Norway is one of the least hierarchical business cultures in the world and this ‘flatter’ approach to company structure is driven from a deeply held belief in egalitarianism.
This egalitarian approach leads to an openness of communication flow within an organisation which may seem anarchic to people from a more command and control, hierarchical culture.
It is important to try to get colleagues to ‘buy-in’ to any new project or idea at an early stage – any attempts to impose an idea without prior consultation may be resisted strongly.
Norwegians will work very effectively within a team environment, so long as the team ethos is seen to be highly inclusive and that the manner does not attempt to be dictatorial.
Meetings can be lengthy affairs as people are expected to contribute to the consensual decision-making process.
Pre-meeting preparation is expected and respected. Arriving unprepared for a meeting will appear highly unprofessional and may lead people to question your ability and authority
As in all consensus-oriented cultures, decision-making can be a slow process. Be patient, as any attempt to speed this process up through avoiding the important discussion stage will probably backfire.
Do not be late. Punctuality is essential and any possible late arrival should be communicated in advance.
Norwegians put business before relationships and business relationships are based on respect for competence and diligence.
Norway is one of the most gender-equal economies in the world and foreign business women will have no difficulty when interacting with Norwegian contacts.
A strong separation is made between work and private life and private time is guarded zealously – especially in the all-too-few months of summer when life is for living.
Although English language levels are generally very high in Norway, it must be remembered that it is still a foreign language. Make sure that you speak English in a way that is easily understood by a non-native speaker.
Norwegians value direct communication and can see overt diplomacy as signs of evasiveness or even dishonesty. Say what you mean.
Silence is valued and respected in Norway. It is not always necessary to speak – especially if there is nothing much to be said. Do not confuse silence with a lack of interest or understanding.
As body language is quite muted in Norway, audiences can appear disinterested or aloof to those used to a more active use of body language. Do not confuse lack of visible response with lack of interest or understanding.
Humour is not expected or particularly appreciated during the discussion of serious topics. There will be ample opportunity for humour after the serious business has been completed.
Norwegians are very conscious of environmental issues and these topics are very often discussed. Be sure to be prepared to talk about you company’s environmental policy.
More emphasis is placed on the written than the spoken word. It is often not enough to phone someone – follow it up in writing.
Although business dining is not a central part of the business cycle in Norway, it is important to entertain well when inviting contacts out for a social event.
Never underestimate the possibility of bad weather in the winter – make sure you pack the right type of clothing and footwear.
Written and Produced by Keith Warburton
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: