My first month abroad

After one month, I’ve almost fully adapted to Danish culture. I’ve gotten used to my daily bike rides, instant coffee, and copious amounts of bread at every meal (the Danes love their open-faced sandwiches and pastries). Although Danes are not particularly warm or outgoing, they are still very kind. That, paired with the fact that I’m in class with study abroad students, has made the transition pretty easy. As a result, I’ve encountered many cultural differences but haven’t necessarily had to manage situations as a result of those differences.

For example, this past week was Core Course Week, which meant that I traveled for three days around Western Denmark with my European Business Strategy class and then attended company visits in Copenhagen on Thursday and Friday. On Thursday, we visited Maersk, a Danish conglomerate involved in transportation, logistics, and energy. One of the Maersk speakers was Canadian and described her own experience moving to Denmark and working here. Danes approach work more holistically than Americans and take work-life balance very seriously. Therefore, most people leave work between 4 and 5 pm. The speaker said that she had been asked multiple times what she was still doing at work at 5:30pm. Policies regarding parental leave and vacation time are also more liberal. Most companies offer five weeks of vacation and a total of 12 months of paid parental leave to be shared between the mother and the father. Danes are direct in the workplace as well and expect colleagues to speak up and offer their opinion, regardless of a person’s position or seniority. Lastly, the Danish business culture differs in regards to meals. According to the speaker, it is very uncommon to see a Dane eating lunch at his or her desk. Instead, most companies provide full catered meals, for which employees contribute a small portion of their salary. Employees are expected to take at least 30 minutes for lunch and eat in the cafeteria with their colleagues. These differences are many of the reasons why expats came to Denmark to work.

Another cultural difference is the political system in Denmark, which poses a challenge for visitors like me in one area: taxes. Denmark has a massive welfare state and most Danes pay 70% or more of their income in taxes. High taxes also raise the price index of consumer goods. This makes eating out particularly expensive. As a result, I’ve had to practice better budgeting habits and spend more time cooking for myself than I do back at home. Overall, I’m still learning new things about Denmark every day and have been using spare time to go to museums, visit other neighborhoods, and see as much of the city as possible. It’s pretty hard not to like it here!

[Carolyn Edwards. Blog 3. Copenhagen, Denmark. 2.10.18]

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