Podcast
Working with the Danish
Denmark
September 1, 2023
54 Min

Working with the Danish with Annette Dahl

"The KPIs as set by the Danish HQ were simply not ambitious enough seeing from a US point of view."
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Working with the Danish

In the realm of international work culture, the Danes have something quite extraordinary going on.

Think work-life balance that actually balances, a pragmatism that solves problems before they even arise, and an egalitarian ethos that runs deep.

Yes, every cross-cultural seminar you've been to probably touched on this. But what sets this one apart?

An exclusive sit-down with Annette Dahl, a Danish native and a leading voice in Cultural Intelligence and Diversity Training.

Our conversation goes beyond the surface, unearthing nuances and subtleties in Danish work culture that are often overlooked.

This isn't just another lecture; it's a comprehensive look into the hows and whys of working with people from Denmark.

Show Notes

In this episode, I am joined by Annette Dahl, a seasoned expert in intercultural training and global leadership. Annette is the CEO of C3 Consulting and has a unique focus on both Denmark and China, thanks to her MA in Chinese, culture, and communication. She's worked with big names like Danfoss and Siemens Gamesa, and she knows how to make Diversity & Inclusion initiatives actually work on a global scale.

Listen in as Annette delves into the intricacies of the Danish work culture. She'll share her insights on creating "psychological safety" in global teams, ensuring that voices from diverse backgrounds are heard and valued. Annette also brings her deep knowledge of brain-based leadership into the conversation, giving you actionable strategies to enhance your intercultural interactions.

Whether you're a chief executive or someone just looking to understand the Danish work environment better, this episode has something for you. Don't miss Annette's practical tips and infectious enthusiasm for global leadership and cross-cultural understanding.

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Key episode insights

Danish Work Culture and Soft KPIs

  • Danish companies often focus on 'soft' Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), contrasting with the often more ambitious KPIs seen in other countries like the United States.
  • The Danish approach to work tends to emphasise collective achievement over individual performance.

Work-Life Balance in Denmark

  • Danish culture highly values work-life balance, often encouraging people to take time to discover their interests and passions.
  • There's a societal understanding that taking a gap year or two is a good thing, allowing young people to figure out who they are and what they want to do.

The Concept of 'Hygge'

  • 'Hygge,' a uniquely Danish concept, is deeply embedded in the culture. It's more than just 'cozy'; it encapsulates a sense of well-being and comfort, often involving food and shared experiences.

Danish Flexibility and Job Market

  • The Danish job market is rather flexible, making it easier for people to switch careers or find new opportunities.
  • Long tenures at companies are becoming less common in Denmark, reflecting a shift in work culture and perhaps a greater search for work-life balance.

Danish Communication and Interactions

  • Danish people are known for their straightforward yet polite communication style, which can be a blend of directness and subtlety.
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Paul Arnesen
Paul Arnesen
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Full Transcript

- Paul Arnesen

Hi, Annette. So nice to have you here on the Working With US podcast. How's your day been so far?

- Annette Dahl

Yeah, very nice. The sun is shining outside and as you know, sun and nice weather here in Scandinavia is not that common.

- Paul Arnesen

So I'm enjoying yeah, like when the sun comes up, everybody's outside and taking care of every second. Right.

- Annette Dahl

We are sucking it in. Yes. We never know when it will disappear.

- Paul Arnesen

No, I know, but, you know, it's funny because obviously I'm Norwegian, so I spent a lot of my childhood in Denmark, actually, which is very common. We go there in the summer. A lot of Norwegians go there in the summer for the sun. And the opposite is true for the Danish. They go to Norway in the winter for the snow and also we go.

- Annette Dahl

For hiking during the summertime as well.

- Paul Arnesen

Yeah, because it's very flat in Denmark. Yeah. Okay. Well, today we're going to talk about the Danish in the workplace, basically, or the Danish culture. We're going to dive into a little bit of both here. So I just wanted to start off with something that for me is very interesting because I'm actually one quarter Danish myself. My grandmother was from Denmark, from a small village called Tiburon, which is like yeah, it's a really small fishing village. But she moved to Norway with my grandfather then, many, many years ago. And from what I remember growing up with a Danish grandmother is that she was very caring when I came home to her. Maybe is this a typical grandma? But in my head, I was always thinking that there was never anything that she did not have available for me, was like food or drinks and everything was there. But at the same time, she could be very direct and very strict. And for me, it dawned to me later when I started diving into sort of cross cultural communication and how people from different cultures behave. And this is a typical trait of the Danish people, am I right, thinking like that?

