Norwegian Communication Styles

Not many people outside Norway speak Norwegian and, as a result, Norwegians have become extremely proficient foreign language speakers.

It is not at all uncommon for your Norwegian counterpart to speak three or four foreign languages and English language levels are almost universally good.

Plain speaking is prized and the more diplomatic approach to communication which can be found in many of the Asian countries, (as well as the UK), can be viewed as evasiveness or even as dishonesty. If you want to convince a Norwegian, tell him the facts in a straightforward and direct manner. Norwegians will tell you they disagree when they do – and they expect the same courtesy from you.

Try not to oversell a product or an idea. Be objective in your discussions and do not be afraid to point out any weakness in your argument – this level of honesty will bring you respect and is much more likely to reap rewards than a more self-promotional approach.

Silence is golden throughout most of Scandinavia. More is less, so if you don’t have anything to say, dont speak! Do not feel the need to fill any silence with conversation. Silence is often used as thinking time and the prelude to what will be said next.

Body language is quite minimal but do not take the lack of any overt signs of interest as disinterest. Reserve is a highly prized characteristic and it would be foolish to interpret lack of emotion as a sign of boredom or as lack of attention.

A brief overview of some key concepts to consider when doing business in Norway

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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Norway (and Norwegians) like to maintain a sense of independence and separateness. The country’s geographical position probably helps foster this feeling of apartness and the country’s abundance of natural resources has enabled Norway to become relatively self-sufficient as a nation. Thus Norway has avoided full membership of the European Union preferring to arrange its own special relationship with the bloc which allows it to benefit from the benefits of quasi-membership without having to surrender its sovereignty.

Rich in North Sea oil and blessed with renewable energy sources Norway boasts an enviably high standard of living which supports a superb national infrastructure, excellent education and a world-class public health service. Norwegians have every right to be proud of what a country with such a small population has been able to achieve.

All of these factors point towards Norway being an attractive place to do business. However, doing business in Norway is not without its challenges. An understanding of Norwegian attitudes and approaches to business can help you to develop key relationships and build a sustainable business model. Interpersonal relationships in Norway tend to be governed by a code of conduct referred to as Jante Law and it is well worth gaining an insight into the key tenets of this law – it will help explain a lot of the issues you encounter in Norway.

Who is the best person to speak to within a Norwegian organisation? Should you go straight to the top or is it better to find the subject matter expert? What form of communication works best in Norway and what sales approach should you take?

This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of Norwegian business culture in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on:

  • Background to business
  • Business Structures
  • Management style
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Women in business
  • Entertaining
  • Top tips