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Your first day at work in Denmark: Flowers, handshakes, passwords, and several people named Mette

By Kay Xander Mellish

On your first day at work in Denmark, you may find a pretty bouquet of flowers on your desk to welcome you. (This terrified a Chinese acquaintance of mine, who was accustomed to receiving flowers on her *last* day at work. She thought she’d been fired before she ever sat down.) In Denmark, the bouquet is just a way to say “welcome” and to add some sunshine to an arduous day that is sure to include many handshakes and computer passwords. Someone will probably be appointed as your “mentor” on the first day of the job, and that person will take you around to meet the people you’ll be working with, as well as showing you practical parts of the office like the printer room and the toilets. Shake hands with everyone you meet and try to remember their first names – although you’ll probably get a lot of duplicates. (Depending on the size of the company, you can expect to meet at least two or three people named Mette, Søren, Pia, Magnus, or Lars.) Last names aren’t important, at least until you have to find these people in an e-mail list. “Mr.” and “Ms.”, or their Danish equivalents “Herr” and “Fru”, are almost never used in Denmark. Don’t act overly impressed when you meet the top bosses: this will embarrass them. The people you really need to be deferential to are the administrative staff. If you come from a country with a large population and a great deal of unemployment, you may be accustomed to a large administrative staff that helps you with filling out forms, tracking expenses, setting up meetings, and other small tasks. Such helpful people are rare in Denmark, where most professionals are expected to do these things themselves using online tools.

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