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How to do Business in Denmark

Denmark is located in northern Europe. The country consists of the Jutland peninsula (north of Germany), and more than 400 islands, including Zealand, Funen, and the North Jutlandic Island.

 

Once the seat of mighty Viking warriors, Denmark is one of the most prosperous countries in the world. It’s a member of many international organizations, including NATO, the European Union, and OECD. Denmark is considered to be one of the countries where corruption doesn’t exist. The political situation in Denmark is generally transparent and stable; the principles of democracy and the rule of law are strong and unquestionable.

 

Science and innovation are at the heart of the Danish economy, which is highly modernized and developed, while Danish citizens in general enjoy high personal incomes as well as a high standard of living. Currently, economic growth is at 1.7%, while GDP is $306.7 billion. Denmark is proud of its welfare state and social safety net, and offers high-level education and health care. To fund this, the rate of personal income tax is very high in Denmark.

 
Denmark-ariel-view
 

Contributors to Danish GDP are services (75.3%), industry (23.6%), and agriculture (1.1%). Main products of the high-tech agricultural sector are barley, wheat, potatoes, fish, and dairy. The most important industries are iron, steel, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, machinery, textiles, electronics, windmills, and shipbuilding. Services include shipping, tourism, and renewable energy. Denmark’s main natural resources are crude oil, natural gas, sea salt, fish, and limestone.

 

Denmark is largely dependent on foreign trade. Its export totaled at $103.6 billion in 2016; with major exported products being machinery, meat and meat products, pharmaceuticals, windmills, fish, and furniture.

 

The US is Denmark’s third largest export partner receiving 8.2% of Danish exports, following Germany and Sweden. US importers mainly seek Danish furniture, windmills, canned meat products, industrial machinery, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and plastic building toys (Lego). The trade of services is also significant between the two countries: US companies often employ Danish container shipping services across the Atlantic. If you’re looking for a Danish supplier, we’ve included the link to an online directory at the bottom of this guide.

 

Your small business could greatly benefit from importing high quality goods or services from Denmark.

 

Danish imports in 2016 totaled at $86.39 billion. Denmark mainly imports raw materials for industry, chemicals, machinery and equipment, grains and other foods, as well as consumer products. US exporters mostly sell instruments, machinery, aircraft, and computers to Danish buyers.

 

Your small business could greatly benefit from importing high quality goods or services from Denmark. Bear in mind that paying your Danish suppliers is easiest through Veem. Veem offers fast and reliable international transfers that are as easy to send as an email. Because unlike your bank, we cut out the middlemen, so there are no hidden costs for your transfer.

 
 

Basic information

 

Denmark is a parliamentary constitutional monarchy. It’s a unitary country, which means that there are no provinces or states within Denmark. The country is divided into five regions (in Danish: regioner) that have some authority over health and other social services, as well as regional development.

 

The Kingdom of Denmark includes two autonomous constituent countries: Greenland and the Faroe Islands (located in the northern part of the Atlantic Ocean). These two have their own legislative bodies and governments that have authority over all domestic issues.

 

Denmark is a parliamentary constitutional monarchy. It’s a unitary country, which means that there are no provinces or states within Denmark. The country is divided into five regions (in Danish: regioner) that have some authority over health and other social services, as well as regional development.

 

Denmark comprises of an area of 16,639 square miles (excluding Greenland and the Faroe Islands that are 836,330 sq mi and 540.16 sq mi respectively). The population of the country is 5.6 million (with Greenland and the Faroe Islands adding 55,860 and 49,884 respectively). Population density is 346.8/sq mi, compared to 90.6/sq mi of the US. 88% of the population lives in urban areas, mainly along the coastlines of the country.

 

The official religion of Denmark is Lutheran (76% of the population). Other denominations present in Denmark are Roman Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist, Serbian Orthodox, Baptist, and Jehova’s Witness. Due to high immigration levels in recent decades, there’s a 4% minority of Muslims.