- Annette Dahl

Yeah. We are, generally speaking, very direct, even to the point where people from outside of Denmark see us as rude or disrespectful. And we actually don't have that idea ourselves. We rather just put things on the table and speak out freely as soon as we can. So we like to have that sort of a saving time approach. So we believe that if we speak out freely and put things on the table, then we save time and we rather just save time. We really love saving time. So that's definitely one of the thing. And then, as you said, foods on the table and drinks and stuff like that. So when we have people coming in or when we have any kind of social gathering, food is absolutely going to be very necessary. And then also a lot of the time, which is some of the things that we often discuss now alcohol is actually also very often not for you, of course, Paul, when you were a child, but when adults gather around, having alcohol nearby is also a part of the social gathering and atmosphere that we have. So food and something to drink.

- Paul Arnesen

Yeah, it's the schnapps, right?

- Annette Dahl

Also the schnauffs, yes. Very strong. I don't actually like it myself, but.

- Paul Arnesen

Yeah, no, I remember always at Christmas, we always had dinner with always some strong alcohol on the table. The Akawit or something gamaldansko, like something really strong. And of course, the Chile, you had.

- Annette Dahl

To have the snaps. It's a tradition when you go for what we call the Christmas lunch. So, yeah, that's a part of it.

- Paul Arnesen

Yes, definitely. Actually, it's interesting we can talk a little bit about that later. I have written down because I'm thinking more about how the culture has evolved now with the new generation coming up, because it's kind of interesting just for the people listening or watching this on YouTube. Do you mind trying to I don't know if you this is not one of the prepared questions for you. I'm sorry about that. But do you mind putting Denmark a little bit on the map for the listeners? Like, just geographically where it is and sort of how it looks? Because I think it's interesting to look at how the country sort of has evolved this culture based on it also, maybe historically, how it sort of is seen throughout the world.

- Annette Dahl

Yeah, so Denmark is part of Scandinavia, so we definitely sort of have a common Scandinavian culture with Norway and Sweden as well. It's right on top of Germany, so we have a direct border, you could say, to Germany, but it's one of the countries in the world with the longest coastal line because we have so many islands, so we have more than 7000 coastal line and there's never more than 52 sea from anywhere in Denmark. And this is actually one of the things that really sort of has formated or influenced sort of the mindset of Danish people, is that we go to the ocean, we go to the beaches, we look into the horizon, we have this huge sky on top of us. And one of the values of Denmark is freedom. And there's some people that are studying into Danish culture and stuff like that, and they see that there's simply a connection between this urge to go into nature, onto the beaches, having this world in front of us, which is connected to also our longing for freedom and this motivation that when we have freedom also at workspace and in education and in our surroundings, then we are motivated and happy.

- Annette Dahl

So that's definitely one of the things that I can tell about the Danish society and where it.

- Paul Arnesen

And do you think it has any because it's interesting when we talk about Scandinavia as one sort of very common society, in many ways, we all kingdoms do you think that as in any sense? Because we see the Royal family as sort of I don't know what to say to use it, but it's sort of because I had this conversation with someone, a Norwegian cross cultural expert and we sort of have this idea where the Royal family is an important figure in the life of the people there. How is the same in Denmark in that sense?

- Annette Dahl

Yeah, it's definitely a part of our culture. There's a large support to the monarchy as well. There's more than 70% of the Danish population that appreciates it and supports it. And we go completely absurd when the Queen has her birthday gather around her castle in Copenhagen and sing birthday song for her and cheer with flags and she goes out on the balcony in her morning gown and hair all over without makeup and stuff like that. And we really appreciate also which is also connected to one of the values in Denmark when we see the Crown Prince, Frele, and her wife Mary, biking in the streets of Copenhagen and taking their kids to a normal school and stuff, like know, being downgrading, you could say sort of we all know, and they know, of course, that they have privilege and stuff like that, but that they behave like the rest of us, which completely sort of embeds into another value of equality that we really sort of appreciate and we perceive people to be on the same side. You could say that we know that there's a difference between people, but we don't like that. People are sort of showing that there's a and the royal family in Denmark.

- Annette Dahl

Again, we know that there's a difference between them. But they really do a lot to sort of be, you could say, on the same side, even in an interview with Queen Margaret where she's helping to move a bench because it's a little bit better and people are, no, no, you shouldn't move it. And why shouldn't I move you know, it's sort of a familiar context with the royal family as well and definitely a big support to them.

