Danish Society and Etiquette 101

Danish Society & Culture

When visiting a Scandinavian country the most important preparation one can do is to read about the culture.  Becoming familiar with the country's etiquette and learning the dos and don'ts before arriving will take you a long way.

As an American visiting a Scandinavian country I noticed a few small differences that have a huge impact on how one is viewed.

Similar to Sweden, Denmark is an egalitarian society.  Who believes all people are equal, and deserves equal rights.  In conversation you will notice many Danes are modest about their accomplishments.

On average, Danes are more concerned about the group than their own individual needs.

Women in Danish Society

Danish women expect to be treated with respect in the office.  Women are highly respected in business and generally receive equal pay.  Contrary to the idea of a shortage in women leaders at businesses, Denmark is proud of their history with women's access to senior positions.  It is easier for working mothers to arrange flexible hours so that they can maintain both a career and a family.

Behaving in Public

Meeting Etiquette

Greetings should begin with a firm handshake, direct eye contact, and a smile.  Shaking hands indivdually is the appropriate way to say hello and good-bye in any setting.  Like many cultures, it is always proper to begin by greeting the women in the room.

Dining Etiquette

The traditional table manners are somewhat different from Americans.  The expectation is to hold the fork in the left hand and the knife in the right while eating.  Both hands should be visible the entire time you are eating with wrists resting on the edge of the table.

If not all, many Swedish etiquette practices hold true in Denmark as well.  For example, when toasting,  one should raise their glass about eye level and make eye contact with the people seated closest to them.  And watch out if you are the man seated to the left of the hostess!  Generally you are expected to offer a toast of thanks during the dessert course.

Lastly, don't forget:

  • Try everything.
  • Finish everything on your plate.
  • When finished, place the knife and fork across the plate with the tines facing up and the handles turned to the right.

Eating like an American in Sweden…such a disgrace!

Business Etiquette

Vacation is a must for Danes, if you try scheduling a meeting from mid June through mid August don't be surprised if you are the only person who shows

After getting lost in Sweden and arriving at a meeting 10 minutes late, I have to say I learned this next one the hard way.  You should arrive at meetings on time and telephone immediately if you will be more than 5 minutes late.

Shake hands with everyone upon arriving and leaving. Handshakes should be very firm and rather short. Maintain eye contact while being introduced and always shake hands with women first.