5 Differences Between the Danish and American Workplace

Since moving back to Denmark after having worked in both the USA and China, it’s been fun adapting to the Danish work culture. I’ll admit the culture is very different here at Pine Tribe compared to my past work places. Pine Tribe is one of many startup companies whose offices are located in the Rainmaking Loft in Copenhagen. Rainmaking is a “Company Factory,” which aims to take in startups and mold them into becoming successful business. This means that while we’re here at the loft, us Pine Tribers are constantly surrounded by other entrepreneurs, which allows for an open dialogue and an exciting workplace. The change of pace and relationships between colleagues here was something I was very happy to work with, but what I found even more interesting were the varying differences at the office that I had never experienced before.

Now mind you, these are based solely on my personal experiences, but I’m sure you can relate to some of these 5 differences between the Danish and American workplace.

painkillers work-life balance scandinavian lifestyle

In all of the offices I worked for in the states, it seemed that painkillers were always available next to the coffee machine. A major difference in the Danish Rainmaking office is that painkillers are no where to be seen.

1. Painkillers

One thing that was a standard at all the offices I worked with in America was the availability of painkillers at work. I’m definitely not saying that everyone was popping pills at work, but whenever I had a slight headache from sitting 12 inches from a computer screen in my small office, I had a tendency to take one of the complimentary pain relievers to continue my work. At the Rainmaking Loft, you won’t find any medicines out in the open. Instead, there is an endless supply of natural options. Every tea you could dream of, endless fruit bowls, smoothies, hyper hydrating concoctions—you name it and we probably have it. I was pleasantly surprised that I hadn’t even noticed the lack of medication until I needed one, and that was due to a self induced headache resulting from a fun evening with the work team the night before.

open office space danish workplace

The Google culture popularized the open office, but it has been around in Denmark for many years.

2. Open Spaces

I know the “Open Office” is catching on around the world, but it seems so natural here in Denmark that I can’t help but think it’s been like this for decades. Here we have no assigned seats, no offices, just a huge open space with stations to fill every morning. If a visitor were to come in and ask to speak to a CEO, they’d potentially find them working at a table full of interns, or chatting in the kitchenette with the canteen staff. The equality here is something I have never experienced. Even in the open offices I have worked in before, the Boss would sit behind their personal heavy desk, looking out on their employees. This new way of coming to work allows for a free flow of creativity and strategy I’ve never experienced before, and makes us all feel more involved with the company.

5 Differences Between the Danish and American Workplace

You wont find a “close button” in the Danish Rainmaking office elevator.

3. Elevator Buttons

Here’s a strange one that tends to be overlooked, the elevators here don’t have a “close door” button. This may be a more prevalent change from the time I worked in China, where the “close” button seemed worn down from overuse. In Shanghai, as soon as someone would exit to their floor from a crowded elevator, it was normal for the person closest to the buttons to close the doors immediately. Honestly, it was fascinating as a foreigner in a Chinese elevator, as it seemed like even just travelling to your floor had to be the most efficient process ever. It made me feel incredibly rushed; everything was high paced, as if any time in an elevator was a waste of precious work time. It’s not like that at Rainmaking. You cannot control your elevator trip, and as someone who has experienced a different way of ascension, I now use the short journey as a time of self-reflection.

frokost.dk danish lunch catering scandinavian lifestyle

One of the companies at the Rainmaking Loft is FrokostDK. As a business, they cater a healthy and delicious lunch to countless offices throughout Denmark. Lucky for us, we get to enjoy their product as well!

4. Lunch

As a few of the Pine Tribers have already discussed, lunch here is fantastic, and provided for free! I swear I haven’t eaten healthier in years. Everyday, a great selection of warm dishes, salads, and sandwich toppings are available, and we even have the option to take some home with us for later use—midnight snacks anyone? I know this isn’t an exclusive attribute of Rainmaking, but it makes the workday so much better. An American friend of mine works with a marketing agency in Boston, and he would frequently show me pictures of some fantastic lunches he was served. He did this with a big grin on his face, as this was a luxury in the corporate world. It is a luxury, and if you are a happy employee because of it, it makes it that much more worth it for a company to do.

work-life balance scandinavian lifestyle

A major difference between my Danish and American work experience are the flexible work hours.

5. Flexible work hours

On my first day at Pine Tribe, I showed up at 9AM, the standard time I was used to at my old position in America. I was one of 3 people in the entire office that morning, and it wasn’t until around 10AM that people started filling in the workstations. Naturally, the next day I showed up at 10AM, and this time I was one of the last people to show up for work. I was thrown for a bit of a loop, I had no idea what time the work day started, and no idea when I should leave. I asked my superiors when I should show up the next day, and they said, “whenever you think is best.” Not exactly the answer I was looking for at the time, but it’s one I’ve begun to cherish. Unless there’s an office meeting with a set time, employees are free to come and go as they please. With today’s technology, the whole team is able to work together no matter where they are. So if I wished to work from home one day, it wouldn’t be frowned upon in any way. What’s even better though is that the majority of the Pine Tribe team still bikes to the office everyday. We all want to be together because we enjoy spending time solving problems, strategizing, and seeing the company unfold and grow before our very eyes. You won’t find any clock watchers here at Pine Tribe, and I can’t express how great our work environment is because of it.

These are just 5 differences that I have noticed during my time with Pine Tribe here at Rainmaking. Some may seem a bit more impactful than others, such as flexible work hours compared to elevator buttons, but they all work toward a same goal. All of these facets in the work culture work toward including and taking care of the employees. When we feel that our wellbeing is a focus of Pine Tribe, we in turn work harder to ensure the wellbeing of Pine Tribe.

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Images from: here, here, here, here, and here


Philip Trampe
24 Feb 2014

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