Excerpted from the Norway Career Guide
To understand Norwegians, one must understand the natural environment in which they live. Considered among the most beautiful places on earth, Norway is also a harsh land of cold, snow, fjords and isolation. Norwegians are proud of living so closely to nature and their relationship with the natural world informs their national identity. The most northerly European country, Norway enjoys one of the world's highest standards of living. Norwegians are proud of their prosperity, egalitarianism and independence. Norway is not a member of the European Union, although it is an important trading partner through the European Economic Area.
Norwegians are in love with nature and very keen on outdoor activities. More than half of all Norwegians have access to a simple cabin in the woods where they go on the weekends and during the holidays. Norwegians also enjoy 'right of access,' meaning that everyone has legal access to open country (uncultivated land), even if it is private property. Skiing is enormously popular. Norway developed skiing approximately 4,000 years ago, and the word ski is Norwegian.Skiing was and remains an easy and practical way to get around for people of all ages. Schools even organize obligatory ski days. Handball and football (soccer) are other popular sports in Norway.
Norwegians are direct communicators and strive to be sincere and honest in their dealings. They tend to be reserved and do not speak to strangers unless necessary. Emotional displays are infrequent, and showing anger is especially frowned upon. However, lively conversations fueled by alcohol appear to be the exception, and Norwegians tend to be more accepting of emotional displays under such circumstances. Deliberate in their speech, Norwegians do not appreciate being rushed.
If You Want to Act Like a Local...
If invited to a Norwegian cottage, be aware there may not be any electricity, gas or plumbing. Also, toilets may be outdoors.
The Norwegian business environment is much more informal than in the rest of Europe. Colleagues and management are usually addressed by first name only. Even some senior executives insist on being called by their first name. Norwegians tend to keep business and personal relations separate, resulting in a reserved but pleasant business environment. There is little small talk in the office. Instead, Norwegians are very direct and get straight to the point. They are goal oriented. They dislike being in debt and are known to return favors, even small ones among friends, rather quickly.
Competent, approachable managers do well in Norway. Leadership and a strong work ethic are valuable qualities to have, creativity less so, since Norwegian society prefers the tried and true. Although academic qualifications and prior work experience are valued, it is essential the manager can be trusted by his or her subordinates. The Norwegians aim at achieving consensus in business matters. This can be frustrating for expatriates, because consensus decision making takes much longer to achieve. Decisions can also take some time, because Norwegians will not rush to make them; rather, they look at all possible options first. Once a decision is made, it is seldom changed.
It is not essential to develop personal relationships in order to do business with Norwegians. However, it is very important to establish trust. Confidence and self-assurance are respected, while overfriendliness may appear insincere. During business meetings Norwegians are straightforward and direct. Generally, they are ready to talk business after only a few minutes of small talk.
Women in the Workplace
A foreign business manager working in Norway can expect to find many women in management positions. Women in business can expect to be treated with respect. As in most of Scandinavia, there is no open discrimination. Norwegian women are found in every aspect of the business community and hold high positions in both government agencies and private corporations. Foreign businesswomen should have no problem inviting a Norwegian man out to dinner and paying the bill.
This is just a short sample of what you’ll find in over 100 pages of information in the complete Norway Guide.