Hello young and old! Welcome to this little family blog devoted to the cultural differences between France and Denmark! Yes, despite the geographical proximity of these two countries, there are some notable differences, particularly when it comes to integrating yourself during your work placement abroad in Denmark. Before you leave for a country, whether it’s for a few days’ holiday or several months to improve your skills through an international work placement, it’s important to find out about the local culture. The cultural differences between France and Denmark are an opportunity to learn, to avoid being rude, and to show your commitment and desire to integrate into the smallest of Scandinavian countries: here we go!

Cultural differences between France and Denmark: work

Here is a list of the main cultural differences between working in France and working in Denmark:

  1. Work culture: In France, the work culture can be more formal, with a strong hierarchy in many companies. In Denmark, a more horizontal and participative working environment is often favoured.
  2. Working hours: Danes generally have more flexible working hours, and teleworking is often encouraged to improve work-life balance. In France, working hours are generally stricter, although flexibility policies are beginning to develop.
  3. Lunch break: In France, the lunch break is often longer (up to two hours) and is seen as a time to relax and socialise with colleagues. In Denmark, the lunch break is shorter and generally used for a quick meal. More generally, Danes are much more reserved than the French, and more measured in their social relationships. And, of course, this is reflected at work.
  4. Holidays: On average, the Danes have more days of annual leave than the French, and enjoy a leave culture that is more conducive to a good work-life balance.
  5. Hierarchical communication: In France, communication with superiors can be more formal and respectful of the hierarchy, whereas in Denmark, communication is often more direct and informal, even with managers.
  6. Punctuality: Danes tend to be very punctual in a professional context, whereas the French can be more flexible when it comes to punctuality. During your work placement in Denmark, you’ll know that it’s imperative to set an alarm clock and be on time: it’s up to you to keep your work placement abroad, and avoid any worries.
  7. Approach to hierarchy: In France, the hierarchy is often respected and important decisions can be taken by managers. In Denmark, there is often a more participative approach and decision-making can be more democratic.
  8. Pay negotiations: The Danes tend to value pay transparency and pay negotiations can be more open. In France, these discussions can be more confidential and complex.
  9. Parental leave: Denmark is known for offering more generous parental leave policies than France, with better support for parents.
  10. Attitude towards unemployment: Both countries have social security systems, but the cultural attitude towards unemployment may differ, with perhaps less stigma associated with unemployment in Denmark than in France.

These cultural differences in terms of work are generalisations and can vary from one company to another and from one region to another. It is essential to take these differences into account when working or planning to work in one of these two countries: it is the basis for successfully integrating your work placement abroad.

Cultural differences between France and Denmark: social relations

There are some marked cultural differences between social relations in France and Denmark. In France, interpersonal relations are often characterised by a certain degree of formality, especially when meeting people for the first time. The French may greet each other with a peck on the cheek (the famous ‘bise’), a practice that may come as a surprise to unaccustomed foreigners. Friendships in France may develop slowly, but they are generally solid and lasting once established. This physical contact is found only in France and in some southern European countries.

In Denmark, on the other hand, social relationships are often more informal and relaxed from the outset. Danes have a more open approach to strangers and may be more inclined to strike up a conversation easily, even with people they don’t know well. You’re approached very easily even in the street; it’s very surprising, but very pleasant! They can also be more reserved in their gestures and prefer a friendly handshake when greeting someone. Danes place great importance on equality and simplicity, and this is often reflected in their social interactions.

Another interesting aspect is the dimension of collectivism and individualism. In France, there is often a strong notion of collectivism, with an emphasis on family, close friends and close social circles. The French may prefer deep relationships with a small group of people rather than superficial interactions with many individuals.

In Denmark, society tends to be more individualistic, placing importance on personal autonomy and independence. This does not mean that they do not value social relationships, but rather that they can be comfortable spending time alone or engaging in individual activities while maintaining harmonious social ties.

When it comes to communication, the French can be more expressive in their emotions and can use gestures and varied tones to express their ideas. Danes, on the other hand, tend to be more reserved and prefer direct and honest communication, avoiding pretence.

Finally, when socialising in France, it is common to share a meal or a drink together, which is often seen as a moment of conviviality and pleasure. In Denmark, although socialising over food and drink is also popular, Danes may prefer outdoor leisure activities or informal gatherings at home.

These differences in social relations reflect the nuances of each country’s culture and need to be taken into account when interacting with French or Danish people to promote better mutual understanding.

Washing your clothes in Denmark

The system of washing machines is a bit peculiar in Denmark, especially in the city centres. Buildings often have a basement with washing machines. They are available to all tenants, and often for less than one euro, which is the equivalent of 7.5 Danish kroner, you can have your laundry cleaned.

The culture of the Danish flag 

When you go for a walk in the city centre, don’t be surprised to see the Danish flag all around you. Danes have a special admiration for their homeland, don’t see it as political. Buses too, at different times of the year can be seen wearing the red and white Danish flag.  

Electrical outlets in Denmark

There’s another slight difference from France: next to the sockets you’ll find a switch. You’ll need to flip this switch to charge your phone or computer. This is very often the case in Italy, but especially in Malta, where it’s a must!

Cultural differences between France and Denmark: students

In France, the higher education system is often seen as more traditional and hierarchical. French students may feel social and family pressure to succeed in their studies and choose prestigious careers. A university degree is generally seen as a prerequisite for certain professions and is often valued by society.

In Denmark, on the other hand, the approach to higher education is more relaxed and focused on personal development. Danish students are encouraged to explore their interests and choose areas of study that they are passionate about, rather than feeling constrained by external expectations. The Danish education system emphasises project-based learning, self-directed learning and collaboration between students and teachers.

Differences in tuition fees and financial aid can also play a role. In France, tuition fees are often lower for national students, thanks to a policy of government subsidies. In Denmark, higher education is generally free for Danish and European students, while moderate tuition fees may apply to international students.

As far as student life is concerned, French students may be more inclined to stay with their parents during their studies, particularly if they are studying in their home town, whereas Danish students often have greater independence and are more likely to live in shared accommodation or student residences.

Assessment systems also differ. In France, final examinations often dominate the assessment of knowledge and academic achievement, whereas in Denmark, assessment may be based on a mixture of written work, group projects and class participation.

In terms of social life, French students may be more inclined to socialise in cafés, bars and cultural venues, while Danish students may favour more informal gatherings, outdoor activities and events organised by student associations.

We’re good, you’re now ready for your experience in Denmark! If you have any questions about your mobility project, TEAM HI is here to answer them! You can sign up here: we’ll get back to you in 48 hours from September to June! (In summer we’re a bit more chill ?)