Cultural Newsletter: Norway

Each month we offer our clients, learners and friends in the industry, free briefings and expert advice for living and working in different cultures.  We'll email each monthly cultural newsletter directly to you, all you have to do is subscribe.

Europe's northernmost country, the Kingdom of Norway is famed for its mountains and spectacular fjord coastline, as well as its history as a seafaring power. Norway declared its independence in 1905 when the union with Sweden was dissolved. The Norwegians rejected membership of the then European Economic Community in 1972 and of the European Union in 1994, despite being urged by their governments to vote ‘yes’. Norway's people value their independence and prosperity highly.

The country enjoys one of the highest standards of living in the world, in large part due to the discovery in the late 1960s of offshore oil and gas deposits. Current key domestic issues include immigration and integration of ethnic minorities, maintaining the country’s extensive social safety net with an ageing population and preserving economic competitiveness.

Norway is a nationalistic culture and a largely homogeneous population. It is an egalitarian society in which people strive to minimise social differences. The Norwegians believe people should be on an equal footing and flaunting wealth, for example, is frowned upon. Norwegians are down-to-earth people. They appreciate modesty and solidity rather than status related symbols and speech. The concept of Jante’s Law was created by the author Aksel Sandemose in his novel and identifies 10 ‘rules’. Jante’s Law teaches Scandinavian people to be modest and not ‘think big’ nor criticise others.

Norwegians are very proud of their country and live in harmony with nature. Their love of and care for nature is an essential part of the uniqueness. Norwegians admire self-reliance and the ability to put aside personal interest for the common good. They take great pride in individual and national independence.

Norwegians are usually reserved about themselves and can be quite introvert. They listen in good humour but have strong opinions. It takes time to get to know people personally. Entertaining is not an essential part of doing business as it can be in southern Europe. Avoid talking about aspects of personal life. For example, avoid questions such as ‘What do you do?’ or ‘Are you married?’

Business people are not addressed by their titles. Norwegians and Danes are generally less formal than Germans and Swedes and address each other rather informally.

Norwegians do not need long-standing personal relationships in order to conduct business. Nonetheless, they prefer to do business with those they trust and who act with honesty. Relationships develop slowly and depend upon the other person being professional and meeting all agreed-upon deadlines.

Norwegians respect confident, self-assured business people. Appearing over-friendly at the start of a relationship may be viewed as weakness. They are direct communicators and have no difficulty telling their colleagues that they disagree with something that has been said. Their communication is straightforward and relies on facts.

Norwegians work consistently well in teams, preferring group decision-making and implementation. They are strongly consensual and prefer compromise to disagreement. That said, negotiations can be frank. It is imperative to adhere to deadlines and commitments. If you do not you will not be considered trustworthy, which will destroy the business relationship. There is little secrecy about corporate objectives and strategies and your counterpart will normally be able to see your product/service in the strategic perspective of his company. Although top managers make the decisions they will be very reluctant not to endorse the recommendations of project groups or lower managers. Do not over promise, otherwise Norwegians quickly lose interest. To Norwegians, new is not necessarily better. You need to present a convincing case – not based on emotions but usefulness and technical quality. New concepts have to be proven as high quality, practical and already well tested.

If you have made a proposal you will need to stick to it. Changing or adding surprising new elements is generally not popular. It is also hard to renegotiate terms after an agreement has been made, even if circumstances have changed. In Norwegian corporations there may be a low level of individual risk taking – making it difficult to get the final signature even when you have convinced the negotiator. To press for greater speed can easily backfire.

Avoid excessive gift giving or any other action that can be perceived as a bribe. Scandinavia is proud of its corruption-free reputation. Moderately expensive gifts and logo items are acceptable.

Alternative Description




Inspired? If you want to learn how you can work more effectively with your Norwegian colleagues, clients or supplier, contact us for a 'Working Effectively with...' sample course outline.  All training is tailored to meet your needs and delivered at a location of your choice.


"Thought-provoking course which gives a great insight into other cultures and how to adapt and improve your own communication for the greater good."

Working Across Cultures

BNP Paribas Securities Services

“Really enjoyed the course. My tutor was really nice, he was so patient with me and explained things in a way and manner that made it fun but got the message across. The school itself was great, all of the people were really nice and friendly and made us feel very welcome. All in all, I really enjoyed the complete experience.“

German Residential Course

Computacenter, UK

View all testimonials

Online Learning During the Corona Virus Outbreak

Many companies are understandably nervous about bringing employees together for training at the moment. Our experienced trainers can continue to provide inspiring sessions and webinars live online as an alternative. These include: virtual classrooms for foreign and English language training, international assignee briefings, country-specific cultural briefings and virtual culture coaching. Please contact us if you would like to discuss these options on 020 8295 5877.