Differences between Danish and Korean working culture

 

Kira Hermansen(Denmark)

Korea and Denmark have always had a good relationship with each other. Back in the Korean war Denmark helped Korea with a hospital ship called “Jutlandia”. In 1959 diplomatic ties were established between the two countries and in 2011, South Korea and Denmark entered into a green strategic partership, deepening their partnership to involving climate and environment. Since then, the partnership has strengthened the political, commercial, cultural and scientific cooperation between South Korea and Denmark. Even though these two countries have partnered up, they’re still very different in their working environment in many aspects. 

The most significant differences between Korean and Danish organizational culture, are the following:

  • In Danish companies they have less layers between the different positions compared to Korean companies. 
  • In Denmark it is also easier to get laid off but also easier to get hired after being fired. 
  • In South Korea, it’s considered as corruption to get a job through one’s connections. In Denmark, getting connected with someone inside of a company or being introduced by common acquaintances is a big plus for candidates to secure their job. 
  • Many Korean people eat out for lunch and enjoy taking a walk during the one-hour lunch time. On the other hand, most Danish people eat inside of the companies they are working for during the quick lunch time of half an hour. 

The most challenging cultural differences to get use to between Danish and Korean, are the following:

 

  • In Denmark, people tend to be afraid of finger pointing someone or getting pointed out. On the other hand, Korean people exchange direct constructive feedback and there is a saying that ‘no comment means no affection or no interest’.
  • When something goes wrong, it’s hard to figure out who’s responsible for it in Denmark. On the other hand, in Korea, it’s very clear who should be responsible for what. When a junior makes a mistake, his or her manager is also responsible, and the manager should lead the junior to fix something. 

Some cultural differences in Korean and Danish work environment, are the following:

 

  • Korean people usually wear formal dressing at their workplace, whereas in Denmark people normally wear jeans and sneakers at their workplace. This is also because of the Danish culture, in Denmark there’s something called ‘Janteloven’ which says all people are equal, so we don’t like it when people don’t seem to be on the same level as ourselves. In Korea it’s seen as professional that you are dressed well in formal wear, it shows a more professional side of a workplace, and you have to make a good example of the company.
  • Danish workplaces allow more flexible working hours, an example, if you have children you can leave at 3PM and work later at home. However, Korean companies usually don’t accept this way of working, a normal day for a Korean is from 9AM to 6PM.

The 3 most significant similarities between Korean and Danish organizational culture, are the following:

  • Bragging is considered rude and being humble is one of the virtues.
  • People value high efficiency at workplaces. 
  • Strong community spirit and togetherness.

3 tips that would help a Korean person that considers working in Denmark:

  • It’s important to understand and get used to sarcastic Danish jokes. 
  • Networking is essential to look for a job in Denmark. It’s so important for a job seeker to know how to use LinkedIn and how to do coffee meetings with others. 
  • Prepare a cake or breakfast to celebrate your own birthday at your essential workplace. 

3 tips that would help a Dane considering working in Korea:

 

  • Accepting your own mistake and saying sorry makes you a highly responsible, respectful and confident person, not an incompetent person.
  • You can get closer to your Korean colleagues at company dinners where they relieve tension and open their mind. 
  • It’s important to understand Korean culture that requires different gestures and words in different levels of formality and politeness depending on the other person’s age and level of position. 

Kira Hermansen(Denmark)
acopia.news@gmail.com