Skip to content

Business culture in the UK

Some Danish companies initiating doing business in the UK may not be aware of some significant differences in business culture and mentality between Denmark and the UK as well as significant regional, mental and cultural differences within the borders of Great Britain.

Great Britain is a class society with a large gap between “high” and “low” class. This has an impact on its education system as well as the payment structure in organisations and businesses. This is important to bear in mind, as it is significantly different from Denmark.

Danes have a tendency to be too modest which cannot always be considered a virtue in Great Britain. Instead, it is important to show the strengths of the organisation 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 requirements when doing business in Great Britain.

It is difficult to contact British business leaders directly. As such, it might be a good idea to ask if it would be possible 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 very alike and there are only few serious communication challenges. However, an advice is to be well prepared and gain prior information about the Brits before you intend to cross the North sea.

Rules of thumb

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

  • Approximately 10% of the population are immigrants – primarily from the Commonwealth - and many have brought their culture and habits with them.
  • It is 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.
  • It is better to say “Sir” and “Madam” too much than too little.
  • The business attire is more conservative than the person behind it.
  • Even though you are on first name basis, 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 don’t like being called English; they are British.
  • As the Brits are a very polite nation, they may have difficulties saying no, which may prolong a process and require you 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 from 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.

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. Stores are normally open until at least 18.00 and often to 20.00 or later and are also open Saturday and Sunday between 11.00/12.00 to 17.00/18.00. This particularly includes stores located on shopping streets in larger cities.