Norwegian Business Culture Norwegian Business Culture A Reserved, Direct Communication Style Directness In contrast to the indirect, roundabout language common in much of Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, Norwegians typically use direct straightforward language. They tend to be blunt and honest about their business ideas and feelings. However, most Norwegians are somewhat less direct than Danes and Germans. For instance, when not really interested in a particular deal, they may be reluctant to say so bluntly. In this they are similar to many British negotiators. Reserve Although a warm and friendly people, most Norwegians have a reserved communication style, compared to Latin Europeans, Latin Americans, Arabs, and North Americans.
Whereas people from more expressive cultures employ numerous vigorous hand and arm gestures and animated facial expressions during negotiations, Norwegians use fewer gestures and less lively facial expressions. This characteristic can lead to confusion during negotiations with more expressive counterparts, who sometimes misinterpret Norweigan reticence as lack of interest in the discussion. Norwegians tend to be soft-spoken and taciturn compared with Southern Europeans. However, business visitors are unlikely to experience the long gaps in conversation encountered in even more reserved cultures such as Finland and Japan. In Latin America and South America, conversational overlap – interrupting another speaker – is common, while in Norway it is considered rude to interrupt someone mid-sentence. Visiting negotiators from more expressive cultures can cause offense by interrupting their Norwegian counterparts during a business meeting.
Interpersonal Space Norwegians tend to stand at an arm’s length distance from conversational partners in business gatherings. In contrast, expressive Latins and Arabs may step in much closer, causing discomfort and stress to locals who are unaware of this cultural difference. Touch Behavior There is little touching in business situations except for the handshake. Avoid arm-grabbing and backslapping. Visitors from expressive, high-contact cultures should not misinterpret Norwegian reserve as coldness or arrogance. Eye Contact Like many Northern Europeans and North Americans, Norwegians normally employ moderate gaze behavior, ie alternately looking their counterparts in the eye and then looking away.
This may confuse Arabs and Latins, who are accustomed to strong, steady eye contact. On the other hand, Norwegian gaze behavior may confuse many Asians. Negotiators from these cultures are used to soft, indirect eye contact, and equate the Scandinavian gaze with staring, which is regarded as rude, hostile behavior. Making Appointments Visitors should have confirmed appointments. Although references and introductions are useful anywhere in the world, you can also contact Norwegian companies directly by telephone, fax or mail to make an appointment. Intermediaries are much less important than in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.
Terms of Address Although Norwegians usually address each other rather informally and use first names. However, when introduced for the first time, address your counterpart by Mr or Ms and their surname – Ms Jensen. Wait for your local counterpart to suggest switching to first names. Male visitors should not be surprised if they are addressed by their surname alone. Professional titles followed by the family name, such as Doctor Larsen or Professor Thomassen are used when relevant to the situation, whereas business titles such as Director are not used. It is appropriate to address government officials with their titles. Business Punctuality Business meetings usually start on time in Norway. Plan to arrive five to ten minutes early for appointments.
If you are going to be even a few minutes late, call to explain the problem. A late visitor is presumed to be either impolite or disinterested. Meetings are rarely interrupted by phone calls or other intrusions. Dress Although business visitors can be a bit more relaxed than in many other business cultures, as a general rule, business visitors should wear a suit and tie, especially when visiting large multinational companies. However dress norms vary depending on the business involved.
A jacket with trousers is acceptable attire in many smaller concerns. Follow the lead of your host. Hand-shaking Norwegians expect a firm, brief handshake and steady, moderate eye contact. Prolonged pumping is not done. Shake hands with each person present and again when leaving.
Only at formal affairs should a semi-stiff posture and mild bow accompany a handshake. Business versus Leisure Time Norwegians tend to have a relaxed attitude toward business. Business is as important as leisure time. Norwegians usually expect weekends to be free of business obligations. Visitors may find it impossible to secure business appointments on Saturday mornings or even Friday afternoons. An Informal, Egalitarian culture Business visitors find Norwegians very egalitarian and less formal than people from more hierarchical cultures. Expect fewer protocol rituals than in more formal societies. Norwegian corporate culture is based on principles of equal opportunity.
Positions of power are achieved through performance. Although hierarchies exist in Norwegian companies, they are not displayed openly. Positions of power are achieved though performance. It is not difficult to access higher levels within companies. The decision-making process is somewhat decentralized in Norwegian companies.
However, any decision that either commits considerable resources or involves a long time span, a new supplier replacing an old one, or any investment funding will be referred upstairs. Generally a recommendation goes along with all the data. Upper or top management, with its strong respect for the people down the line, will try to endorse the lower manager’s proposals. Larger Norwegian concerns do not thrive on secrecy. Most company information is on record, much of it required by law. As a result, most management layers are informed, understand company objectives, and tend to pull in one direction. This unity of purpose greatly aids the visitor.
A private secretary is the usual sign of a manager well up the ladder. So is a private office, as opposed to general areas with partitions. Offices with views on well-landscaped areas, and expensive wooden furniture inside are also signs of the occupant’s importance. Several larger concerns feature a separate building complex for top managers and their staffs. Negotiating Norwegians are usually ready to t …