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Trust – The Danish Competitive Advantage

Author: Thomas Mulhern

We often hear that trust is the competitive advantage of Denmark. On the Global Denmark Podcast, trust is also a theme that often emerges from our conversations with our expert guests. Whether we are discussing business, leadership, happiness, well-being, or international experiences, trust plays a significant role.

Denmark’s particular relation with trust sometimes makes this value taken for granted by the Danes. I recall the fascinating dialogue on Global Denmark Podcast with our honored guest, Gert Tinggaard Svendsen, who is a researcher on the notion of trust at the University of Aarhus. Inspired by his supervisor in the US, Gert became curious about the role of trust in Denmark – how did it come to be so integrated into the Danish culture?

In the article “Global Denmark: Denmark – the capital of trust” published on November 24th on the Copenhagen Post, I outlined the origin of trust based on Gert’s research and his book “Trust,” namely the significant three components: cultural heritage, the welfare state, and political stability. These elements are, to some degree, interrelated and help reinforce one another. The culture of co-ops and associations in Denmark relies heavily on trust to function. This heritage leads to open networking, and works as one of the pillars of today’s welfare system. People living in periods of long-term stable and transparent democracy tend to exhibit a higher level of trust. This trust between individuals and trust in the system makes it possible for the welfare model to continue taking care of the country. It also attracts foreign investments, which brings in global business and talents that contribute to economic growth.

While all seems good, challenges tend to surface when Denmark takes in these global talents. People growing up with different backgrounds may not have experienced trust at the same level as Danes growing up under the cultural heritage, the welfare state, and political stability mentioned before. To understand the challenges, we have to focus on and ask the right questions.

How can internationals understand the notion of trust in Denmark and learn to appreciate it? And more importantly, how can internationals then enter the Danish circle of trust to truly integrate into the society? An integrated expat experiences better well-being, which ultimately leads to higher performance at his or her workplace. This also contributes to innovation and economic growth for the Danish society. Therefore, it is something that should be taken very seriously.

On the other hand, how can Danes open their circle of trust to internationals? How can Danes help expats integrate? Danes can play a role in expanding the trust circle.

In order for Denmark to leverage the precious capital of trust it must become more inclusive. Expanding the circle of trust will lead to greater attraction and retention of talent and thus the increased thought diversity that will lead to increased innovation and growth at all levels.