Vacation and Work/Life Balance in Denmark
Coastal lookout - Gilleleje, Denmark. Photo: Palle Knudsen
Summer is upon us! The most anticipated season of the year has arrived, and the team here at Expat in Denmark, are thrilled to bring you this sunny and warm edition of our newsletter. Vacation is probably at your doorstep, and lunchboxes, early mornings and late meetings, will be replaced by (hopefully) sleeping in and freedom to explore and enjoy the clearing sky.

The weather in Denmark is, as you may know, a fairly mixed bag. Summer is the season of smiles, and in Denmark the smiles are extra wide, when the warmth and longer days wash over us. Danes are much more open for socializing, especially after a couple of "private" years, so use the summer to connect with Danes, where they show themselves from the happiest, prettiest and warmest side.

As you might have noticed on our social media platforms, we have decided to narrow in our focus to this newsletter. This will in the future mean a lot of interesting and new initiatives, so stay tuned!
Your feedback on this newsletter is valuable to us so you're always welcome to send it to
The Danish Holiday
Ready for take-off - Denmark. Photo: Mariana Hinic
People working full-time in Denmark, will receive 5 weeks of paid vacation every year. To put 5 weeks into perspective, the average worker in the US, gets only 10 days of paid vacation per year.

When employed in Denmark your workplace will calculate your holiday allowance, but in general you accrue 12.5% of your salary in holiday allowance. This complies with 2.08 days of holiday for every month you are employed. If you are employed on a monthly basis you will furthermore receive a bonus of 1% of your annual salary at the end of the vacation year. (source: lifeindenmark) You can read more in-depth about the Danish holiday rules, by clicking the link to the left at the bottom of this article.

How and when do Danes usually go on vacation?
Using the 5 weeks of vacation sounds easy, but the decision regarding when to use these 5 weeks, could easily become quite the conundrum. This section of the article will provide inspiration and knowledge on how the Danes "do it". The most popular weeks to vacation for Danes, are week 29 and 30. 4 out of 10 workers chose to have their vacation in this period. Apart from these two weeks, a lot of Danes decide their time to vacation according to the school calendar. From the school calendar we get classic periods where Danes choose to take time off. For instance, week 7, has become a notorious holiday week, which includes Danes going to either a mountain top in the alps or a hotel room in Prague. Mountains like Val´Thorens and Alpe d´huez are some of the most popular destinations for the (after)ski enthusiasts. Prague and Denmark have a special relationship in that every year, thousands of high-school (gymnasie) students migrate to the Czechs capital for a week of vacation. This is probably the closest the Danish youth will ever come to the well-known spring-break celebrations of their American counterparts.

The way that Danes choose to vacation is in the meantime, quite the interesting topic to dive into. So lets dive in together!

Camping and is by far the most popular way of spending your (summer)holiday in Denmark. In the month of July alone, more than 2.5 million nights were spent by Danish guests around the country. (source: Statistics Denmark) Although the tendency to go camping is steadily declining, it is still the most popular way to spend your holiday by more than double the next most popular way, which is holiday homes. The amount of Danes choosing to go stay in Denmark for their vacation, has understandably been a lot higher the last couple of years. The pandemic has resulted in people staying in Denmark. 2019 saw only 20% of the Danes choosing to stay in Denmark for their long vacation. That number increased to 66% in 2021. This forced stay has however resulted in a lot of people having their eyes opened to the opportunities and experiences a vacation in Denmark gives.

When the Danes choose to leave the country, there is on destination in particular, that stands out as the most popular one. Spain. The Iberian peninsula is the chosen destination on almost 25% of vacations lasting 4 days or more. The 2nd place is shared by Italy and Greece with less than half the amount of travellers. Traditionally Spain has been the most popular destination. This might have something to do with the fact, that the most popular way of travelling is the beach holiday. And who doesn't want to kick back with a sangria on a sunny beach in Spain?
Work/Life Balance like a Dane
Beach Balance - Denmark. Photo: Gabriel MSDX
Vacation is crucial to you. It is one of the most important pillars of creating a healthy work/life balance. In Denmark we are very focused on creating work-environments, that allow people to balance their private life with their professional life. In the article below this one, we present you with an interview, that engages in the thoughts of a newcomer meeting the Danish work-environment. Among other things, Ram speaks about Danes not always following the 9 to 5 schedule that we all know. This doesn't result in less effectivity in the workplace. It does however present people with the opportunity to pick up their kids from Kindergarten or book an earlier time-slot at the hairdressers. Later in the evening, you can then engage in your professional life again, and finish those tasks you didn't earlier.

