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Working with Norwegians

Working with Norwegians (Again, after COVID-19)

It seems that life is slowly returning back to normal here in Norway. Albeit in a slightly modified form.

The schools and some businesses are opening their doors once again. Soon the many quiet and modern offices of Norway will start to fill up. Although this being Norway they’ll still be very quiet even when full of workers. No one likes a loud office talker in this country of course.

But what does work-life after COVID-19 look like with regard to working with Norwegians? What adjustments do both foreign and local cultures need to make?

Let us take a look!

Lockdown is different for everyone

Remember your colleague’s lockdown experience might be very different than yours. Especially as it relates to colleagues with kids and those without kids.

If you don’t have kids you likely did all kinds of fun things like catching up on your reading, learned a new skill, baked some sourdough, and day drinking. So much day drinking.

However, those with kids and no barnehage (kindergarten) to drop them at probably had a much different experience. It’s a bit tough to upskill and work on your novel when the kids are driving you freaking nuts and you’ve still got video meetings to attend for work. There are only so many iPad apps to play and trampolines to jump on to pass the time.

So be careful not to brag about all your free time. Other colleagues might not have been so lucky.

We still need to keep some social distance

Even though Norway has done well to slow the spread the battle is far from over. We all still need to keep some social distance for the foreseeable future. This probably won’t be so difficult here as Norwegians were already keeping their distance from colleagues, both physically and emotionally! When many Norwegians heard they are supposed to stay 2 meters away from each other they simply asked: “Why are they making us stand closer than before?”.

However, don’t take offense if you’re sensing your colleagues are taking yet even more personal space. Give everyone some time to adjust and respect their boundaries. Even when sometimes in Norway those social boundaries are as wide as the fjord is long.

About that tracking app

Your coworkers might bring up the new COVID-19 tracking app that was recently released. It’s called Smittestopp (Infection Stop) and there has been much debate about its use along with some privacy concerns. At the same time, over 1.7 million Norwegians downloaded the app when it was released. Not too bad for a country with only 5.5 million people.

That’s because it’s important to remember that most Norwegians have very high trust for their government. Even when it comes to an app that tracks all your movements. Most see this as a good thing and something that can help the entire population. Let’s also not forget that in Norway it’s not about what’s good for the individual but what is best for the entire society.

If you’re a foreigner and an American like myself you probably have very little trust for your home government, especially when it comes to privacy and tracking. This is ironic given how we turn over basically all the same information to companies like Facebook and Google every single day.

Still, you may have colleagues who feel it’s important everyone downloads this tracking app and does their part. If you don’t feel the same it’s best to just fake it and tell them “Oh yes, I’ll download it later today!”. Even if you only plan to play Candy Crush that evening.

It’s a great time to shame the Swedes

Everyone around the world and here in Norway has been following the news about Sweden and their approach to Corona. Time will tell if they were correct in not locking down and allowing a herd immunity to build. Oh, and don’t worry if they were correct we’ll hear all about it. They’ll be bragging about it for the next few decades no doubt.

Still, until then it is an easy thing to joke about with colleagues. Even if some of them are Swedish! For example:

Swedish Coworker: “Hey so any big plans this weekend?”

American Coworker: “No, I’m going to do absolutely nothing. Just like you Swedes did about COVID!”

Worst case if you’re not comfortable dragging down the Swedes over COVID-19 there’s one country that’s even easier to Corona shame. That, of course, being America. Don’t worry we can take it. It gives us energy when you make fun of us. Energy we use to clean our guns.

Summer vibes at last

If there’s one thing COVID-19 doesn’t stand a chance against that’s the sun coming out in Scandinavia. And I’m not talking about the reports that warmer weather may slow the spread of the virus. As soon as consistent sunny days are here expect all rules to be off and life to rush back to normal. Nothing, not even a global pandemic, can stop Norwegians from getting some previous sun.

Although of course there’s no summer vacay in Spain this year for many Norwegians. So for us foreigners it’s best we show a little compassion there when discussing summer plans. Most Norwegians will be ‘suffering’ by having to spend time at their other summer destination, the summer hytte (cabin) instead.

Welcome back to work! Just 2 more months until summer break so don’t get too comfortable.


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