- Paul Arnesen

Yeah. And I think that this is one of the reasons why the societies up there are very equal because everybody is like if that's the sort of the highest you can achieve and they are so down to earth, why wouldn't the rest of the society sort of follow that? We don't have the sort of the I'm saying us because I feel a little bit Danish, but I feel like it's sort of like the thing that is very common in Scandinavia and especially in Denmark as well, as you say now.

- Annette Dahl

And they are the only you could say family or institute where you actually have proper respectful names. You could say you don't call the Queen Margaret, you call know lots of different titles before Margaret, but anything other than that, you're on first name basis in Denmark. So even our prime Minister We talk, oh, Mede is on the TV again. And when we say Mede, we all know that we are referring to the Prime Minister. This informality is definitely a part of the country and society as well. And I think that we share that also with the other sort of Scandinavian countries as well, that we like that this very informal and you could say easy going or laid back atmosphere, not too serious. It's not that we are not ambitious, it's just that we're not supposed to show that we are too outspoken or too ambitious. So there's this equality. Again, I often call it actually a box of equality because there's sort of like a right way of behaving where if you're stepping outside of the box, there's definitely people can point of view because you're not fitting into this being on the same side or being on the same level, you could say.

- Annette Dahl

So it's a monoculture as well, meaning that, yes, we do of course have people from different parts of the world living in Denmark as well, but compared to many other societies and cultures, we don't have that many. And if we look back into our history, it's been a monoculture for a very long time and that's also influencing how we see people. It's like, you could say a tribe, a huge family, we can get together with another person and very often it doesn't take us long time to figure out that we have some kind of relatives or we know people that know each other or stuff like that. So that's also a part of the mindset. We don't have to spend that much time on building up trust because we are all the same. It's the perception anyway that we don't need to sort of figure out what kind of family background do you have and which religious background do you have and what kind of upbringing culture did you have. And all of these different a box of equality culture, you could say, with this monoculture. And you also know, Paul, the Law of Yende, which is also a Scandinavian phenomenon, definitely something which we share also that there's this social guideline in the society that don't think that you're special or don't think that you're any more than anyone else.

- Annette Dahl

So we know that a CEO or a manager or anything like that might have a higher salary or a bigger position or anything like that, but that person has to, again, also go on the same side as anybody else, so that this person fits into the box of equality. So there's really this sort of yes, you can step outside if you want to and there's definitely people that does this as well, but we really appreciate that people sort of stay in the safe zone.

- Paul Arnesen

You could yeah, yeah. And the Law Jante, is also something that if you're listening, you go to my YouTube channel. There's a video there, karen ellis from Norway. She explains it really well because it's the same in Norway as well. And it's definitely a very interesting phenomena that we have up there. For someone coming into the Danish culture, I think it's really important to understand what that means, especially if you're from a very high achieving culture.

- Annette Dahl

Exactly. I was once working with a manager from Brazil and he was relocated here to Denmark with his children. And he found it really difficult from Brazil, he was sort of raising his children to be first in class and to really have that competitive, ambitious approach. And it was like such a struggle for him when he went to parent teacher meetings in school, where it's about being happy and having a nice life and playing and figuring out where you belong in sort of the collectiveness in school. And it was like, oh my God, where are the grades? Where are the academic approach? And they don't have any attest or they don't have any exams? We do have a little, but nothing compared to many other cultures. And he thought, oh my God, are they actually learning something? Because he could not see any, you could say, results on papers. And this is also a part of the Danish or Scandinavian society that we might not necessarily focus on these metrics grades. And that KPIs and hardcore elements that you would do in so many other countries, the achieving countries, as you say, or cultures.

- Paul Arnesen

Yeah, no, it's super interesting. Okay, so let's move over to trying to explain. You already mentioned a lot, obviously, but let's make a case out of it. Say you're working with a company and they are going to be call it receiving a Danish person to come to work on the team. What can that company just say? Any culture. It doesn't have to be let's say it's a little bit something that's a little bit different. What should the expectations be of that Danish person? How are they like, typically a Danish.

- Annette Dahl

Person, a typical Danish person? Yeah. So there's definitely if we're saying that I'm looking at it from a leadership point of view. So if I'm a Danish manager, I'm receiving a colleague from a new culture, or if I'm a colleague coming into a team and I've got a Danish manager. So what you can, generally speaking, expect from this Danish manager is that we've got a very soft leadership style. This is actually not only connected to work, it's really embedded in the Danish society. It's simply a matter of how we sort of see authority figures. You need to sort of visually see that the authority figure in Denmark stands behind the people that we have authority of. So a know would ask the children to go out and play, know, fall and stumble and get up again, and we would be here, know, support and guide and stuff like that. And in school, it's a huge part of the education system that the teacher is a guiding figure as well. Of course the teacher will have knowledge and insight and will tell that. But there's a big sort of belief and expectation that the students will have a lot of freedom to take own decisions and to work on own projects and to move in again.

- Annette Dahl

Another value is freedom responsibility. And that is really something you can expect when you come to Denmark that you need to figure out how to navigate in this freedom responsibility because it's not that easy to explain, actually. And so when you enter into the workspace in Denmark, you have had a long life of, you could say, unconscious learning about how to navigate with an authority figure. So you expect that your manager at work again will be a supporting manager, will be a coaching manager, will be a democratic manager also. So that you need to be self driven and proactive and reach out to this manager because he or she will be standing behind you, you could say. Whereas in many other countries, which are, as you say, different from Denmark, you will have an authority figure or a manager who will be I was working with a Chinese person at one time. He says we Chinese people, we need to be strong enough to make the decisions. And it's not that the Danish manager is not strong enough to make a decision, but if that manager made a decision without including the team, he would be in big problems because he would have like a demoted baited team.

- Annette Dahl

Generally speaking. You would see a rather soft leadership style or actually a soft sort of use of power, generally speaking, in the Danish society. This would also be something you would see if you have smaller children going to kindergartens or even simply when you're navigating the Danish society. The authority figure. We all know who has a higher authority than others. But because of the box of equality and the law of Yander and a number of other the collectiveness and stuff like that, we know where are the positions, but we really make it sort of a virtue to sort of not you could sort of speak up or speak down to the people that we are working with.

- Paul Arnesen

No, it's super interesting and I think it is a big challenge for some people from a specific culture because especially that with freedom comes responsibility, which is so, I guess, ingrained from childhood, right, that you were given a task and you are responsible for making sure that you do that yourself without the help of your parents or your teacher. And that's sort of the expectation in society.

- Annette Dahl

Yes, I was working with a German family and they had a child, he was ten years old and went to school and he had some kind of issue or quarrel in the class. And the German parents, we were having a training on Danish culture and they asked me, we don't understand why the teacher doesn't set the directions and scolds the one who has did something and supports the other one. And what they were told by the teacher who was responsible for this class was we'd rather leave the children to see if they can sort it out on their own because they need to have that individual maturity or to grow. So it will help them learn a lot when they have that. We let them figure it out on their own in the beginning. If they can't, of course, we will go in and support them later on. And they found that really strange because it was like, where is the teacher authority here? Shouldn't that teacher go in, break them out, solve the problem and move on? But it really shows that a part of sort of the society in general that we have a huge focus on this, you could say maturing your individual self and becoming self driven and proactive and learning unconsciously or indirectly how to navigate within this freedom that we have a lot of.

- Paul Arnesen

Yeah, you are obviously allergic to micromanagement, so micromanagement never works anywhere, in my opinion. But just if you try to do that with someone from Denmark, it might backfire.

- Annette Dahl

Yes, there's definitely an allergy towards.

- Paul Arnesen

Are there any you've been working with a lot of companies and cultures, obviously. Are there any common misconceptions that you hear about the people from Denmark that is sort of not true at all? Or it could be also not work related. It could be also just like about a Danish person in general. Like they eat a lot of red sausages. That's what the Norwegian would say, right? I don't know if there are any misconceptions you can think about that you hear a lot.

- Annette Dahl

Well, there's one thing that I hear a lot which is both connected to work but also connected into simply just being a part of the society here is that I hear that, oh, my Danish manager, he's so ignorant towards what I do and I never see him. I don't get any feedback and they don't really want to get to know me and stuff like that. And that's really a misconception. It's not the intention of the Danish manager or even colleague to be ignorant or not wanting to get to know this colleague that has moved to Denmark. But the way that we are polite to people is by giving people space. And as I said, I'm probably repeating myself here, but it's really an important part of navigating and relocating and being a part here is that this new colleague, international colleague that has arrived to Denmark has to have or has the responsibility to speaking out. So if you think that your manager at work is not giving you enough direction or feedback I was working with an Indian person a couple of weeks ago and he said, I don't know if I did a good job.

- Annette Dahl

My manager, he doesn't go back to me. And it makes me a little bit concerned about what should I do here? And so the general rule is that no news is good news. So if you don't hear anything from your manager or your colleague or anything like that, it's because you're doing a good job. And he was like, okay, that's really interesting. I've never had any relationship like that in a workspace. So if you hear nothing most of the times, of course we are generalizing here.

- Paul Arnesen

Yeah, we are generalizing. And that's an important caveat to bring along for this conversation. We are generalizing. Not everybody's the same. Okay.

- Annette Dahl

I was just thinking we can turn it around and just have an input on, you could say, a misconception seen from a Danes person about who Danes are when they are meeting people. And normally Danes believe that we are very open minded, extremely friended, very welcoming to international colleagues, and we are definitely helpful if you ask for help. But there's so many international people when the workday is done, it's like they are completely left on their own. And it's very difficult for internationals to gain Danish friends. And a lot of them, they feel pretty isolated or even actually quite lonely if they don't bring a family. So they have their own sort of a so they have international friends. Yes, but when I ask in an international group that I'm working, oh, how many of you have friends here in Denmark? Okay. They raise their hands. So how many of you have Danish friends here in Denmark? They take their hand down again because it's just so difficult. So there's definitely some kind of gap here. Danish people think, oh, my God, we are so friendly. But when it's 04:00, we close down our working circle and then we go to the next circle and colleagues from work don't belong to the next circle.

- Annette Dahl

So as Danes here, we definitely need to understand that our self perception of ourself is not what international people in reality see.

- Paul Arnesen

No, I completely see that from my culture as well. So that's something, again, I can think of as a Scandinavian phenomena in many ways, which is interesting. Okay, let's look a little bit more over to work, life and career. What's sort of the ambition of someone in Denmark when they enter the workforce and where do they see their sort of career going? And I'm thinking more of just to combine it with just to take another example of in Japan, for example, where they have lifetime employment, which is very prevalent. Right. Or in the US. Where you have very high competition. So working late is sort of seen as a positive. How is in Denmark, what is sort of the typical career projection and progression? And how do Danish people spend their sort of life in working?

- Annette Dahl

Yeah, very interesting question. Definitely. There's no doubt that we think and talk a lot about work life balance and we believe that it's extremely important. People coming to Denmark from outside, they soon realize or if they've been working with Danish people from outside as well, they realize we have a lot of holiday and we really appreciate the so in terms of our career and stuff like that. Of course it's different from people to people, person to person. But generally speaking, we are grown up to focus on doing what we like to do, what we are interested in, what makes us happy when we are fulfilled. We have also a historical tradition that's about 200 years old that we appreciate lifelong learning that there's only a bit more than 5 million people in Denmark, five and a half million people. And that has sort of always been our resources. We don't have natural resources or anything like that. We have brains and we don't have that many of these brains. So we have to sort of make the most out of so a very big part of just as an example, my husband, he was just to the annual one to one meeting with his manager and he's not asking for more pay, but he's asking for a coaching education.

- Annette Dahl

So that's very often something we would like to develop ourselves. We would like to get inspired and do something which we are curious about. So work definitely means a lot. And there's also in many companies, especially after the COVID period here, quite a lot of pressure on people in the company. But compared to many other cultures, you could say again, very sort of a soft working culture that we have. All companies do have KPIs, or not all, but a lot of companies have KPIs, but a lot of them, they are soft KPIs and a lot of them are collected KPIs. And I'm just working with a US manager and the KPIs are set by the Danish headquarter and he's really struggling with these KPIs in the US side because they're simply not ambitious enough seeing from a US point of view and he's struggling with retaining talents and really skilled and smart people. So they go into the company but they don't want to stay there because we don't have an individual focus on you can score this and this and this. A lot of our KPI in the company is focused on how does the organization as a total go and what's the team process and stuff like that.

- Annette Dahl

And we do have some individual KPIs, but compared to many other cultures, they're very soft. So yeah, so we, we of course not everyone does what they really, you know, I'm highly motivated to do. But as a as a general rule, we have a lot of students coming out at the moment from high school and stuff like that. And everybody is sort of saying, yeah, take a gap year, or take two gap years, figure out who you are and get to know yourself and stuff like that. And then you probably eventually figure out what you want to do on a later time and we can also have a job and then figure out it's not what we wanted to do. I'm not fulfilled or I'm not motivated, and then stopped and then going another direction. So in that sense we are privileged. You could say we also have a rather sort of flexible job market. We can find a job pretty quickly. Very often it's more and more common to not sort of a job swapping but definitely find a new job within a few years. So that we do see though that people working companies for 25 and 30 and 40 years and stuff like that.

- Annette Dahl

But it's not that common anymore.

- Paul Arnesen

No, I think that's a trend everywhere. In that sense. People two, three years in a job is almost too long. We want to explore more, especially the younger generation. They want to travel the world and have new opportunities. Yeah, definitely a change that's coming. So what would you say to say a business owner is listening to this and they want to explore working in Denmark or even hiring some people from Denmark just based on what they can find available? What would you advise them in terms of keeping someone from Denmark engaged, happy and motivated at the workplace?

- Annette Dahl

Well, since we were children we were a part of a sort of a decision making process. So if you want to make us happy, you need to make sure that we have a lot of freedom to do our task, that we are included in the decision making process. So along with the other Scandinavian societies so I'm sure that you can recognize this Paul, that if we're not involved in the decision, it's really demotivating for Danes. So you want to give them a lot of freedom, you want to give them a lot of trust. That means that you simply trust that they are able to do their task. And again, that you have this sort of a guiding, supporting approach. Your door is open so that you can always go back and talk and spare with this person. Another thing is that we have also been educated to be rather sort of to have a critical voice, you could say we call it constructive critical input. That you use your skills and your abilities and your specialist knowledge to say that decision that you have made. Now are you sure? Can we tweak it? Have you thought about this one here?

- Annette Dahl

That we have this sort of not devil's advocate but we are raised to sort of an educated also to see another perspective or to challenge each other in the way that we make decisions. So if you appreciate this then it will also be really good to hire a.

- Paul Arnesen

You. Have you experienced any conflicts because of this? You mentioned the thing I'm not sure that became. A conflict. But it was interesting when you mentioned that KPIs that was given from Denmark for an American manager that could in essence become not the conflict is maybe the wrong word but it could be like a thing that it doesn't work out that well. Do you have any experiences or examples of where this sort of clashes?

- Annette Dahl

Yeah, I've got tons. And this is one thing you could say for this specific American manager he was thinking more of the organization as a whole that it was really difficult for the different managers to have stable teams because the people that came into the company they look at the KPI schedule and said oh my God, no, never. So they worked for a little bit and then they found a new job. So from an organizational point of view it was really difficult. But we were talking about earlier on this allergy towards micromanagement and this is really important. You have to have that sort of a knowledge about yourself. So I was working with a Spanish manager and he has been an expat for many many years working in so many different cultures. So he was really skilled at going in and out of cultures but all of the cultures that he had worked with was what we call high rank or cultures where there's a high power distance. And now he came to Denmark and he suddenly realized that his management skills or leadership skills they were not sufficient. He he simply pushed away his team and he was so frustrated and the team was so frustrated and he realized that he was not able to use these sort of excellent skills that he had with his Danish team.

- Annette Dahl

So they were very much struggling and he said to me oh my God, this Danish team, they trust each other too much. He said there's no transparency, nobody knows who does what and they definitely don't know or don't want me to know. So he says it's like working with a black box. My team is in the black box and they reject to open the door for me what he says that they don't want me to check up but then I don't know what they do. So he was like how can I lead them? So it took really some time for this new team to settle in and to appreciate each other's preferences and ways of doing things. And this is very common and you could say it's also a common conflict the other way around where a Danish manager brings his soft guiding democratic including approach when this he or she is moving outside of Denmark, we've got a rather distinct, you could say either Danish or Scandinavian leadership style. And there's actually not that many other places around the world where this works really well. So both ways you really need to have strong cultural intelligence skills in figuring out what is going on here.

- Paul Arnesen

Yeah, no cultural intelligence and cultural awareness. Maybe that was the thing with the Spanish manager. I assume he wasn't really aware of this from the beginning or maybe not even aware of his own style of managing. Right.

- Annette Dahl

I think here a challenge was that he and his colleagues, on a leadership level as well, saw him as the very experienced international manager who, yes, he was originally from Spain, but he had not lived in Spain for 20 years. But there was definitely sort of a gap between having managed teams in high power distance cultures, high ranked cultures, and then coming to Denmark and figuring out how to do things. He found it very disturbing that he had to sort of bounce ideas and decisions off his team all the time. One of the things that he also said was that which I hear very often is, oh, my God, it's so slow. It takes forever to make people do things because they always have to get asked. They always say, Why do we have to do this? So that's this sort of a critical approach. But we believe that it creates a better decision when we have had that sort of a critical approach sort of in the process. But it's extremely disturbing for internationals coming.

- Paul Arnesen

And I just have a personal anecdote on that asking Why? Because I live in Italy and I'm with an Italian and I ask a lot of why when I get asked question. And it doesn't really come across all the time as being what I should have done. I should have just probably known what to do. But that's where I'm raised because I want to be sure. And I think it's the same in your culture. Like, you want to just make sure that no mistakes are being done. So let's get all the facts on the table, the details, and then we can start working.

- Annette Dahl

Yeah. So it's sort of a way of and that's definitely difficult to see what's the intention behind that sort of why you could say because it's not that we I can actually agree with you, Paul, on the decision that you have made, but I'm asking so why is it that you're doing this? Have you thought about this? Is to sort know, push you a little bit and to see are you standing firm? Is it a really good decision? How well have you thought about this? And because we have that very high trust, then it makes us more clear about okay, it's not a decision made on a wimp or something like that. It really is sort of like a sound decision because I've pushed you a little bit and you answer and you're still standing strong on the decision. So, okay, now we trust, we can go.

- Paul Arnesen

Yeah, there's a purpose behind. So that's true. Okay, let's move over to the superpowers. So we're going to put together a team of international people and on the team is going to be someone from Denmark. So what are their superpowers in the workplace?

- Annette Dahl

That's a very good question. Well, they are very self driven and proactive so that's definitely some superpowers that they have. They're often very good at not having that many details like figuring out where do we go here and what's here and as the Spanish manager said, there's no transparency. It's okay for us because very often in our groups culture or preferences that we have this sort of a collective approach. So we are used to not having a clear sort of transparency. We all know that it works well if we do. But it's okay that we don't definitely sort of self driven proactive that we can have that sort of critical approach that we speak out. And of course, this is for me, superpowers. But if we are put together in a group of people that doesn't have the same preferences, that don't appreciate our approach, it can become an allergy. So I sometimes tell Danish people that a superpower taking too far becomes an allergy to another person. So we definitely also need to know how to sort of balance out the superpowers that we have. It can be a superpower also but we are rather task oriented and we can sort of push through and going to the task as well.

- Paul Arnesen

Yeah, no I think today we are so interconnected globally that you have teams of set up of very different nationalities. It's more common also with remote work. So I think it's always good for someone to know how they can utilize that human capital that asset to the best of their abilities and that's why you can put together a really good team. Say that if you want to hire from different nationalities because all different cultures or backgrounds interesting.

- Annette Dahl

So when you want to do brainstorm sessions and create new ideas or do troubleshooting everything where we can be standing around a flip chart or we have an online whiteboard and reflection and discuss and what about this and all of this? I'm just thinking out loud or can we throw up some balls so that we can figure out where to go? That's not for all of course but generally speaking that's very motivating for us and you will really see the best for a lot of people if they enter into that kind of work atmosphere. If we are presented with one page and do this and do this by this time and with this method and stuff like that you will really put a strain around Danish people. So give us some freedom and we will be motivated.

- Paul Arnesen

No, well, it's really true and thank you for that. I think it's going to be very helpful for someone considering having someone from Denmark on the team or even have it already and maybe don't really know how to use them to the best of their abilities. So we're getting close to the end here. I wanted to ask you if you have any advice for people considering either moving to Denmark for work or are already there, or maybe are looking to hire people where to go, are there any resources, anything that you can recommend them to have a look at?

- Annette Dahl

Yeah, so if you're moving here and you're settling in and you say, okay, I'm going to have Denmark as my second home for at least a few years here, definitely one advice is to find a hobby or sport that you can do after working hours because this is where you will meet Danes. So figure out what kind of playground are they using after work and invite yourself to this. You have to go out and sort of step into the Danes because very few Danes will actually go to you and say, hi, it's nice to see that you are here. And we do very much have Hobies or sport activities or things that we do outside of work, which many times anyway, becomes a part of our sort of adult network and friends as well. So if you want to get settled in and you want to have Danish friends, find a hobby or a sport that Danes do and go out and meet them there. And I'm not sure actually if I can have this, but I will do it anyway. But on our web page we have actually gathered several resources telling about the Danish culture, both from a work perspective and also from, you could say more personal or private perspective.

- Annette Dahl

We have a blog post saying 25 helpful links to experts moving to Denmark. We also have an ultimate list of books and movies and series about Denmark that can make you more knowledgeable and we have then sort of like more business relevant blog posts and feedback culture, how to build trust, what's the leadership style, what's the communication style as well. So there's definitely tons of resources there that will give you a nice start to figure out what is going on.

