Working in Norway as a foreigner you’re going to meet a wide range of different people and personalities. So it’s not fair to generalize, even in such a homogenous culture that is Norway!
Still, with that being said, I have found a few repeating archetypes within the Norwegian workplace. So here are some sweeping generalizations about a few Norwegians you might meet in the workplace.
Perhaps you recognize someone or maybe even yourself?
Typical Norwegian Businessman
The typical Norwegian or den typiske nordmann, is the proudest Norwegian you’ll meet. He’s proud of his country and proud of his cross-country skiing. He’s also incredibly proud of that one time he was successful in business 20 years ago and hasn’t stopped talking about it since. He’s a global traveler but somewhat skeptical of foreigners who come to Norway for business. He feels that business in Norway is best done by and with other Norwegians.
Miss Follow Through
They are your modern empowered Norwegian businesswoman. She enjoys one of the smallest gender pay gaps in the world thanks to Norway’s emphasis on fairness and equal pay. She’s known in the office for always following through on her work, which earns her great respect. That’s due to her approach of under-promising and overdelivering to her colleagues. She won’t take that many risks in business as a result.
Mr. Gotta Go
A slippery one, they are the most difficult Norwegian to get to know either personally or on a business level. A master of slipping away to avoid small talk or business dealings, they are a tricky one to connect with in the office. Look for opportunities to connect over a hobby like skiing or doing dugnad (community work) away from the office.
The Love Refugee
Not a native Norwegian but an ex-pat who settled in Norway many years ago. Like most foreigners who settle here, they came here for love. The rather attractive Norwegians have managed to keep a steady flow coming to Norway.
They will be much easier to get to know, both on a personal and business level. They understand how challenging it can be to form relationships here in Norway. They might even invite to drinks after work! Your other Norwegian colleagues run off to home and the barnehage (kids school) so quickly after work they don’t even bother to say goodbye!
That One Loud Ass Norwegian
One of the few loud voices you’ll find in Norway, they don’t respect the quiet sanctuary of the Norwegian office. They are known for squawking at meetings and around the office, much to the dismay of coworkers who prefer more peaceful surroundings. When Norwegian drinking culture comes into play, that loudness only intensifies with each shot of aquavit they consume. They are also usually from the west coast from areas like Bergen.
Super Sporty Scandie
They never stop moving and live a very healthy lifestyle. They will almost always be planning a hike, going skiing, swimming in a fjord, or just doing any other physical activity. They are super sporty and as a result, have exceptionally low BMI (and typically a very cute butt). They also don’t let work get in the way when the weather is nice, or physical activity can take them out of the office. Your best chance to catch them and build a relationship will be to join her or him in one of these physical activities. If they see a foreigner embrace Norwegian nature and exercise, this can help you earn their great respect.
This friendly and eager millennial is now established in the Norwegian workforce. Raised in a highly functional and fair socially democratic society, their optimism can only be matched by their drive to do good in the world. You’ll find them drinking from metal straws, posting Instagrams from Africa, and talking about reducing their carbon footprint all while they jet off to Spain for yet another holiday.
They are however thankfully less held back by the restrictive Law of Jante and as a result, represent great potential for Norway’s future. Now, if we could only get them to stop constantly staring at their phones.
The Old Timer
The old-timer has seen it all before and isn’t interested in doing business differently. Especially when that new approach is proposed by a foreigner. They will be most skeptical and address the outsider with an uninterested response, followed by the exhibition of a general lack of willingness to work together. Things are working well enough, why try to go and change anything?
No Plan to Small
They create a plan for the plan and backup plans for both plans. They book meetings to plan a future meeting. They can whip up a plan with great speed because Norwegians take great pride in being able to do such an exercise. The output is generally considered less important than planning for the output itself in Norway.