Living in an Expat World: In Denmark I (almost) trust

Being on maternity leave really highlights the level of trust in Danish society. Generally, I have slowly adjusted to the high level of trust that permeates Danish society, but still find myself being more sceptical than most Danes – especially when it comes to the safety of my children.

International surveys show that Danes are some of the most trusting people in the world. Trust is actually one of the prime Danish values, whether it’s trust in the system, administration, police, politicians, last but not least, in each other.

Parking your baby
Trust is also the reason why Danes feel safe when walking the streets at night or parents without any concern park their prams – with their baby still in it – outside a café or shop. Even though it is the second time I have had a baby in Denmark, I still cannot do this. I have now reached the stage when I can leave my daughter outside at a friend’s house, but only if I can still see the pram.

I have grown up in a society with a lower level of trust, so adjusting to this level of trust seems impossible. I have little worry walking home alone at night, but I doubt I’ll ever reach the same level of trust when it comes to my children.

Trust = work happiness
However, at work it is a totally different story. I really enjoy the high level of trust in the workplace. The Danish/Scandinavian leadership style is characterised by being humanistic, empowering and trustful.

You are given the responsibility to solve the tasks at hand in the best possible way rather than obeying strict orders. Your manager trusts that you have the qualifications to find the best solution and way of execution, and the level of control is low – it did not take me long to adjust to this way of working.

Trusting in surveys too?
I once heard a professor say that the high level of trust is one of the most significant explanations behind the high levels of happiness in Denmark – as you might know, Denmark has topped the World Happiness Report several times and reclaimed the crown in the 2016 edition.

You can also question surveys like these, and even though I’m not as trusting as the Danes, I’m happy to be on maternity leave in a country where trust and happiness walk hand in hand. Maybe I’ll try and leave my daughter unguarded for just a little while tomorrow.



Belgium’s Tiny Maerschalk, who has worked for the International Community networking platform since its foundation in 2008, knows how it feels to settle in a new country. Dedicated to improving conditions for new arrivals, here she shares her insights about the business issues that mean the most to internationals in Denmark.

  • How internationals can benefit from joining trade unions

    How internationals can benefit from joining trade unions

    Being part of a trade union is a long-established norm for Danes. But many internationals do not join unions – instead enduring workers’ rights violations. Find out how joining a union could benefit you, and how to go about it.

  • Internationals in Denmark rarely join a trade union

    Internationals in Denmark rarely join a trade union

    Internationals are overrepresented in the lowest-paid fields of agriculture, transport, cleaning, hotels and restaurants, and construction – industries that classically lack collective agreements. A new analysis from the Workers’ Union’s Business Council suggests that internationals rarely join trade unions – but if they did, it would generate better industry standards.

  • Novo Nordisk overtakes LEGO as the most desirable future workplace amongst university students

    Novo Nordisk overtakes LEGO as the most desirable future workplace amongst university students

    The numbers are especially striking amongst the 3,477 business and economics students polled, of whom 31 percent elected Novo Nordisk as their favorite, compared with 20 percent last year.