Dynamic business culture: the UK vs. Germany vs. the Nordics

The nations of Northern Europe have much in common; large, powerful economies, liberal and social democracies, open minds and forward-thinking attitudes.

When it comes to business, however, there are some huge differences in culture that are important to understand. Research conducted by Richard D. Lewis, a British linguist and communications expert, highlights some of the key elements of negotiation style country by country:

Germany

On the whole, the German business approach is extremely straightforward, direct and logical. Both parties are expected to do their due diligence before a negotiation, amassing evidence and clarifying their points prior to any debate. Germans like to work through problems by realistic examinations of facts before working towards cautious, yet firm and pragmatic agreements.

Great Britain and Northern Ireland

The Brits and the Irish have a penchant for understated, excessively polite and occasionally humorous negotiation tactics that can often leave their more direct business partners at a loss. This style can either be extremely effective or completely fail to meet it’s objectives, depending on how it’s deployed. However, similar to the other countries of Northern Europe, Brits value clarity, punctuality and an understanding of the facts and technical details of the situation – they might just take longer to directly state their goals.

Sweden

Mr. Lewis identified the Swedes’ discussion techniques as amongst the most holistic and wide-ranging in Northern Europe, often bringing in points which might otherwise be glossed over. Following an open discussion, negotiations will tend to be simple and clear. The Nordic nations value a direct approach towards language, and Sweden is no exception.

Denmark

Denmark appears to have adopted a blend of styles, a combination that has proved particularly effective in business negotiations. Danes are meticulous about evidence similar to the approach taken by many Germans. At the same time they take broad consideration of the evidence like their neighbours, the Swedes. They mix this with a tendency to talk around, or avoid if you prefer, certain sensitive points like the Brits. There have been several high profile business cases proving the Danish negotiation approach in recent years.

Of course, these are generalisations and not a description of how every nation will operate. However, thinking about how cultural differences might affect your negotiation tactics can be a powerful tool for understanding the current economic and political landscape of Europe.

Goodwille work with helping companies from the Nordic and Germanic region enter into the UK market. With 20 years of experience bridging the gap between our clients’ home market and the UK, we can help your businesses with the transition into the UK to ensure a smooth entry. If you are thinking about expanding your business to the UK, get in touch with us today to find out how we can help you. 

3 key ways UK businesses differ from Nordic businesses

Every country has its own way of supporting business development, but there are some big differences between UK operations and those in the Nordic community.

Tax and VAT

The UK fiscal tax year ends on 31st March (and 5th April for individuals), whereas Nordic countries use the calendar year with flexibility for companies to use alternative dates if they’d prefer. At 20%, standard VAT in the UK is much lower than that of the Nordics’ 24-25%, though obviously there are concessions on certain goods.

UK Corporation Tax is currently set at 20%, whereas Denmark (22%), Norway (25%) and Sweden (22%) all pay higher rates; only Iceland and Finland match UK levels. Make sure you have access to good quality financial services to understand the intricacies of UK law, and keep on top of your accountancy needs.

Maternity and paternity leave for employees

The UK asks that a new mother takes at least two weeks’ leave after giving birth (and more in factory environments). However, a mother’s leave can last up to 52 weeks, with 26 considered ‘Ordinary’ and the rest as ‘Additional’. According to the OECD, the average UK maternity payment rate is 31.3% of the mother’s normal earnings; all Nordic countries offer a higher percentage of earnings as maternity pay, and in Norway that figure is 98.7%.

The Nordics typically have a high uptake of paternal leave, whereas many new fathers in the UK don’t have a shared parental leave or paternal leave option. Considerations like these will affect your HR strategy.

Hierarchy and business manner

Many businesses in Denmark, Norway and Finland have a flat management hierarchy, where any employee – no matter how junior – can raise concerns with very senior staff, a bit like Goodwille. In contrast, most UK businesses have a taller hierarchy with less interaction between CEOs and general employees.

Furthermore, UK business relies on plenty of written communication; corporate deals rarely rely on verbal agreement alone. However, verbal agreements are legally binding in countries like Iceland and Sweden.

If you bear these factors in mind when you’re expanding your company, you’ll be well equipped for the future.

Goodwille help Nordic businesses get started in the UK and can help with all the practical and cultural advice you need to get off to a good start in the UK market. Get in touch with us today to find out more.