The flexibility of the Danish work week also allows for you to work a lot. If you are new in any job, you often feel the need to show your engagement and willingness. This is understandable, and wanting to impress is healthy. But know that the impressing part isn't being at the office longer than the others. You impress through quality, not quantity. If you are not already convinced that you should use the large amount of annual leave that you can earn in Denmark, the following paragraphs hopefully will.

Reduces stress
Using your annual leave allows you to take a well-needed break from the stresses and demands of working life. Disconnecting yourself from meetings, deadlines, and other stressful situations can rejuvenate your mind, meaning you are in a healthier state when you return to work. However, stress usually returns, which is why it’s important to schedule annual leave breaks throughout the year. Taking regular mini breaks can serve as a preventative measure against issues such as depression and burnout, ensuring you are best placed to cope with the strains of an intense working period.

Increases productivity
Using your annual leave can make you more productive when you return to work. Sometimes, taking a step away from a problem allows you to gain a fresh perspective, and equips you with new and creative solutions. Research from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans suggests that using annual leave improves employee productivity by up to 40%, and reduces the risk of sick leave by 28%. So, not only is using your annual leave beneficial for you, but it is also beneficial for your employer, as it ensures they get the best, most productive version of yourself.

Reduces risk of health complications
We all have intense periods at work – deadlines that need to be met, urgent meetings that need to be scheduled, and a rapidly growing inbox of e-mails that require immediate attention. Studies have shown that working at maximum capacity for an extended period puts you at greater risk of severe health complications, such as heart attacks, heart disease and strokes. Taking annual leave is therefore essential for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Improves work-life balance
Dedication and work ethic are important qualities to have to succeed in your career. However, it’s easy to fall into the trap of constantly working, whether it is in the office or at home. While your job is important, it should not be your entire life. Using your annual leave can have a considerable positive impact on your work-life balance and overall mood by giving you more time to bond with your family, socialize and reconnect with friends, or go on that holiday you have always wanted to go on.

The link below will take you to the website of the European Commission, who have written a series of articles about this topic from a general, international focus.

Interview with Ram
Being an international manager in Denmark can pose some challenges. Ram Pattiwar has worked in Denmark for 10 years and here he shares his experiences and best advice with you. You can also learn more about DI’s new network and course for English-speaking managers in Denmark where the participants get insights into Danish work culture and enhance their management skills.

When it comes to being an international manager in a new working culture in Denmark, Ram Pattiwar knows what he is talking about. He has been travelling to - and worked in - up to 25 different countries before he moved from India to Denmark in 2011 to work as Program Manager at FLSmidth. At some point he managed a team of around 20 people across Denmark, Brazil, Germany, India, and USA. Working with people management in various setups has given him quite a lot of experience which he shared with us.

‘Yes’ means yes, ‘no’ means no
“In order to understand another culture, you need to see where you are coming from” Ram says. The Indian work culture is characterized by a high power distance whereas a flat hierarchy is prominent in the Danish work culture. Ram says that Danish employees tend to be very honest and open with their managers: “Where I come from a yes can have many meanings. It can mean ‘yes’, it can mean ‘no’ or it can also mean something in between. In Denmark employees will do a task if they agree to do it. If they cannot do it, they will simply say no”. Ram explains it is a matter of losing face if you say ‘no’ in India. In Denmark you lose face if you do not deliver, he learned. In the beginning of his employment in Denmark he would check up with his employees when he gave them tasks and that surprised them. “I realized that I do not necessarily have to follow up; the employees will do the tasks that we agreed to” he says. “It is in many ways a much more efficient way of working” Ram underlines.

Questions, questions, questions
Speaking of efficiency. One thing that particularly surprised Ram was the fact that many Danish colleagues ask a lot of questions. “To me it was hard to understand why we have to talk so much about a task, discussing it and asking a lot of questions before we began working on it” he says. Ram found it stressful with all these questions, but he realized that they are an expression of people’s curiosity and thoroughness. “I think it is a huge plus that people in Denmark are not afraid to ask back to their manager multiple times. In India you would be worried that you are seen as inefficient to do so” he says and adds: “People in Denmark are not even afraid to ask a question even to their CEO regardless of their own position. You will not find that approach in many other places”. Ram says that this way of working has pushed him as a manager to be clear in his communication and be well-informed. Overall, it adds value to the tasks performed because everyone fully understands what their role is and what is expected of them.

Working 9 to … 3.30?
Ram also really likes the Danish work-life balance although it took some time for him to get used to it. In the beginning of his employment he was the only international manager in the team. 80 % of the employees were leaving on time some even at 3.30 pm, though they were coming in at 9 am. “It was difficult for me to understand and it took some time for me to realize how people could fulfill their job and tasks and how the managers could accept it” he says. Over time he came to understand: “In Denmark it is not common to have someone else to pick up your kids from daycare or school. People have to leave early to do that and then they often work in the evenings instead”. Ram explains that in many other countries people are expected to work longer and extra hours. Performance is measured in working hours spent instead of what is delivered. “That does not necessarily make any sense. At the end of the day what you deliver makes sense. That is what one should be measured upon” Ram says.

Patience and planning
We asked Ram what his advice would be to other international managers. His main advice is not to jump to a conclusion in the beginning: “Things can be surprising, annoying, or even seem perfect but hold on to making judgements on your colleagues and surroundings. If you make judgements with limited knowledge you built that feeling in your mind and it can go on for weeks, months or even years. Give them some time and give yourself some time. Then you will understand why people act as they do”, he says, and he adds that approach helped him a lot when he began his new job in Denmark.
His second advice is to make an action plan and seek information by talking to people and reading about the new culture as every place is different. “Even though you have lived and worked in other countries it does not make you a superhero here” he says and adds: “There is a flat hierarchy in Denmark so you can speak to anyone” he says and adds with a smile: “Asking questions in Denmark is not frowned upon quite the contrary.”
Ram joined a DI course for international managers when he started working in Denmark and it prepared him and helped him understand the Danish model, the culture as well as the work culture: “This course was quite interesting and very helpful. If it is possible you should try to sign up for a thing like this in the beginning of your employment. In that way you understand the people and the culture better already from day one”.
Upcoming events for you
Jutland (Aarhus area)

Do you want to be more active on LinkedIn and expand your network? Join Headstart for a cozy Social Media Café

Finding it hard to write interesting posts for LinkedIn or making time for it? We will brainstorm ideas, connect with each other and get our keyboards fired up!

This is an informal meetup for expats who are interested in being more active on social media and sharing their experiences.

Come and discover the HEADSTART ambassador network on June 28 from 16:00-18:00 at Lynfabrikken, Vestergade 49B, 8000 Aarhus. Remember to bring your laptop or phone!
Zealand (Copenhagen area)

Summer is upon us and we love when the beaches in Denmark are in use by happy and adventurous families. This Sunday, we encourage you to put on your sunscreen and head to Amager beach. The event is outdoors, but with the possibility to seek shelter in case of rain.

We suggest you bring your own lunch, so that you can enjoy the beautiful environment in your own pace.

Come and join the people at Naturcenter Amagerstrand, who will assist you in your crab-adventure.

The event will take place every day during the summer from 10:00-15:00 at Øresundsstien 7, 2300 Kbh S.

Zealand (Copenhagen area)

Join this after-hour networking event and experience Copenhagen from above. The event is organised by Copenhagen Capacity and they encourage you to join them on top of Amager Bakke.

Be introduced to the booming business possibilities within the sustainable building industry in the Greater Copenhagen Region.

Watch the stunning views and enjoy refreshments while networking with peers. Please note that the event is for professionals in the sustainable construction and smart city industry.

Click the top link to register for the event, which will take place on July 3 at Copenhill Rooftop, Copenhagen from 19:30-22:30.