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Business culture in the UK

Some Danish Companies doing business in the UK might not be aware that there are some significant differences in business culture and mentality between Denmark and UK as well as significant regional, mental and cultural differences within the borders of Great Britain.

Great Britain differs from Denmark when it comes to education and payment in organizations since there is a large gap between “high” and “low” within society. This does not necessarily make it more difficult for Danes but it is important to bear in mind.

Danes have a tendency to be too modest which cannot always be considered as a virtue in Great Britain. Instead, it is important to show the strengths of the organization and the products.

In general, Danes can sometimes behave too directly according to the British preferences. The choice of clothing does not play a huge role but it is a good idea to wear a suit for the first meeting and leave it to the host to decide whether the suit can be dropped afterwards. Trust and good personal chemistry are often essential conditions when doing business in Great Britian.

It is difficult to contact British business leaders directly.  Thus, it might be a good idea to ask if it would be okay to stop by “when you are in the area next week”. It can be difficult to figure out whether you have made a deal or not because a general British business person won’t necessarily decline but instead hope, that you will understand a delaying answer and ultimately give up.

Brits and Danes are much alike and there are only few serious communication challenges. However, we are not that much alike as we often think, and an advice is to be prepared and gain some information about the Brits before you intend to cross the North sea.

Rules of thumb

There are rules worth remembering, when you want to operate in Great Britain:

  • Approximately 10% of the population are immigrants– primary from the Commonwealth - and many have brought their culture and habits.
  • It is impossible or rare to bypass a leader’s personal assistant (PA). It is very important to treat them well and get to know them. A personal bond with the PA ensures a clearer and faster response.
  • Better to say “Sir” and “Madam” too much than too little.
  • Their outer dress is more conservative than the person behind.
  • Even though you are on first name, you should not decide the speed.
  • When the ice is broken, the British are just as informal, humorous and ironic as many Danes.
  • Great Britain = England, Wales and Scotland while UK = Great Britain and Northern Ireland (and they each have their own football team)
  • Scots, Irishmen and Welsh do not like being called English; they are British.
  • They have difficulties saying no, which could be the reason that you usually have to ask for an answer over and over again.
  • They refer to us from the continent as “Europeans”, and the continent as Europe: this is an island nation and they would like to keep a small distance.

Office hours

The general working hours are longer in the UK compared to Denmark. A normal working day in the office is Monday to Friday 9.00-9.30 to 17.00-17.30, but in many leadership positions people will come in earlier and leave later. The lunchbreak is usually between 13.00-14.00.

The banks are usually open from 9.15-16.45 Monday to Friday and few branches are open Saturday as well.

Shop opening hours depend on business type and location. The stores are open to at least 18.00 and often to 20.00 or later. This is particularly the stores located on shopping streets in larger cities, and they are also open Saturday and Sunday between 11.00-12.00 to 17.00-18.00.