 

Major Cities

 
denmark-major-cities
 

Copenhagen

Copenhagen is the capital of Denmark and its most populous city. Copenhagen itself has 764,000 inhabitants, while 2 million people live within the greater metropolitan area. The majority of the city is located on the island of Zealand, with a small portion of it on the neighboring island of Amager. Copenhagen is connected to Malmo, Sweden through the Oresund bridge.

 

The city is the major economic and financial center of Denmark. Maersk, the world’s largest shipping company has its world headquarters in Copenhagen, along with major banks and other financial institutions. The city is known for its innovative industries, including IT, biotechnology, clean technology, smart city, and pharmaceuticals. Copenhagen harbor (that has been merged with Swedish Malmo’s harbor) is a major trade hub in Denmark.

 

Aarhus

Aarhus is the second largest Danish city with a population of 269,000. It’s located on the Jutland peninsula and is the center of the East Jutland metropolitan area that has 1.3 million inhabitants. The city’s economy is dominated by services; the most important sectors are trade, consulting, education, healthcare and social services, R&D, and telecommunications. The Port of Aarhus is a great hub for trade; it has the largest container terminal in the country and hosts 50% of Denmark’s container traffic.

 

Odense

Located on the island of Funen, Odense is the third largest city in Denmark with its 175,000 inhabitants. Odense is the commercial hub of Denmark. The city is known for its shipbuilding facilities, as well as agriculture, horticulture, textiles, and media.

 

Aalborg

With a population of 136,000, Aalborg is Denmark’s fourth largest city. It’s located in the north of Jutland. Although heavy industry has a long history in the city, Aalborg is nowadays transitioning to green energy and knowledge-based sectors. Industries like telecommunication and windmill production are growing in Aalborg. The city has a significant shipping industry, distributing cement, grain, and spirits both nationally and internationally.

 
 

Currency

 

Although Denmark is a member of the European Union and fulfills all the criteria for introducing the euro, Denmark has opted out of the European Economic and Monetary Union. The currency of Denmark thus remains the Danish krone (DKK). Its value is usually behind the USD; 1 USD is typically worth 6-7 DKK.

 

Inflation is currently 0.3%.

 
 

Language

 

The official language of Denmark is Danish, with Faroese, Greenlandic, and German recognized as regional languages.

 

The official language of Denmark is Danish, with Faroese, Greenlandic, and German recognized as regional languages.

 

English is widely taught in schools and is the predominant second language in Denmark. Even though you can safely assume your partner speaks good English, it may be a good idea to ask whether you should bring an interpreter to your first meeting.

 
 

Holidays in Denmark

 

There are 11 public holidays in Denmark, and companies are generally closed on these days. Business might be slower from mid-July to mid-August, when many people are on holiday.

 

HolidayDateObservance
New Years(Nytårsdag)January 1Nationwide
Maundy Thursday (Skærtorsdag)The Thursday before Easter SundayNationwide
Good Friday (Langfredag)The Friday before Easter SundayNationwide
Easter Sunday (Påskedag)The first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the spring equinoxNationwide
Easter Monday (Anden påskedag)The Monday after Easter SundayNationwide
Prayer Day (Store bededag)The fourth Friday after EasterNationwide
Ascension Day (Kristi Himmelfartsdag)40 days after EasterNationwide
Constitution Day (Grundlovsdag)June 5Nationwide
Whit Monday (Pinsedag)7th Monday after EasterNationwide
Christmas Day (Juledag)December 25Nationwide
Boxing Day (Anden Juledag)December 26Nationwide

 

Communication from the US

 

Email

Since most Danes have a good command of English, you can stick to English in your emails. There’s no need to include many pleasantries into your correspondence; you can get straight to business and explain your ideas.

 

If you’re making contact for the first time, make sure to address the company and not an individual. You won’t need a third party to introduce you, but make sure to include a line about how you got your partner’s contact information.

 

Making calls from the US

The international country code for Denmark is +45.