- Paul Arnesen

Yeah, and obviously you're completely allowed to mention your website. I also mentioned it in the introduction and there will also be links to everything in the show notes of this episode. So that's perfectly fine just because you mentioned TV series or like movies. If you could recommend something for someone foreigners to watch, that really is like a reflection of Danish society. Is there anything that you can think about that they should see or have a look at?

- Annette Dahl

An extremely important series that most Danish people have seen at least once is we call it Matador, and it's a series that tells about a small Danish fiction town, you could say, and the whole sort of life there, building business there. And it begins from before the Second World War, and then it is during the war and then after the war. And it tells about specifically two different families, one coming from a privileged side of the society and one having to work up. So it tells a lot about the Danish Society at that time and how it has developed and it's really appreciated and it gives, from a historical point of view, a nice introduction to the Danish society.

- Paul Arnesen

Yeah. And I don't know if you have seen this one, but it's actually my girlfriend who started watching on Netflix, Rita, which is also and I was watching it as well, which is more contemporary, I guess, with typical absolutely.

- Annette Dahl

That will definitely tell you something about the school system. You could say the youth culture. And also this you could say, to some extent, lack of respect to authority figures or how it is actually when you are an authority figure and working together with children as well. This informality that we have in the society is very much shown in this series. So Methadora and Rita, that's actually two fantastic series that you can watch.

- Paul Arnesen

Yeah, because if you look at the Danish TV series, there's a lot of crime and drama and obviously they are good series, but maybe not like societal what you can expect in Denmark. It's not that. So okay, I don't really have any other questions now. Anything that you want to talk about that you haven't had that you prepared or anything you want to say, just to end it?

- Annette Dahl

I just had one thing, which is that it's important for people coming to Denmark to realize that it's really not a spontaneous culture. We love planning. We love long term planning as well. We love our Outlook calendar or we have a family calendar. It's very dear to us. So we schedule all kinds of activities. Also coffee dates with family and friends. So a general rule of thumb is that you do not come unannounced to visit some colleagues or friends or anything like that. In the Danish society, we are not up for a spontaneous beer or something like that. We can. But it can be very troubling if you are just suddenly asking your colleagues out, shouldn't we go out for a beer in the afternoon? And they will be panic in the eyes, like, oh my God, have you put it in the calendar? Have you already arranged this? No, it's just spontaneous. Okay. I've got an Argentinian manager and he puts a spontaneous beer event in the calendar three weeks in advance. So he calls it let's have a spontaneous beer, but I'll put it in the calendar. So the Danes, they will actually go, we are planning oriented culture.

- Paul Arnesen

Absolutely.

- Annette Dahl

Yes.

- Paul Arnesen

So I was actually thinking when you talked about this socializing, maybe you could be the one now who explains in your words what is higge.

- Annette Dahl

Oh my God. Yeah. There's been so many books and stuff like that. So hyuge is this cuddling up, sharing food, sharing drinks again. In the summertime it's outside, it's barbecuing, it's getting together with each other. And in the wintertime it's inside. We have lit candles. And if we have a fireplace, we have that going on. We have blankets. If it's huckley, then it's just such extraordinary cozy atmosphere. So a lot of people says, yeah, but the word cozy covers it, but it doesn't really cover that sort of that deep atmosphere being cozy. But all kinds of Hughley activity has something to do with food and drinks.

- Paul Arnesen

No, it sums it up for me. Obviously, I know quite a lot about it, but I think it has been the trendy word for a few years now, so it's everywhere. There's even a coffee shop close to me here, which is called Higgue in Italy. So, yeah, it's become a phenomena.

- Annette Dahl

Really? Yes, it has.

- Paul Arnesen

Okay. To end it, where can people listening watching this find you online? How do you prefer them to reach out to you if they want to talk to you and get to know your services?

- Annette Dahl

I'm all on LinkedIn. I do weekly cultural tips. I'm very, very active on LinkedIn, so you can definitely find me there. There's lots of information, our webpage as well, where you can directly reach out to me on an email as well. I'm also on WhatsApp? So there's different ways of connecting.

- Paul Arnesen

Absolutely perfect. And I will link to all that information in the show notes of this episode so you can check it out for yourself. Okay, what's the plan for the rest of the day?

- Annette Dahl

I've got another couple of hours of work and then I am hoping to go outside for a long walk with my dog in the sun. So have a pretty early day today, I hope.

- Paul Arnesen

That's really nice. Okay. Well, thank you, Annette. Thank you very much for this insightful conversation about Denmark and the Danish people. I wish you all the best and have a good day.

- Annette Dahl

Yeah, all right, thank you. Bye.