Working in Denmark – Infos and Tips

It is hardly surprising that many expatriates are keen to start life in Denmark. The country ranks number one out of 36 compared OECD countries in regard to work-life balance and is famed for its fair and equal social security and education systems. What is more, work in Denmark means work in the midst of a very open-minded and cooperation-oriented society and an extremely flexible, yet secure labor market. In the following, we have collected various nuggets of information and tips for expats or expats-to-be in Denmark.


Working Conditions, Social Security and the Labor Market

As previously mentioned, Denmark can boast a superb work and life balance. With a typical working week of 37 hours over five days a week, Danes can, according to OECD’s Better Life Index, devote an average of nearly 70% of their day on leisure and personal care. In addition to that, flexible working hours are extremely common in the country, which makes life easier for many. This is also particularly true for those with both, a job and children, as can for example be seen by the high rate of working women in Denmark who are between the age of 15 and 64. 70% of females in Denmark hold paid jobs, a number that is significantly higher than the OECD average of 60%.

A flexible approach in general is typical for working life in Denmark. The so called Danish Flexicurity model combines flexibility in hiring and firing rules with a well-established welfare state that offers a high level of protection and security. This makes for a very mobile and flexible working force, the members of which need not fear negative consequences, for example in regard to their pensions, when changing jobs.

Keep in mind, however, that while you as an expat working in Denmark are normally automatically paying into and covered by the local social security system, this does not include unemployment insurance! So make sure to inform yourself early on about your options of joining a voluntary unemployment insurance fund in Denmark. And also check to what extend any contributions you’ve have made to such an insurance in your home country may entitle you to benefits in Denmark, should you unexpectedly lose your job.

While there is no legally set minimum wage, salaries and employment terms in Denmark are meanwhile discussed and decided on by employer associations (or single employers) and trade unions in so called collective agreements. The terms of such agreements do not just apply to the around 75% of Danish employees who are members of unions, however. In fact, they apply to all, including foreign employees working in the field and for the employer covered by an agreement. This does not mean, however, that an expat in Denmark should not or cannot join a trade union if they want to.


Working Culture and Business Etiquette in Denmark

Despite the often flexible working hours, or maybe exactly because of them, Danish employees are generally regarded as very dedicated and hard working. Typically flat company hierarchies and a certain level of directness allow for open discussion in the office, regardless of one’s position. This direct and often frank way of the Danish may take some getting used, depending on what country and culture you are originally hailing from. Don’t be offended at the occasionally brisk comment, but rather take it for the honest and direct contribution that it is meant to be.

Teamwork is, after all, a highly regarded soft skill in Denmark, even if the Danish themselves are often viewed as a somewhat reserved people and – while generally friendly – slow to really warm up to new contacts. So be patient, sincere and pro-active (if not overly extrovert) in making the first step in getting to know your colleagues on a more personal level. The common practice of addressing somebody on a first-name basis, even at work, can also help you with this. However, take note that mixing private social circles and work life may not be as common in Denmark as in your home country. So also try and look for new social contacts in other places than your office, e.g. through sport clubs, expat groups, language lessons and so on.

Written by Franziska Mutsch