Workplace culture — At University of Copenhagen more than a third of all researchers and faculty members come from abroad. University Post spoke to a handful of them to find out what they see as their Danish co-workers’ defining features.
If you want to be a part of the social life at your place of work, you need to be aware of the fact that the lunch break is a huge social component in most Danes’ working life. They usually leave their desks at 12 sharp and head to the cafeteria or break room. As a foreigner, you may learn a lot about your Danish colleagues during the lunch break. All aspects of life are discussed in this forum – from family life, to football, to politics. It’s also a great opportunity to get acquainted with Danish cuisine.
At lot of people have the impression that Danes are very serious, moody people, but when you spend enough time with them, you learn that underneath the calm and reserved exterior most of them are party animals who love to dance the night away. Want to see this for yourself? Just sign up for the annual Christmas party.
This goes for the professional as well as the social context. And they expect you to be open, too. Be brief and straight to the point in your communication with your Danish co-workers.
Everyone feels equal, and all voices matter. Expect to be challenged. Even by students. And call your colleagues by their first names. Danish academics dislike formal address such as “mr.” or “mrs.” This goes for senior professors as well. It’s considered old fashioned.
Most of your colleagues are outdoorsy types. Whether it’s raining or snowing, most Danes ride their bikes to work. They love spending time and eating meals outside even when the temperature drops.
But they are very open and forthcoming when you get to know them. They care about others, and they are always ready to help.
But many of the older faculty members prefer Danish. Even though it’s easy to get around speaking English, we recommend that you take Danish classes if you really want to get to know your colleagues.
This means you will encounter awkward silences and long pauses in a conservation. Don’t freak out. This just means your co-worker is listening to what you are saying.