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
This country profile has been produced to give a short overview of some of the key concepts to bear in mind when doing business with contacts in Norway. It is intended to be an aid to business people who have commercial dealings with counterparties in the country but should not be seen as an exhaustive guide to this topic or as a substitute for more substantial research should there be a need.
With this in mind, we have covered the areas which are key to a better understanding of the cultural mindset underpinning business dealings in Norway and which are, quite often, extremely different from the approach and thought processes associated with business in other parts of the world.
Therefore this briefing note is broken into short, bite-sized sections on the following topics: