Business Etiquette

Denmark flagAttitudes and values form the basis of any particular culture reflecting the way people think and behave. Knowledge of these aspects can therefore be of significant importance if you wish to communicate effectively with your counterparts. Ignorance of these issues can result in a cultural barrier that may inhibit the communication process and have a detrimental effect on the success of your activities in a given country.

Corporate social responsibility

Denmark is no newcomer to issues like human rights. The country has a strong tradition of addressing issues such as freedom of speech and religion, children’s rights, the fight against racism and discrimination of minorities. Now Denmark has also started to pay increasing attention to corporate social responsibility (CSR) and in doing so is following the example set by other European countries. All the largest stated-owned and private companies and institutional investors have to account for their social responsibility and must include information on CSR in their annual reports.

An action plan concerning CSR has been launched by the government of Denmark and comprises four areas, three of which are directly related to CSR issues. These four areas include 30 initiatives in total. The three areas directly related to CSR are:

  • promoting business-driven CSR
  • promoting CSR through state activities
  • encouraging businesses in taking environmental responsibility

The goal for this action plan is not only to further social responsibility but also to create new business opportunities through the increased competiveness that comes from gaining a solid reputation in CSR issues.

For more information on CSR issues:


Danes take punctuality for business meetings very seriously and expect that you will do likewise. These are hardworking people who desire that each minute spent on the job is productive and used effectively. It is therefore important to arrive on time for both work and meetings. You should make a call with an explanation if you are delayed since meetings will begin and end punctually. This is also the case when attending social meetings.

Gift giving

It is rare to bring gifts to business meetings, but when you are invited to someone’s private home, you should bring flowers or a couple of bottles of red wine. Unlike in many other countries, here roses are acceptable gifts for your host or hostess. Nevertheless, be sure you don’t give white roses, because this color is associated with mourning. If you do give flowers, be sure they are presented wrapped. Other suitable gifts include a box of fine chocolates or desk items bearing your company’s logo.

There is strict legislation regarding business gifts in Denmark. While it is not common practice to give gifts at business meetings, it is not completely forbidden either. If it looks as though business is going well, then a very small gift may be given to your contact after agreements have been signed. If you happen to receive a gift in return, you should  open it in front of the person rather than waiting.

Business dress code

The informal attitude of the Danes is expressed in a generally relaxed but still conservative dress code. While many men prefer a suit and tie, it is not uncommon to see businessmen in more casual clothing, especially when meeting contacts they already know. Women also dress relatively casually, however, it is always advisable to pay some attention to your choice of clothes and err on the conservative side.

When you are in Denmark, the easiest and safest way to dress is in a polished yet understated way. You are expected to appear professional and well dressed, and you should keep everything low-key. Neatness and cleanliness are essential. Suits are not as common as they are for example in the US, but in doing business with high-ranking executives they are expected. Women often wear pant suits to work. If invited to a Danish home for an informal get together, clean jeans and an open-neck or sports shirt are acceptable.

Be sure to pack clothes for the cool, rainy weather, which you are likely to encounter.

High-ranking Danish executives often host black-tie dinners. Male executives should seriously consider bringing a tuxedo along, while women will need an evening gown if you anticipate such an invitation.

Bribery and corruption

According to the annual survey by the Berlin-based organization Transparency International, in the year 2005, Denmark was perceived as being the world’s fourth least corrupt country (after Iceland, Finland and New Zealand). Denmark also has one of the lowest crime rates in the world and this makes the country attractive as a business environment for foreign investment.

Do you want to learn more about Danish business culture?