Norway frequently tops the league tables as one of the world’s happiest countries and one of the easiest with which to do business. Norwegians, generally, are highly educated, egalitarian, honest and straightforward. But what does it take to impress them in business?
- Norwegians may seem shy and reserved at first but generally enjoy humor and good conversation, once you get to know them. Their communication style is concise and direct so avoid a heavy sales pitch, do not try to appear flamboyant or flashy and never promise something you can’t deliver.
- Society is unofficially governed by Jante’s Law, or janteloven (a behavior code reflecting the Scandinavian psyche, immortalized by the writer Aksel Sandemose), which values humility, respect for others and modesty. These are taught and celebrated in Norway from an early age. Nowadays, though, there is some resistance to this social norm, with claims that janteloven discourages entrepreneurship and is holding back ambitious young Norwegians.
- Honesty and integrity are essential. Norwegians are not game players. Share information, keep presentations straightforward and to the point and understand the need for consensus. Be open in your negotiations and aim for a win-win outcome. Norwegians are not embarrassed about discussing the cost of a project. They see backwards-and-forwards haggling for the sake of it as insulting and a waste of time.
- Be punctual. Although Norwegians will be forgiving if someone is late, being repeatedly late or cancelling one appointment after another will quickly have you branded as unreliable and not serious.
- Norwegians value good business relationships just as anybody else would but the relationship will not survive if you do not deliver. Norwegians will readily switch to a different supplier or business partner if they feel the arrangement is not working, so do not expect to get by purely on charm and personal relationships.
- Recognise the Norwegian independent spirit. Do not ask personal questions and respect your Norwegian counterpart’s privacy and family time. Employees expect a high degree of autonomy.
- Norway is an egalitarian society where women are, by law, treated the same as men. Many women hold positions of power and feminism is a strong movement. There is still a gender gap, but it is closing. Do not be (or act) surprised to see young women in powerful positions.
- While business entertaining happens, of course, do not expect to be socializing every night after work. Norwegians value family time and tend to switch off from work at the end of the office day. You may be taken out for lunch instead. Evening functions tend to be held to celebrate the closing of a deal.
- Understand the Norwegian relationship to nature. With long, light-filled summers and dark winters when in the far north, the sun may not rise above the horizon for two months, people have adapted. In summer, everybody is out hiking and cycling and enjoying their summer houses, while winter does not mean hibernation. Instead, Norwegians kit up and get out in the snow, even in the dark. Lamps are hung in the windows of every house to mimic the sun (electricity is cheap here) and candles and fires are lit.
- Much has been made recently of the Danish phenomenon of ‘hygge’. The Norwegian equivalent is ‘koselig’ and, while there is no English translation, it means much the same; a sense of comfort, happiness and warmth, easily summed up by situations like a roaring log fire, comfortable clothing, good company and hot chocolate.
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