The majority of Danes are very pleased with their colleagues from abroad.

Photo: Getty
07.11.18 DIB News

Danes: Foreigners are a boon for our workplaces

Integration at Danish workplaces is going well – if you ask Danes, at least. At IT companies Zendesk and Vivino, the diversity of staff is considered a strength rather than a challenge.

Foreigners have a hard time settling in at Danish workplaces, which are characterised by cliquishness, unspoken rules and hygge only for the selected Danes.

That has long been the picture painted in the media about the experience of foreign employees at Danish companies. But if you ask Danes, the reality looks very different, shows a new survey conducted by Epinion on behalf of DI Business. In the survey, 1,013 Danes were asked about their working relationships with colleagues who have for example just recently moved to Denmark to live and work.

74% of respondents say that they do not find that their expat colleagues have difficulty settling in.

The same survey also found that 72% of Danes believe that their working relationships with colleagues with foreign backgrounds are just as good as their relationships with colleagues with Danish backgrounds.

Head of Labour Market Policy at DI Steen Nielsen welcomes the results of the survey. 

“It’s great to see that employees are indeed working well together at Danish workplaces. That’s also what we hear from our member companies at DI. They appreciate their foreign employees, who have helped ensure that companies have been able to keep the business going in recent years,” says Steen Nielsen. 

See also: Why are Danes so weird?

Everyone is happy to chat

Danes’ positive view of their working relationships with international colleagues aligns with the experiences of Russian-born software engineer Gregory, who works at the Danish IT company Vivino, which is behind a highly successful app that helps users select and purchase the right wine.

“I’m very happy with my job in Denmark. It’s a good work environment, and everyone is happy to chat. There isn’t the same degree of stress at the workplace as in other countries,” says Gregory, who has lived and worked in Copenhagen for a few years (he does not want to be identified by his full name).

See also: Blog: 5 ways to better retain international employees

Danish isn’t banned. But if a colleague who doesn’t speak Danish sits down at the table, English must be spoken. HR Manager Ditte Buch Andersen, Vivino

For Gregory, it was a bit of a coincidence that he ended up in Denmark. As a software engineer he can “find work anywhere in the world,” but he is happy to be in Copenhagen and Denmark.

“It’s not just Vivino that I like. It’s Denmark. It’s safe. The architecture is beautiful. And Danes are good at English – so good, in fact, that there’s no incentive for me to learn Danish,” says Gregory.

See also: Foreign manager: “Danes aren’t as open as they think they are”

Every workplace has its challenges

According to Ditte Buch Andersen, HR Manager at Vivino, the company’s quarterly employee surveys show that international and Danish employees have good working relationships.

“We’re happy with our work environment. Of course, there are always certain challenges, but that is also true of a solely Danish workplace. I’m convinced that our high degree of diversity among employees helps promote creativity and innovation,” she says.

To help improve relations between Danish and international colleagues, the rule at Vivino is that English must be spoken at the office.

“Danish isn’t banned. But if a colleague who doesn’t speak Danish sits down at the table, English must be spoken,” says Ditte Buch Andersen.

Vivino also does its best to help international employees establish a social network and find housing.

“We’re not a dating service. But in order to retain our international employees, it’s important that they settle in,” she says.

See also: Unfilled jobs mean more pressure on Danish employees

Teamwork is completely natural

Another company that has successfully recruited many foreign employees is Zendesk, which develops customer service software.

The company currently has 27 different nationalities represented among its employees, which, according to Vice President for Engineering Jesper Hvirring Henriksen, is working just fine.

“We haven’t had any major problems getting everyone to work together. Because we have so many different nationalities, it’s easier for international employees to form social connections than at a completely Danish workplace where people already have close-knit friend groups and families,” says Jesper Hvirring Henriksen and adds:

“At this point, we have quite a few expats who have been here for a long time. There are several who have invested in a house or flat, and there are some who have had kids in Denmark.”

See also: Guide for hiring foreign employees

A life outside the office

One of Zendesk’s employees who has lived in Denmark for a while now is Ryan McGrew, who moved from Chicago to Denmark with his partner in June 2016.

Prior to the move, they had done some detective work to find a country that ticked the boxes in the rather lengthy checklist Ryan McGrew and his partner had drawn up with requirements their future home would have to live up to.

“Copenhagen was the place that best suited our demands – both in terms of how society is organised, the size of the city, opportunities for working in English and the environmental focus,” says Ryan.

In retrospect, the couple’s move went relatively smoothly, even though it was only once they had arrived in Denmark that the job hunt could properly commence.

“We gave ourselves 90 days to find a job. We were successful after a month,” says Ryan McGrew and adds:

“Denmark is a great place to work. I have six weeks of holiday and am expected to take it. There’s time to have a life outside the office. And I like the work culture,” says Ryan McGrew and assures that he has no plans of leaving Denmark “at all”.

Linda Duncan Wendelboe

Linda Duncan Wendelboe

Head of DI Global Talent

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