Whether you are planning a business trip to Norway, relocating or setting up a new business here, an understanding of Norwegian business culture, could really help you off to a good start. This is key to quickly build a sustainable business and to settle in.
Norwegian business culture is to a certain extent based on general Norwegian working values. Some of the main work values are equality, trust and flat structures. Why is this so?
Norwegians believe that equality and trust are the basis of competent, responsible and productive workplaces. Essentially, all of this is good for business. As a result of this belief, most firms aim for a flat and non-hierarchical structure. Important decisions for the firm are often made in groups, and staff will be consulted and involved in the process.
Managers at the workplace are expected to act more as coaches and facilitators than as authoritarian figures. The flat structure and the general openness should be used as a tool to achieve results and not considered a threat.
Equality between the genders is practiced and valued in all aspects of society including business life. This means you can expect to meet both women and men working as senior managers or staff. Women are equal partners.
Since equality in general is valued, it is important to be keep in mind that titles and symbols of power are not very important in Norway, as opposed to in many other countries. Use of titles can in some situations be considered old fashioned.
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Business meetings and negotiations
Appointments could be made by phone or by e-mails as far in advance as possible, prior to the first meeting. Appointments made over the phone are often confirmed in writing. The basic business style is relatively informal, but nevertheless, meetings should be very well prepared, since this indicates that you are serious about your agenda. Agendas should be sent in advance to allow the business partners in Norway to prepare for the meeting
While in a business meeting, you may experience that negotiations are moving ahead quickly, as many Norwegians do not need long-standing personal relationships in order to conduct business. However, they prefer to do business with those they trust. To appear trustworthy and reliable in all aspects, is a great advantage when approaching Norwegian businesses.
Find out how Magnus Legal can help you succeed when doing business in Norway.
Oral agreements and written contracts are mutually binding according to Norwegian law. Agreements can sometimes be entered into quickly, with just a short email or even just a handshake, since the trust aspect is so distinct. If the necessary trust is there, a Norwegian business man or woman will shake hands with you, trusting that the parties will draft the paperwork afterwards. Keep in mind however that most of the larger firms have a more formal approach, and that many are moving in the direction of more “American style” contracts, with quite extensive paperwork.
Norwegians in general do not expect a lot of bargaining, neither in their private affairs or in business life. When negotiating, it is expected that you present a firm, realistic and competitive initial price. Aggressive bargaining will probably get you nowhere and may generate resistance among your Norwegians counterparts.
Dress code and office environment
The office environment is normally rather informal with a casual or business casual dress code. This is however one of the things that will vary from where you are in the country, keeping in mind that firms in the largest cities normally practise a more conservative dress code, with dresses and dark coloured suits with shirt and tie.
Greetings in the office are done with a first name basis, and business partners will also normally speak to each other by using the first name.
If you address someone you do not know in an email it is common to use the full name, but very often you will quickly move on to address each other on a first name basis.
Practical advice and “nice-to-know”
Meetings should be set up beforehand and confirmed by e-mail or telephone. Punctuality is valued since it indicates trustworthiness, and it is considered impolite to be late to meetings. If you are running late to a meeting, even just a few minutes, it is expected that you call to inform. Arriving late without giving notice, could set a meeting off on the wrong foot and potentially damage the relationship.
Expensive gifts to a business partner should be avoided as it might be perceived as a bribe. Giving gifts is not part of Norwegian business culture, except a small Christmas gift or an item with a logo.
Over 99 % of the population speak Norwegian as their first language. However, most Norwegians are very well trained in English, so you can expect to manoeuvre through society and business without major difficulties.
Do not be surprised if people don't speak to each other in the elevator, in a shop or on the bus. Small talk with strangers is not common in Norway.
German, French and Spanish are also often taught in school, but most Norwegians are not fluent in these languages. Norwegians can understand Swedes and Danes without much difficulties.
Also read: 5 tips for successful tendering in Norway
Live and work in Norway
Living in Norway can be expensive, but the salaries are competitive, retirement is good, and quality of life is extraordinary. Norwegians value a good work-life balance. Normal business hours start at 8.00 am and end at 4.00 pm, from Monday to Friday, and opening hours of public offices normally are from around 9.00 am to 2.00 or 3.00 pm.
Read more: Employee rights in Norway
Keep in mind…
If you remember that the following points are valued when navigating through Norwegian business life, you will definitely increase your chances of success:
- Equality and flat structures
- Focus on cooperation
- Informal and quick communication
- Trust among people
- Balance of work and private life
- Punctuality and honesty
Also read: Opportunities in Norway
When a foreign company wants to do business in Norway, practical solutions are often more important than technicalities. Download our free guide to Norwegian compliance, formalities and reporting responsibilities.