Mar 01, 2023

GIX Denmark: Experiencing Community and Cooperation in Copenhagen

By Samuel Gray T’23 & Sarah Jolley T’23

T’23s Samuel Gray and Sarah Jolley reflect on some of the core values of Danish culture—including community, cooperation, and trust—that they experienced during their December 2022 GIX course in Copenhagen.

Samuel Gray

Samuel Gray T’23

Prior to taking off for my GIX in Copenhagen, I stopped to think, about how much you can really learn about a new country in nine days, on a trip with a relatively homogenous group of your peers, meeting with a relatively homogenous group of local business leaders, on a carefully curated itinerary approved by your MBA program.

This was my biggest question before we left for the trip and, well … a whole heckuva lot it turns out. Looking back, one of my biggest concerns was that I would place too much weight on what I discovered in the limited number of interactions we would have during our short time in Denmark. To do so would be to risk projecting the natural idiosyncrasies of a small group of people onto the beliefs and values of a country of approximately six million individuals. And yet to overdo it, to dismiss everything I saw and heard as merely human variation, would be similarly unhelpful. So, what did I learn?

I learned about hygge, a defining characteristic of Danish culture, roughly meaning “a quality of coziness that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.” It’s something that has always subconsciously resonated with me but that I now hope to incorporate into my own life more deliberately. I learned about Danish national pride, which I never expected to manifest itself so openly, coming from a preconceived (and potentially unfounded?) notion of Scandinavian culture as generally quite reserved—which is why I was quite surprised to see it both explicitly, through the ubiquitous Danish flags, and implicitly, through the love for their country apparent across our many hosts. I learned how truly world-leading Denmark is when it comes to the fight against climate change, and how refreshing it looks when riding a bike to work is the default mode of transportation. I learned about my classmates, during bus rides and games of cards; during lunches and dinners; during early mornings and late nights. And I learned about myself.

So how exactly did this experience shape my thoughts on our remaining time in Hanover? I’ll pick just two things. While it is getting ever easier to spend more and more time with those here at Tuck whom I have already become close with, GIX reiterated that I need to continue to push myself to reach out and make connections to those I haven’t yet gotten the chance to interact with as much. Almost every day I hear something that makes me re-appreciate what an incredible diversity of thought and experience my classmates bring, and I know I’ll regret it if I don’t make a deliberate effort to continue to learn and get to know better those around me.

And otherwise? It was a reminder to continue to stop and reflect on how lucky I am to be here right now. It’s something that often gets lost in the day-to-day chaos of being a student here at Tuck, but it’s true that there will likely never again be two more transformative years of my life, as professional and family commitments take up increasing amounts of my bandwidth, and some days it’s helpful to really sit back and acknowledge how fortunate I am to be in this position. The world can always use a little more gratitude.

Sam is from London, Ontario, Canada, and attended Williams College as an undergrad where he was an economics and psychology double major and a member of the Men’s Varsity Ice Hockey team. Prior to Tuck, he worked in management consulting in New York City across a range of industries and functional natures. At Tuck, he is a captain of the A/B Hockey Team and Golf Club. Sam enjoys rounds of golf at Woodstock Country Club, biographies, live music, and perfectly-fit jeans.

Sarah Jolley

Sarah Jolley T’23

Coming from a background in federal consulting in the U.S. and having studied Political Economy as an undergrad, I was particularly interested in the topic of the Denmark GIX—the interplay between the state, market, and consumers. The objective of this GIX was to get a sense of how the Danish model of expansive government and extensive taxpayer-financed welfare system works, the challenges it faces, and whether it can remain sustainable and relevant as the world ventures further into the 21st century.

While I knew that Denmark, along with other Nordic countries, tends to stand out in global comparisons as one of the happiest, least corrupt countries with strong commitments to diversity, equality, non-discrimination, and environmental concerns, I had never visited any of the Nordic countries or thought deeply about how and why the Danish model works.
Upon landing in Copenhagen, I was immediately struck by how convenient it was to get around the city, some delicious porridge at Torvehallerne (a farmers’ market where I also witnessed parents leaving their babies unattended in their strollers), and an incredibly hygge bar where, by candlelight (of course), we watched Denmark’s loss to Australia in the group stages of the World Cup. Within these first few hours in Copenhagen, I had already experienced representations of some of the core values of Danish society—a sense of community and cooperation, a culture of trust, and general openness to visitors.

As our GIX unfolded, I learned about how the deeply ingrained values of cooperation, consensus-building, and trust impact the operations of Danish businesses as well as allow for an expansive welfare system and competitive and innovative economy simultaneously. In addition to speaking with Tuckies like Ulrik Schack T’94 and Ambassador Alan Leventhal T’76, who live and work in Denmark, I feel fortunate to have chosen a GIX led by a Dane who splits time between Copenhagen and Hanover—our professor, Hanne Pico Larsen.

Professor Larsen provided the opportunity for us to connect with Danes in both government and world-leading corporations and to spend time debating and synthesizing our understanding of Danish culture and business practices in a truly unique way. Prospective students should know that the TuckGO requirement is truly a deep dive into a topic and—while we live in the middle of the woods of New Hampshire—it enables Tuckies to develop deep cultural awareness and the agility to navigate different business environments.

Sarah graduated from Georgetown University in 2017 with a B.A. in political economy and art history. Prior to Tuck, she spent four years at Deloitte’s Government and Public Services practice in Washington, DC where she helped federal and non-profit clients with end-to-end human-centered design sprints and strategy development. At Tuck, Sarah has been a Maynard Entrepreneurship Fellow, Tuck-Magnuson Startup Incubator participant, and Center for Digital Strategies Associate. She is also a huge fan of Tripod Hockey, Tuck Winter Carnival, and Soccer Club.

Global Insight Expeditions (GIXs) help students develop cultural awareness, empathy for the thoughts and attitudes of local people, and agility to adapt their behavior to successfully navigate different business environments through structured reflection. Each course begins with classroom sessions on Tuck’s campus. Students then travel with one or two faculty members where they engage with corporate leaders, entrepreneurs, community leaders, government officials, and local people from different walks of life.