Norway Business Etiquette

Velkommen til Norge! (‘‘Welcome to Norway!” in Norwegian)

Norway is more than just the inspiration for Arendelle, the kingdom featured in the Disney film Frozen. In fact, Norway is known for many things, including:

Fjords: Norway is famous for its fjords, which are narrow inlets of water surrounded by steep cliffs. Fjords are created over years by glacial erosion, so they typically exist on coastal lands (like Norway). There are several fjord regions in Norway, including Møre, Romsdal, Sogn, and Fjordane.

Trolls: In Norse mythology, a troll is a supernatural creature who usually dwells in mountains or caves. They are typically portrayed as being nasty and ugly. Legend has it that trolls come out to create mischief once the sun goes down, and if they are caught in the sunlight, they turn to stone. Several places in Norway are named for trolls, including Trollfjorden, Trollheimen, Trollhetta, Trollstigen, Trolltindan, and Trollveggen.

Vikings: Vikings were traders, blacksmiths, and (of course) plunderers who made a name for themselves as a feared seafaring people from the 8th to 11th centuries. Vikings are such an iconic pop culture item that there is a both an NFL football team and History Channel drama named after them.

Before you fly on over to Norway, let’s first learn about the dos and don’ts of Norwegian business etiquette.

The Lowdown

  • The capital of Norway is Oslo, which is also the country’s largest city.
  • The official languages of Norway are Norwegian (which is a Germanic language) and several dialects of Sami – Lule, Northern, and Southern Sami. 86% of the population identifies ethnically as Norwegian.
  • Norway is a unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy (the king is Harald V).
  • Norway has a state church called The Church of Norway, which is Evangelical Lutheran.
  • Approximately 86% of Norwegians belong to the church, making it the largest church in the country.
  • Egalitarianism and The Law of Jante, which stresses humility, are important philosophies in Norwegian life. Women are highly valued in Norwegian culture and business.

Dressing Sharp

  • Business clothing can be more casual than other European cultures, but you should still strive to make a good first impression. It is a good idea to check with your Norwegian host about their particular dress code.
  • Men should wear dark suits with tie and jacket.
  • Women should wear dark suits (pantsuits, dresses, or skirts).

Make or Break Meetings

  • Meetings will typically be casual.
  • Punctuality is important in Norway. If you expect to be late for a meeting, phone your Norwegian party and let them know.
  • Always keep your appointments!
  • Greet the Norwegian party with a strong handshake and eye contact to assert confidence.
  • Norwegians will probably operate on a first-name basis, but wait for an invitation to use first names before actually doing so.
  • When leaving the meeting, shake hands again.

Dining Decorum

  • Punctuality is important in social engagements as well as business meetings.
  • Do not begin eating until the host or hostess begins.
  • Do not eat anything, even sandwiches, with your hands. Table manners will typically be pretty formal, so avoid any sloppy or rude behaviors.
  • It is common for the host to give a toast at the meal.
  • When you finish eating, place your knife and fork across your plate.
  • If you are invited to the home of a Norwegian, it is polite to offer to help the host or hostesses set up or clean up after the meal.

Giving and Getting Gifts

  • If invited to the home of a Norwegian, it is polite and acceptable to bring a gift.
  • Acceptable gifts include: chocolate, flowers, wine, liquor, or cakes.
  • Do not give: carnations, lilies, wreaths, bouquets in even numbers.
  • Gifts are typically opened upon receipt.

Down to Business

  • There will be little small talk during negotiations. Norwegians are very straightforward in the business setting.
  • If you give a presentation, do not include “fluff.” Make it a concise presentation supported by facts and figures.
  • Norwegians prefer to do business with people they know, so it can be beneficial to build long-term relationships in this culture.
  • Norwegians appreciate and look for competitive pricing. They typically do not give discounts, even to preferred business partners.
  • The Norwegians will be clear in their decision. If a contract is drawn, it will be respected.

Now that you're well prepared for your next jet-setting business trip to Norway, don't forget to stay tuned for our next Business Etiquette blurb! Farvel! ("Goodbye!" in Norwegian)