Polish people enjoy quite a good reputation among Norwegians. No wonder – Poles are generally considered to be excellent and diligent specialists, which is why cooperation between the two countries is dynamically developing. Although at first glance it may seem that cross-cultural differences are barely tangible, this impression very quickly turns out to be false at a closer inspection. After all, first impressions are most frequently terribly misleading. The following article aims to list the most essential information needed to avoid blunders in relations with Norwegians.
The first culture shock to encounter may lie in the very attitude to the completion of work assignments. Polish people are pretty much accustomed to strict deadlines (which they frequently jokingly refer to as ‘due for yesterday’), whereas Norwegians – similarly to Swedes – cherish a healthy balance between private and professional life and will not act in excessive rush. What matters more for them is rather conscientious work, but at a reasonable pace. Norwegians are also extremely attached to punctuality, so when making a business appointment, one needs to minutely calculate the time needed to drive to the spot, especially that traffic regulations are strictly adhered to here (speeding fines are extremely high and are not in any way negotiable).
In business, Norwegians are very specific, though they do like to negotiate. However, one needs to be ready for a fact-based, no-nonsense debate because the Nordics are usually extremely well prepared for meetings. It is also worth mentioning that relationships are built gradually, with a small-steps approach, and since the country is not too big in terms of population, being recommended by a trusted friend plays a huge role. Which is why it is of utmost importance to leave a good impression and to perform the job assignment you were given as well as possible.
Knowing the local language will definitely serve as a nod to Norwegians. And although it is not the easiest one there is, knowing it can open many doors indeed. But already knowing a few basic phrases, particularly in business situations, will be read as a very nice gesture, especially that Norwegians value politeness very highly.
Small talk – dos and don’ts
Norwegians are very proud of their history and culture, so confusing them with Danes or Fins may be taken as a slight. Winter sports are a great go-to conversation subject. Norwegians are world champions in many of the disciplines and are eager to boast about it. It is also a good idea to ask them about Viking history in loose chats.
What decidedly needs to be avoided are professional questions (including earnings). One should also not criticise others, as it is seen as extreme lack of proper manners.
According to Joanna Modrzyńska, sincerity is read quite literally here. Just like disregard for others’ time. A loose meeting suggestion without offering a specific date might be interpreted as disrespectful – explains the expert.
Greetings and farewells
Getting to know a Norwegian can be compared to trying to crack open a really tough walnut – it is initially quite hard to do. Some Norwegians are so reserved that it may take them up to a year to invite a newly met person to their home.
– Both greetings and good-byes are always accompanied by a handshake (that includes children). When we are introduced to a stranger, we should initially address them with their full name, e.g. Mr Jacob Lunden – says Modrzyńska. – Close physical contact must be avoided. Kissing, shoulder-tapping or hugging are gestures reserved solely for closest relatives and friends – adds the expert.
What is worth remembering, Norwegians rather don’t use the courtesy expressions known from Anglo-Saxon countries (e.g. ‘nice to meet you’), they consider them superfluous.
Doing business at a restaurant table
Similarly to Poland, one of essential elements of the Norwegian business reality is the business lunch – a time to discuss strategies or negotiation plans. Dinners are usually treated as socialising events (only the dinner’s host has the prerogative of starting any business-oriented talks).
As Modrzyńska emphasises, although meetings over dinner last for quite a long time, it will be highly inappropriate to leave immediately after the meal. At mealtime, one’s plate should be emptied because Norwegians truly hate to waste food. Like in all Scandinavian countries, they find toasts very dear to their hearts and raise them as the meal finishes, concluding it with the traditional ‘skoal’ or ‘skål’, looking each other in the eyes and nodding slightly.
– When it comes to drinking alcohol, high caution and discipline is advised, because rules and regulations regarding this area are very strict and rigorously enforced – stresses Modrzyńska.
In business relations, offering gifts is only acceptable as a way of concluding and celebrating a successful negotiation process. However, it’s important to note that such gifts should not be expensive, since they may be thought to be bribes. In more private, social settings, sending flowers to the lady of the house on the day of the party will be more than welcome. When we are invited to a Norwegian home, it’s good to arrive with a bouquet (except white flowers, e.g. lilies, who are considered funeral flowers, carnations or any wreaths – even for the Christmas season) – says the expert.
Other examples of proper gifts include a bottle of good alcohol, a box of chocolates or other quality sweets.
For Business & Prestige, Iwona Sobczak, journalist
Editing: Dominika Job, manager at Business & Prestige