 

If you want to make a call to Denmark, here’s a list of instructions to follow:

 

  1. Dial 011 to exit the US
  2. Dial 45 for Denmark
  3. Dial the 8 digit phone number
  4. Example: 011-45-xxx-xxx

 
 

Traveling to Denmark

 

Denmark uses Central European Time Zone (CET), which is UTC + 1 hour. Copenhagen is 6 hours ahead of Washington, DC. Cars drive on the right side of the road. Denmark uses the metric system. Denmark uses type E and K sockets running on 230V, which means you’ll need a converter.

 

Visas

Denmark is part of the Schengen Agreement of the European Union, which means that once you’ve entered Denmark (or any other EU country that’s a part of the Schengen Agreement), you may travel onwards to another Schengen area country without further border checks.

 

If you intend to stay in Denmark for less than 90 days for business or tourist purposes, you don’t need an entry visa.

 

If you intend to stay in Denmark for less than 90 days for business or tourist purposes, you don’t need an entry visa. However, your passport needs to have at least six months validity at the time of entry. If you wish to stay longer, apply for your Danish visa here.

 

Using a Cell Phone in Denmark

Cell phone coverage is widespread in Denmark. However, your US based cell phone might not work in Europe, since European cell carriers use the GSM 900/1800 network. Since roaming costs are very high, it might be advisable to buy a Danish SIM card for your phone if you plan to spend a considerable amount of time in Denmark.

 

The European Union has banished roaming costs for EU cell phones within the EU. This means that if you buy a SIM card in any EU country, you’ll be able to use it in all other EU countries without roaming charges. In Denmark, you can buy a prepaid SIM card at a supermarket, petrol station, or newspaper kiosk. Lycamobile and Lebara are well-known Danish cell phone carriers.

 

The Internet

Denmark is widely connected to the internet. High-speed connections are available throughout the country. Wifi is usually offered (sometimes at no cost) in cafes, hotels, restaurants, and tourist information shops. Several trains and buses offer free wifi connections as well.

 
 

Major Trade Shows

 

Trade shows are a wonderful opportunity to get the word out about your small business and meet potential new partners or customers. Here’s a list of the major Danish trade shows.

 

WhatWhere
WhenWhat about
FoodexpoHerningEvery two yearsRetail, Hotel, Restaurant, Food sector
LandsskuetHerningOnce a yearAgriculture
Transport ScandinaviaHerning Every two yearsLogistics
Sectech DenmarkCopenhagenEvery two yearsSecurity equipment
FoodpharmatechHerningEvery two yearsMachinery, Packaging and Ingredients for the Food and Pharma Industry
Offshore Wind EnergyCopenhagenEvery two yearsRenewable energy
FormlandHerningTwice a yearHome accessories and gifts
World’s Leading WinesCopenhagenOnce a yearWine
HI IndustriemesseHerningEvery two yearsAutomatics, robotics, electronics
Revolver International Fashion FairCopenhagenTwice a yearFashion
CIFF Fashion FairCopenhagenTwice a yearFashion
AgromekHerningEvery two yearsAgricultural machinery and cattle

 

Business Culture

 

Danish culture is based on equality, tolerance and acceptance. Danes believe that regardless of race, age, education or position, no person is better than another. This notion translates itself into business culture as well.

 

Danes believe that regardless of race, age, education or position, no person is better than another.

 

Business hours in Denmark usually start between 8-10 am, and last until 3:30-5:30 pm. Danes value their leisure time; try not to schedule a meeting after 4 pm. However, since working hours can usually be adjusted flexibly, your partner may work according to a different schedule. A typical working week lasts from Monday to Friday and includes 37 working hours.

 

At a first glance, Danish culture seems a bit more formal than what we’re used to in the US. Danes tend to be more reserved upon first meeting a new person; however, over time, this formality usually gives way to a warmer, closer, more informal business relationship.

 

Hierarchy in Danish Businesses

Danish businesses usually operate with a very flat hierarchy. Since each person is considered to be equally important to the company, opinions are often exchanged and the CEO of a small business is rather seen as a team leader than a boss who delegates tasks to subordinates.

