Phone Manners

Something that has been rumbling away in my head ever since I first heard Michael answer his phone and, more so, now that I moved to Denmark is ‘How do people answer their phones?’


Growing up I was always taught to answer the phone with a variation of ‘Hello. Who am I talking to, please?’. The caller is then expected to identify themselves and who they want to talk to if this is not clear e.g. a family phone. As a kid I was, in fact told to never give out my name before knowing who I was speaking to (if I remember well one of the reasons for this was that if the caller dialled a wrong number they don’t need to know who I am).

To me this is the natural way of answering a phone (unless it is a business line where different rules might apply, such as mentioning the company and who you are, especially if it is likely that a number of people could be answering that same number). This seems to be my impression of most people answering phones in Malta and in the UK.

However, Danish people all answer their phones by stating their name and surname. I find this strange on so many levels. First of all the caller is the one ‘intruding’ into the life of the person who is answering, and the person who holds all the cards in controlling the call at that stage. Therefore, I think it is only polite that they identify themselves first. Also, while the caller probably has a clear idea of who it might be on the other end, the person answering is often caught on the back foot immediately. Furthermore often the caller cannot understand what the first words of a call are, so stating your name becomes very redundant.

Nevertheless I was clearly told (by Danes) that ‘we are not very keen on politeness, but this is the one thing you need to follow’. So I was wondering. How do you answer your phone? And what do you consider to be the polite way?

6 thoughts on “Phone Manners

  1. It’s a tricky one, this. I know I am supposed to give my name and if my name was… Anders Jensen or Mette Mølle say, no problems! There will be a 1 in 15 chance they got the right one even if they misdialled.
    But I am the ONLY person in this whole country with this name. I think, even with my surname. So I answer like this:-

    “Hello???” and I wait.

  2. I try to integrate on every level possible, but this one is still VERY HARD for me….because like you, I FEEL SO RUDE!
    So 9/10, I answer my phone with “HELLO” and then 9/10 a Danish voice starts rattling off something to me in Danish and I have to ask them to repeat it…lol.
    So even my Hello does not freak them out! 🙂

    • I have started trying to do the following: If people call on my work phone during work hours I try and remember and answer with my name and surname, but if the call is on my personal phone or outside work hours I answer with a ‘Hello?’. Hopefully that is an acceptable compromise for myself and for Danes around me

  3. Work I give my name (as I would and did in the UK and Canada). With caller ID, I tend to not answer the phone if I don’t know the number but if I do answer it, it is only with hello.

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