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Cultural tips for business: Norway

By Josian Phillips, 

The nine commandments.

To begin to understand the general tenets of the Norwegian (Skandinavian) attitude, you must read Jante’s Law, as set in stone by Aksel Sandemose, a Dano-Norwegian poet:

  1. You’re not to think you are anything special
  2. You’re not to think you are as good as we are.
  3. You’re not to think you are smarter than we are.
  4. You’re not to convince yourself that you are better than we are.
  5. You’re not to think you know more than we do.
  6. You’re not to think you are more important than we are.
  7. You’re not to think you are good at anything.
  8. You’re not to laugh at us.
  9. You’re not to think anyone cares about you.
  10. You’re not to think you can teach us anything.

This poem emphasises the importance Norwegians place on modesty and could give you a good idea about how to conduct negotiation, conversation and meetings. If you’re looking for more concrete information, here are some tips for maximising your interpersonal business communication in Norway.

Even though Norwegians take a transactional approach to business relationships, they do prefer to do business with people they know on a personal level, too. This means that you get rewards both straight away and in time when dealing with Norwegians. You can expect the bigger deals to be closed further down the line after a few visits to build the trust between you and your counterparts. Another good thing is that Norwegians do say what they mean. Unlike in countries like Mexico and India, a no means no and a yes means yes. A maybe is a future no or yes, not just a way of changing the subject.

Similar to the Danish, Norwegians have little time for small talk, so reserve a no more than a few minutes at the start for this. At the end of the working day, invite your counterparts for a drink to build trust and establish good relationships. It is important to catch Norwegians when they are not at work to see their friendly and open side. At work the attitude is timely and formal but never rude. When in conversation, it is best to avoid hyperbole and raising your voice. You will embarrass yourself amongst a nation famed for their subtlety. A quiet person is an intelligent person – refer to the ever-helpful Jante’s law!

As for negotiations, expect a long deliberation but a straight answer. Don’t brush up on your sales tactics and patter, there’s no point at all because Norwegians will not be swayed. They will carefully consider the implications of each term in the proposal and reach a rational and balanced decision. The best tactic you can use is to gain trust beforehand and present your pitch in an objective manner. These things take time and if you value the negotiation process or the business opportunities in Norway you can expect to be taking multiple trips over to meet your associates and discuss terms. Calmly, of course.

Top tip: Don’t show that you value material possessions. That includes avoiding complements about clothes, watches, phones or anything else which could be misconstrued as a status symbol.

Would you like to chat to Brightlines Translation about how you can reach your global customers? Call 01225 580 770 or contact us here. We are happy to help and advice is always free.

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