One of the great things about studying and living in Denmark is the low-hierarchy system in the Danish society. As a student in Denmark, I am quite lucky to be chosen as one of the representatives from Aarhus University for Youth Goodwill Ambassadors of Denmark (YGA), an exclusive network consists of 180 international students in Denmark from 5 universities to network, learn, and to know more about the future career in Denmark. Before attending an international talent conference in Lyngby, Denmark organized by Copenhagen Capacity dedicated for YGA students, what I had experienced about low-hierarchy system in Denmark were only from the university and work scenes.
In the university where I study and in general in all Danish universities, the relationship between students and the professors/teachers is not very formal and more casual. You never need to address your professor with ‘Mr’, ‘Ms’ or ‘Professor’ and you just need to call them with their first name, not even with their last name. And it is very easy to approach them to ask which part you don’t understand from the course material or even when you want to argue them in the class (but make sure that you do it politely as always in any other situations). While in the work scene, it is completely normal and acceptable to sit next to your boss or even big boss and have a casual chat with them during lunch break. It is also normal to do activities together with your boss outside of office hours like having dinner together, play bowling, go to the cinema, etc.
On April 2nd 2016, it was the day when I and the other students under YGA attended an international talent conference in the headquarter of COWI, a large engineering Danish company located in Lyngby, Denmark and before coming there, I checked the program that there will be HRH Prince Joachim of Denmark attending the conference as one of the speakers. Reading that, my imagination told me that His Royal Highness must be escorted by many security guards just like in Indonesia when the President and the Ministers are always escorted by security guards and assistants every time they attend any events with many attendees. And then HRH Prince Joachim arrived and walked onto the stage, I and the other attendees stood up for a while until His Royal Highness sat on the chair. During the talk, moderated by the famous TV2 presenter, Natasja Crone, HRH Prince Joachim shared his experience of living abroad and how he always tried to manage cultural differences in one country and another that was not always easy.
So where are the security guards? It was strange because I did not see any of them in that conference. Maybe they are hiding when HRH Prince Joachim talks and will appear later following HRH Prince Joachim after the talk ends. However, after the talk, few students could actually have some short talks and quick photo session with HRH Prince Joachim flexibly and no security guards forbid them. So although he is a prince and a part of Danish royal family; as a Dane he is quite casual and the stereotyping of Danes who hold low-hierarchy social system is somewhat proven. Don’t imagine too much of casualty anyway for the royal family as much as for other regular Danes, because in Denmark when you speak in Danish to the members of royal family you must be using different and more polite way of language that you only use to the royal family (it is a bit like Javanese language system, maybe).
HRH Prince Joachim really supports the initiative to develop young international talents in Denmark and he also encouraged us to gain more international experiences by working or studying abroad and get immersed at international events where we could interact with people from different nationalities and cultural background like the international talent conference I attended.
The conference was also attended by big companies in Denmark like Maersk Line, Novo Nordisk, Coloplast, COWI, Grundfos, and Microsoft. The discussions at the conference were centered on Denmark as a career destination, work-life balanced in Danish society, and matchmaking with Danish businesses as we also had workshops with some of these big companies.
Youth Goodwill Ambassadors of Denmark
The initiative is a spin-off of the Youth Goodwill Ambassador Program founded by Copenhagen Capacity in close collaboration with Copenhagen Goodwill Ambassador Corps and in a partnership with the Danish universities including University of Copenhagen, Aarhus University, Aalborg University, Copenhagen Business School and the Technical University of Denmark. The project is funded by the EU Social Fund.
Photo Credit: Andreas Andreou
Edited by Artricia Rasyid