World View: Focus on Norway

Norwegians tend to enjoy a strong debate after a presentation. A lively give-and-take of intellectual ideas is expected and will be welcomed.

By Lyrae Myxter, Senior Marketing Advisor, EnCompass LLC

While there were human inhabitants in what we now know as Norway 10,000 years ago, the formation of the Norwegian nation began in the 10th century. Norway officially gained independence in 1905. It is now a prosperous country that, like other Scandinavian countries, combines a market-oriented economy with a guarantee of social welfare benefits.

In the 1960s, oil fields were discovered off Norway’s North Sea coastline. Today, Norway is one of the world’s largest exporters of petroleum. Norway has one of the highest standards of living in the world and is also one of the most peaceful countries in the world, according to the Global Peace Index compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

The educational standards in Norway are high. Norwegian employees welcome opportunities to learn and are generally attentive, hard-working trainees. Norwegians prefer a mix of training and learning methods: Lecture, group work, discussions, role-plays, and action learning are all common. Combining a training program with the opportunity to do something outdoors such as hiking, skiing, or other physical activities is also popular.

Direct, Logical, and Interactive

The Norwegians are a direct people, in the sense that they appreciate honesty and believe in saying exactly what they mean. They typically do not feel it is disrespectful to state a fact or point out what they regard as a mistake or an error in judgment. This is an important fact for foreign businesspeople to understand, and should not be taken as a personal attack. Norwegian directness is best taken as a statement of the facts.

Ideas should be presented in a logical style, with a focus on results and goals. Norwegians generally are fair in considering other people’s ideas. The ability and willingness to provide all the data available and to present multiple perspectives is appreciated and considered a sign of honesty.

Norwegians tend to enjoy a strong debate after a presentation. A lively give-and-take of intellectual ideas is expected and will be welcomed. It is important to allow plenty of time for questions and answers, preferably throughout the training session rather than just at the end.

Silence Is Golden, and Common

Norwegians view silence as part of the communication process. The Norwegian nature is to be silent unless one has something important to contribute to a conversation. Thus, to interrupt a speaker with your own thoughts is considered rude. It is best for foreign businesspeople to try to be patient with silences, as the silence required in listening is considered a form of respect.

Effective Training Approaches

The goals, objectives, and schedule of any training program should be clearly communicated from the outset. Expect some discussion about the purpose of the training and how it fits into the bigger picture.

A training approach that is organized and logical but allows input from the participants is most appreciated. The trainer or coach should be direct and low-key in style. He or she should be a content expert, as well as a good trainer.

Norwegians respect most foreigners, and they are often curious about them. Some Norwegians may be a bit hesitant to speak English, but the best way to win the hearts of your Norwegian counterparts is to show a sincere interest in their country and traditions.

Lyrae Myxter is the former director, Executive Services, for Aperian Global (www.aperianglobal.com), and now the senior marketing advisor for EnCompass LLC. Content from this article was drawn from Aperian Global’s Web tool, GlobeSmart, which contains information on how to conduct business in more than 65 countries.

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