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Cultural differences in EU projects– Part II: Denmark

April 10, 2013

When more Danish people participate in a meeting, it is not clear who is the boss, who is the subordinate. They are and seem equal, which does not mean that the subordinate will make decisions of course, but it might be hard to find out who you should address when asking for a decision. You should note that Denmark is the oldest kingdom in the world. Danes love their country and are proud of it.

Their thinking is pragmatic and independent. Independency is not necessarily a positive thing in an EU project, so stay attentive. You have to ensure teamwork and that everyone will follow the common path, the contract.
In Scandinavia they are the happiest nation. Dance, good food and good jokes are well appreciated. They are the Italians in Scandinavia. I can definitely confirm that after dining with several Danish participants and project partners, they are a great company.
They are resourceful, inventive (just consider design). They like to plan things, taking an initiative. When you need an idea, you can ask for their help. They might not come up with the perfect solution, but generating a discussion by them can achieve the result you need.
Once you are part of the society, they are friendly, informal. In an EU project meeting formality will be kept. Some research concluded that their distant behaviour is because of their lack of confidence. It is a small country with great history, but that greatness is in the long past.
They are a modest nation, but do not be mislead by it. They tend to be resistant, they do not accept to be pushed, reminded. If you do so, they can become extremely stubborn.
As Jante-Law says: Don’t think you are somebody, translating it to: Who do you think you are? Or: Don’t think you are better than us! Note that when you have Danish and French partner as well in the project.
Danish are polite and honest. When negotiating, they are not bargaining, so do not ask for more when they offer something. Be aware of the links between Norwegians, Danish and Swedish cultures. How many jokes have you heard about it?
Well, when having representatives in the project from more Scandinavian nations, you might consider these. e.g. Swedish and Norwegians tend to say that Danish are not upright, trustworthy. Norwegians are very ‘sober’, do not always accept the less serious nature in Danish people. They have a strong entrepreneurial mindset, so if you need to develop the business perspective in a project, you might think of the Danish partner.
I do not remember seeing a Danish partner having conflict with another European partner. What about you?
In summary:

  • Find out in advance who is the person with decision-making rights.
  • Discuss their tasks with them, do not give instructions. They are your partner and they take seriously the equality between the coordinator and the partner who are both beneficiaries.
  • Do not push your Danish partners when you need extra work. Ask their opinion on the issue. Accept what they offer to do.
  • If you need activity, initiatives, you can ask the Danish partner.
  • Business plans might be well written by the Danish partners.
  • When it comes to social events, they will be open to participate and will enjoy it.
  • Be polite with them all the time.

Source: Richard Hill, We Europeans (1997)
Do you have any experience? What do you think about cultural differences in EU projects?

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