected to take initiative and be honest. Even if something goes wrong. We have to keep in mind that it is our job to first try. Don’t come to people asking for help if you haven’t tried first. If you’ve tried and it’s difficult or it’s not going the way you would want it to go, then go ask someone for help. They will help.

Second thing, always be upfront with your managers and team leaders. You need to be able to confront people if you feel uncomfortable with something. The trust is based on honesty.

The last thing is being aware that you won’t be micromanaged. You find your way of working and no one will be coming in to check up on you, how you’re doing with the deadline, what’s happening.

When you walk into your job, you’re given trust. You’re given this wonderful gift.

It’s really important to keep in mind that this is something that you are already handed and not to do anything that might damage it in any way.


Final advice

If you are moving abroad anywhere, but also to Denmark, you really have to be true to yourself.

You should be aware of who you are, not to lose yourself. Even if you want to do a deep dive into that new place, country, or culture. You need to be able to say: this is my boundary to be authentic. Not to get pushed into situations you don’t want or work in a way that’s not comfortable for you.

It’s about finding a balance.

You should be able to say: I can push myself a little bit here, but this is totally out of my comfort zone. I think it’s important to make sure that we are comfortable where we are, and it’s okay not to dive in full force from this giant cliff right away if we don’t want to.


Thank you!



Photo by Febiyan on Unsplash

Don't miss out on new content! Be Always A Step Ahead
Subscribe to my newsletter and receive notifications of new articles and podcasts. Don't forget to confirm your subscription by clicking on the email you will receive from me - only then will you really be among the recipients :-)

Comment on the podcast

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *