Establishing first work-contact with a Dane
Writing your first mail to somebody you don't know is a bit tricky. Will it be seen as spam, will it be seen intrusive, will the contained message reach the people at all? Our cultural background plays very much into how we write such a letter or email and we are most likely to write it in a manner common in our country, which may not work out well in another country.
In this article we will look into what to do and what not to do in Denmark when contacting somebody for the first time in regards to work-related topics. This can refer to situations when you are looking for a job, when you approach somebody in regards to networking, when you contact a potential customer. In all three cases you want people to read your mail.
I will share some examples from emails I have received which do not work well in Denmark and will give some suggestions of what you could do better. You can find more suggestions in the book Business-Dances with Danes. Decoding Danish workplace culture.
"First thank you for taking your precious time to read my e-mail. I hope that I am not disturbing you."
This sounds too respectful for Danish taste. In Denmark people are equal, there should not be hierarchy. If you approach people in a too respectful manner it can be perceived that you are introducing hierarchy by placing you lower.
"Please receive this mail and give it a due consideration."
In a way, this pharsing sounds subdued. In that case see above. But it can also be perceived as brazen. By asking people explicitely to give your email due consideration it can be read as if they would not do that otherwise, as if they maybe don't do their job properly. Not a good start.
"I hope that this email finds you well."
Do not use this phrasing until you know the people you write to somewhat better. It may be perceived as too personal. Danes make a strong separation between work and private life. How they are is not something they talk about much at work and defintely not with people they don't know well. If you approach them that way it may also raise suspicion that you try to get friendly with them for the only reason as you want something from them. That can be perceived somewhat dishonest. Consindering the fact that trust and being genuine is important for Danes such an approach will backfire.
"I wanted to get in touch with you regarding topic xxx. I hope you don’t mind this out of the blue email! ... I hope that you do not mind me running this past you?"
Don't excuse yourself for getting in touch and for sure not several times in one email. It may be perceived as if you are introducing heirarchy, or that you are trying to hide something and therefore raise suspicion. This is in any case not something you want to be the first impression when you get in touch with sombody who doesn't know you.
Knowing what NOT to do in Danish work places is good, but you also need to know what works, right?
This is what we are looking at now.
In any culture we use introductory sentences to make a connection, to build a "bridge" to a person we don't know. The introductory sentences above may work well in your culture. In Denmark they don't. But also in Denmark you need to build such a connection. How best to do it?
Danes are rather factual and approach many topics direct, therefore doing it in a similar way will work best with them. Why do you get in touch with them? I have highlighted them for a specific reason. Explain why you get in touch exactly with them. You may have read something about their work, about what they are doing. Maybe in a newspaper, on a Webpage or in a LinkedIn group. You may have seen them holding a presentation. Somebody has told you about them. Describe this in a few words.
If you got inspired by what you read about them, you liked their presentations etc - say that. Anybody likes to be appreciated, but don't be too much. Don't praise them too highly. Remember Jantelov. In any case be genuine. Danes perceive easily if you are not.
Describe why is your information relevant to them. What do they get out of what you offer?
- If you are looking for work, describe what your added-value would be for their work. Be somwhat specific.
- If you have a product / service to offer, how can it help them in their own work. Make the information relating to their own context.
- If you want to be connected to them as you want to extend your network, describe what you could help them with. Make sure that what you can offer is relevant to them.
For all of these situations it is important that you have done some research about them, their company or their project. They are busy, they don't have time to do much research and find this out. If you don't make it easy for them to figure this out, they wil disregard your email very fast and your effort gets lost.
Hope these suggestions can help you make more impact when you approach somebody for the first time. Good luck!
More suggestions about work-related topics you find
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