Ethnic groups: 81 percent Norwegian, 2 percent Sami, 17 percent other
Language: Norwegian (official), Sami, English (universal), German, French, Spanish (very common), Russian, Japanese, Italian, Latin, Chinese (less common)
Currency: Norwegian Krone
National holidays: Moveable Thursday, Moveable Friday (Good Friday), Moveable Sunday (Easter Sunday), Moveable Monday (Easter Monday), May 1 (Labour Day), May 17 (Constitution Day), Ascension Day (39 days after Easter, on Thursday), Pentecost (49 days after Easter, on Sunday), Whitmonday (50 days after Easter, on Monday), December 25 (Christmas Day), December 26 (St. Stephen’s Day), January 1 (New Year’s Day)
Business hours: 9am – 4/5pm weekdays, 9am-7pm Thursdays
Most people in Norway are proficient in common languages as Norwegian is not spoken widely outside the country. However, Norwegian is still the official language and some parts of the country still speak Sami languages. The majority of inhabitants will be fluent in English, which is the main language taught in school.
Norway’s political and social makeup is free and open, and communication works the same way. Direct, truthful communication is highly prized – diplomacy can be seen as a sign of disrespect as there is a common belief that that everyone should speak their mind.
Arguments should be direct and fact-filled. Don’t be afraid to disagree with a Norwegian; open disagreement is common and encouraged. In fact, you can even identify your own weaknesses as this will garner respect. Avoid the ‘hard sell’ – Norwegians are looking to be convinced with facts.
Despite the openness of communication, don’t be put off by non-committal body language. ‘Reserved’ communication is common, so don’t look for signs of emotional investment as you may not find any. You should also get comfortable with silence – some Western societies view it as a bad thing but it is considered normal and acceptable in Norway.
Norway is a very egalitarian, equal society and this extends into business. Business structures are non-hierarchical, the same as in other Scandinavian countries, and everyone is regarded as equal. There is an emphasis on producing efficient systems that allow everyone to work productively without interference.
Because of this, avoid going on seniority when choosing who you should speak to. Finding the person most suited to the task within the ‘system’ is likely to yield much better results. It’s also less likely to cause offence – approaching someone based on seniority may be seen as disrespectful.
Meetings reflect the egalitarian nature of Norwegian society – everyone’s opinion will be heard, and everyone will be expected to offer empirical evidence to back up their points. As such meetings can easily overrun. Because of this it’s also important to schedule meetings in advance, so that all participants have enough time to prepare.
Punctuality is very important; it’s unlikely that lateness will be tolerated. At the very least, it will earn you disrespect, so it’s very important to call ahead if you are delayed. Agendas are produced and followed to closely.
Interruptions are seen as disrespectful, so it’s important to let everyone speak. Raise your hand slightly if you have a point to make during someone else’s time.
Team work is naturally important in Norwegian society; its emphasis on egalitarianism and non-hierarchical structures ensures people are clued up on how teams prosper. However, it’s important that everyone ‘buys in’ to the way teams work i.e. that power is de-centralised. While it’s good to have a team leader, they must consult and nurture rather than make rules. They are unlikely to supervise as this may be seen as a lack of trust, therefore each member of the team must be able to work on their own tasks individually.
First things first, people in Norway tend to make judgements based on professionalism and manner rather than clothing. Business clothing tends to reflect the country’s non-hierarchical nature. Smart casual dress is most common for both men and women, partnered with good personal hygiene and cleanliness. This should include gloves, scarf and hat in the winter as Norway can get very cold. Avoid very personal or expensive tastes.