Working With Norwegians

Contracts in Norway and ‘fine print’

Norwegians are notoriously allergic to overly verbose contracts and extensive legal agreements. I learned this hard way over my years of doing business here. Upon arrival here I started by using the same type of legal documents I was accustomed to at home in America. These, I soon found out, were incredibly offensive to Norwegians, who in general feel like too much fine print shows a lack of trust. Since trust is the key pillar to Norwegian business, too much fine print is thought to erode that trust. This is also because legal English or ‘legalese’ is difficult to understand even for native English speakers. Imagine how tough it is for those who have English as a second language.

Upon sending a rather simple consulting contract to a Norwegian business contact once:

“I’ll get back to you soon on this. It may take me some time to digest the ‘fine print’ here”. He passively aggressively replied in email.

The contract, especially by American standards, was rather light. It included two pages of the terms of our arrangement but also another two pages of the terms and conditions, aka the fine print. None of these terms would have been considered offensive in most other international business dealings but things are a little different in Norway. Since business is done on the basis of trust here, it’s not recommended to over burden your business partners with extensive fine print. To do so can start your relationship off without this foundation of trust, making closing the deal and building further trust much more difficult.

In Norway, it’s usually not required for a contract to be signed in person. As a fairly tech savvy population digital signatures are widely accepted. I have also received contracts that don’t even require a signature. It’s more of a statement of work between two parties. Once again, Norway is a country of trust so to not honor an agreement will quickly cause you to lose both authority and status in the business world here.