 

the CEO of a small business is rather seen as a team leader than a boss who delegates tasks to subordinates

 

Most CEOs are directly approachable; and usually everyone is involved in the process of decision-making. However, since Danes are generally pragmatic and very efficient people, this doesn’t necessarily slow the process down. Teamwork and an open dialogue are greatly valued.

 
 

Business Communication

 

Danish businesspeople tend to be direct and productive. Generally, very little small talk is expected at the start and finish of a business negotiation. Meetings are always on time and almost never run late. Since the exchange of ideas is encouraged, you can expect a lively yet professional and respectful discussion.

 

Try not to embellish your achievements, as it might be considered bragging and can be offputting for your partners.

 

Danes are generally modest and don’t like exaggerating their personal or professional successes. They usually don’t take credit for an accomplishment by themselves but say that it was a team effort. Try not to embellish your achievements, as it might be considered bragging and can be offputting for your partners. In addition, some Danes have a dry and self-deprecating sense of humor that doesn’t mean they lack self-confidence.

 

Most Danes need a social distance of about two arms lengths. Touching is usually not included in daily communications, and facial expressions as well as hand gestures are less intensive than in other cultures.

 
 

Business Negotiations

 

You can expect a quick and efficient process of business negotiations with your Danish partners. They will value your time (as well as their own) and be as direct as they can be without being rude. Honesty and trust are valued and assumed. Danes are generally flexible, patient and easygoing during business negotiations.

 

The sharing of ideas and knowledge is common practice in Danish business life. Frequent meetings are held to facilitate communication, but unlike in other cultures, Danish business negotiations are always to the point and never take up more time than strictly necessary.

 
denmark-business-negotiation
 

Danes like to have all the information in an organized way before making a decision. Your presentation should stick to the facts and include all relevant information your partner might need to make up their mind. Since an open exchange also includes criticism, don’t be offended if your partner says something negative. Never take it personally, because according to Danes, criticism is just a part of an honest conversation.

 

Refreshments are sometimes offered during a negotiation, and when a meeting is scheduled near a mealtime, you might be asked to continue your talks over lunch or coffee. Business meals tend to be short and to the point. Dining etiquette is largely similar to that of the US.

 

The sharing of ideas and knowledge is common practice in Danish business life. Frequent meetings are held to facilitate communication, but unlike in other cultures, Danish business negotiations are always to the point and never take up more time than strictly necessary

 

Though written contracts and deals are usually preferred, it’s not uncommon for some transactions to operate according to a gentlemen’s agreement.

 

Before your first meeting, inquire whether you’ll need to bring any equipment for resources, as well as a Danish interpreter. It will most likely be refused, but you will make a good impression by not assuming that they’ll automatically provide everything you need.

 

Once your meeting is over, make sure to follow up with your partner according to the steps you agreed during the meeting. Directness and honesty will be valued, as well as a clear division of tasks and measurable benchmarks (if applicable).

 

The First Meeting

 

Attire

Danes usually prefer comfortable but formal attires when working. Especially if this is your very first meeting, make sure to dress in conservative colors. Men should wear a suit and tie, while women can wear skirts or a pant suit. Later on, as your relationship progresses, you might revert to more casual clothing. Despite their high standards of living, Danes usually frown upon flashy or extravagant clothing.

 

Timing

Schedule your meeting in advance and confirm it the day before. Make sure you arrive on time as Danes value punctuality. If you think you’ll be more than 5 minutes late, let your partner know in advance. Your negotiation will most likely start and finish exactly as scheduled.

 

Introductions

Danes like to use their last names. When meeting for the first time, address your partner with their professional title and their last name, and introduce yourself the same way. If there’s no professional title, stick to Mr. and Ms. Once the relationship is established, Danes like to move on to first name basis.

 

A handshake is an accepted form of greeting for everybody. Make sure to stand up before extending your hand. Since Danes value equality, women and men are both expected to initiate the handshake. Similarly to US practices, eye-contact is held during a handshake, and while talking as well.

 

You may include a short Danish phrase into your greeting to impress your partner, like Goddag, which means Good day.

 

Business Cards

At your first meeting you can exchange business cards. Make sure to display the real address of your business instead of a P.O. Box. When you receive your partner’s business card, take a good look at it, then either place it in front of you on the table, or put it away respectfully into a business-card holder or your wallet.

 

Small Talk

Very little small talk is expected during a business negotiation. Danes usually prefer business lunches to dinners. Business topics can be discussed over a meal, as well as general topics like culture, politics, sports, and the weather.

 

Danes have a very direct way of saying what’s on their mind without beating around the bush. This might be interpreted as offensive, but it’s simply a way of communication and you shouldn’t take it personally.

 

Gifts

Business gifts are not necessary. However, if you’re invited to the home of your partner, make sure to present your host with a bouquet of flowers, a bottle of wine, or a box of chocolates. Small company gifts may be offered when your relationship reaches a landmark, e.g. when you sign your contract. If you receive a gift, you can open it in front of your partner.

 

A funny thing about Danes is that they don’t like to be indebted to people. Small gestures like holding the door open for someone will likely result in a similar gesture at the next possible occasion. Similarly, if you’ve given a gift to a Dane or you’ve bought them lunch, you can expect an invitation or a gift of a similar value very soon.

 

 

Making a Payment

 

Paying your Danish supplier is easiest through Veem. Offering Multi-Rail Payment technology, Veem allows you to send and receive international payments quickly, securely, and as easily as sending an email. Since Veem cuts out the middlemen typically used by banks, you can diminish your costs while paying your international suppliers.

 
 

Regulations and Permits

 

Denmark is a strong supporter of free trade. As a member of the EU, imported goods from Denmark are subject to a low tariff fee (less than 3%) when entering the US. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is the agency responsible for protecting US borders.

 

If you plan to get supplies from Denmark, you need to be aware of US customs procedures and regulations. The CBP’s website provides useful information on the process of importing goods into the US.

 

The CBP does not issue import licenses and you won’t need to apply for one. Depending on the nature of goods you’re about to import (e.g. animals, plants, dairy, food, medication, brand name apparel, etc), you might need to ask for a permit from another agency (e.g., FDA, EPA, DOT, CPSC, FTC, Agriculture, etc.), as well as your local and state authorities.

 

If you plan to get supplies from Denmark, you need to be aware of US customs procedures and regulations

 

Since taxes and duties are levied on imports from the EU (and thus Denmark), you need to calculate the amount of tariffs you’ll need to pay. With this tool of the Harmonized Tariff System (HTS), you can look up the amount of tariff that will be levied on your goods.

 

At the time your imported goods arrive at the border of the US, you have to file the entry documents with the CBP at the port of entry. If you previously had to get a permit from any other agency because of the nature of your imported products, you may have to let them know about the arrival of your goods as well. These are the entry documents:

 

  • Entry Manifest (CBP from 7533) or Application and Special Permit for Immediate Deivery(CBP from 3461) or other form of merchandise release required by port director
  • Evidence of right to make entry
  • Commercial invoice or a pro forma invoice when the commercial invoice cannot be producted
  • Packing lists, if appropriate
  • Other documents necessary to determine merchandise admissibility

 

 

After filing your documents, the CBP examines your imported products, which takes no longer than 10 business days. After that, you have to pay any customs duties or tariffs imposed upon your products before they are released from the border.

 
 

Useful links

 

How to find a Danish supplier:

Danish Exports: 560 Danish Suppliers

 

US Government sites about Denmark:

US Department of State: U.S. Relations With Denmark
Travel State Gov: Denmark Country information

 

How to get a Danish long-term visa if needed:

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark: Visas

 

Information on US customs:

US Customs: Basic Import and Exporting
US Customs: Importing Licenses and Permits

 

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