Students win prestigious award

Two students from Aarhus BSS receive a prestigious award for their paper on the integration of Scandinavian corporate culture in China

2015.06.16 | Julia Rolsted Stacey

Photo: Julia Rolsted Stacey, Aarhus BSS Communication.

In 2014, Malte Carøe Frederiksen and Nikolai Kold both took a break from their student lives at Aarhus BSS to spend some time in China working on their last project on the BSc programme in economics and business administration. Today they are both students on the MSc in international business.

Two former BSc students have been awarded the Danish Export Association Bachelor Award. The award will be presented to Malte Carøe Frederiksen and Nikolai Kold at an event on 19 June at Aarhus BSS. Malte Carøe and Nikolai Kold ceased the opportunity to go to China to write their final project on the BSc in economics and business administration. Their paper is about the difficulties a Scandinavian company may encounter when trying to gain a foothold in China.

Crucial to understand the Chinese mindset

According to Malte Carøe Frederiksen and Nikolai Kold, the greatest challenge for a Scandinavian company seeking to establish itself in China is overcoming the cultural differences between the countries. Scandinavian employees typically come from a Protestant background, and the Chinese employees have a very different set of values. The Chinese mindset is often referred to as the Confucian mentality, and it has a great influence on Chinese society and is considered to be the very basis on which Chinese culture is built.

“Where a Scandinavian person might find something to be ‘right or wrong’, a person with a Confucian mentality will most likely place emphasis on ‘sin and shame’,” explains Nikolai Kold.

Focus on the challenges

Malte Carøe Frederiksen proceeds to explain that they came across other problematic aspects during their round of interviews and the follow-up process.

“To be successful, an important and maybe even decisive factor for Scandinavian companies is that they need to be aware that there are certain cultural differences that may influence their work,” says Nikolai Kold.

  • Chinese companies are more hierarchically structured. The level of communication between employees and management is not as refined as in Scandinavian companies. This means that Chinese employees are less used to having to inform their managers about their work.
  • Scandinavian companies focus more on long-term planning than Chinese companies and seek to establish consensus to a greater extent. Moreover, Chinese managers are not used to cooperating with others when making major management decisions. The boss is considered omniscient. Chinese employees may also be assigned areas of responsibility that they are not familiar with.
  • Chinese companies have a tendency to focus more on relations than legislation compared with Scandinavian companies. The legal system in China is not as strong as in Denmark. Personal relations are very important to the Chinese.
  • To run a business in China, you need to understand the concept of Guanxi. There is a fine line between Guanxi and corruption, and Guanxi is very hard to grasp.
  • Chinese workers have difficulty putting their foot down or owning up to having problems, because they are afraid of losing face. This may cause problems to increase before they are even detected. On the contrary, Scandinavian managers expect their employees to provide input or feedback and to let them know if they are experiencing any problems.

According to Nikolai Kold and Malte Carøe Frederiksen, it is important to remember that China is a large and diverse country. Scandinavian companies need to remind themselves that China is not a uniform entity.

“There may be even greater differences between people in different parts of China than between people in China and Denmark.  We would therefore like to emphasise that companies may need to conduct more locally targeted analyses when seeking to establish themselves in China,” says Malte Carøe Frederiksen.

Ceased the opportunity

Prior to their trip to China, Malte Carøe Frederiksen and Nikolai Kold were on exchange programmes in Taiwan and Vienna respectively. This meant that they did not have a lot of time to prepare for their trip. However, their supervisor Siri Bøe-Lillegraven from the Department of Management was able to help them via email, and Malte Carøe Frederiksen and Nikolai Kold got off to a good start reading articles and finding companies that were relevant for their project.

Before they left, Malte Carøe Frederiksen had been in contact with a Scandinavian consultancy firm, and through impressive outreach work they managed to get in contact with several interesting companies and complete a series of interviews about the integration of Scandinavian corporate culture in China.

Nikolai Kold and Malte Carøe Frederiksen have written a case-based paper on a theoretical topic focusing on, among other things, the cultural differences, supplemented with knowledge gathered in Scandinavian companies based in China.

Further information

Malte Carøe Frederiksen,

Nikolai Kold,

Talent development