International Experiences – Wilbert’s Story

This is the story told by Wilbert van de Ven, who is from the Netherlands but 7 years ago moved to Greater Aarhus, Denmark. Wilbert tells why he came to Denmark and what made him stay. He further narrates about the major similarities and differences he experience between Danes and Dutch people. Finally, Wilbert shares his opinions about the Danish work environment.


Career Opportunities and Unique Working Culture 

Hi, my name is Wilbert van de Ven and I’m Program Director Integrated Solutions at Grundfos. I’m from the Netherlands and this is the story about what brought my family and I to Denmark and what made us stay for 5 years now.


I came to Denmark to work at Grundfos back in 2013. Our family had decided it was time for a change and experience working abroad for some time. Although admittedly, Denmark was not on our short list of dream countries, I was attracted by the job at Grundfos and decided to go for the interviews. Grundfos then managed to hook me due to its focus on research and technology, working culture, its values and the high-quality levels. Grundfos is the largest pump manufacturer in the world with its headquarters in Bjerringbro, about an hour west of Aarhus. I started in the R&D center as the head of research and moved into a more commercial role now where I handle product management of our upcoming integrated digital offerings.


Having been in Grundfos for 5 years now, I increasingly value working there. I have had a lot of opportunities to develop myself in the job – I have had 3 different jobs in different areas, and furhtermore the opportunity to obtain an EMBA degree in Switzerland. Like many other Danish companies, Grundfos is a foundation owned company and although we of course need to produce a healthy bottom line, we do this with a great focus on the planet and people. We actively drive global sustainability agendas and create employment opportunities for people with special needs.

Wilbert van de Ven and his children
EMBA graduation day
Family time at Hald Sø, Viborg
Blokhus beach with my family

Cultural Similarities and Work-Life Balance

Due to my experiences from living and working in Denmark for 5 years now, I find there to be both differences and similarities between Danes and Dutch people. 


Generally, I think that the Netherlands and Denmark are very similar. People think in more or less the same way, have the same values, and lead pretty similar lives. On the positive side for Denmark, I would say that it feels there is a lot more space here, hardly any traffic, and a better work-life balance than in the Netherlands. What I miss from the Netherlands is the openness of the Dutch as well as the diversity and outgoingness. Danes have a focus on close friendship and relations and it takes time and effort to really become part of society in Denmark.


Quality is high on the agenda in Denmark and you can feel that in many things here. Going out for food is, albeit expensive, a great experience. For our family, Denmark has lots to offer. We love the beaches (in all seasons) and for example going to Legoland. Denmark is also a very safe country for children to grow up in. Our children are in an international school, which is relatively affordable in Denmark, and this was one of the key decision factors for us to come (and stay) here.

People Focus and People Empowerment

My experience with the Danish work environment is very positive. The transition for me into a leadership position here in 2013 was seamless and I quickly felt completely at ease. This is largely due to the similarities in how we work with people. Dutch and Danish leadership styles are people focused, have a certain disregard for authority and formal lines, a strong desire to delayer the organization and empower people at all levels in the organization. I felt immediately accepted by my colleagues and people really judge you on the skills you bring to the table. The conviction that people are the biggest assets of Danish companies, we also spend time to get to know each other and discuss how we can work collaborate.


Maybe one downside of the corporate culture is that the social network in organizations is usually complex and you get very little done without it. We really need to be conscious not to spend too much time in alignment meetings and fora.


The excellent work-life balance in Danish companies is possible due to the high efficiency and productivity. I like also that people are very proud of the companies they work for – and there are so many great companies in Denmark, with products that are known across the world. I am in the middle of Grundfos’ digital transformation and things around the world are changing fast. It is probably the most exciting time to work for a high-end manufacturing company and I am quite certain that Danish companies are well positioned to be on the forefront of positive changes in the world.

Teambuilding with my research team
Teambuilding in Grenaa with the technology and innovation team