Norwegian Business Culture
In contrast to the indirect, roundabout language common in much of Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, Norwegians typically use direct straightforward language. They tend to be blunt and honest about their business ideas and feelings. However, most Norwegians are somewhat less direct than Danes and Germans. For instance, when not really interested in a particular deal, they may be reluctant to say so bluntly. In this they are similar to many British negotiators.
Although a warm and friendly people, most Norwegians have a reserved communication style, compared to Latin Europeans, Latin Americans, Arabs, and North Americans. Whereas people from more expressive cultures employ numerous vigorous hand and arm gestures and animated facial expressions during negotiations, Norwegians use fewer gestures and less lively facial expressions. This characteristic can lead to confusion during negotiations with more expressive counterparts, who sometimes misinterpret Norweigan reticence as lack of interest in the discussion.
Norwegians tend to be soft-spoken and taciturn compared with Southern Europeans. However, business visitors are unlikely to experience the long gaps in conversation encountered in even more reserved cultures such as Finland and Japan.
In Latin America and South America, conversational overlap - interrupting another speaker - is common, while in Norway it is considered rude to interrupt someone mid-sentence. Visiting negotiators from more expressive cultures can cause offense by interrupting their Norwegian counterparts during a business meeting.
Norwegians tend to stand at an arm's length distance from conversational partners in business gatherings. In contrast, expressive Latins and Arabs may step in much closer, causing discomfort and stress to locals who are unaware of this cultural difference.
There is little touching in business situations except for the handshake. Avoid arm-grabbing and backslapping. Visitors from expressive, high-contact cultures should not misinterpret Norwegian reserve as coldness or arrogance.
Like many Northern Europeans and North Americans, Norwegians normally employ moderate gaze behavior, ie alternately looking their counterparts in the eye and then looking away. This may confuse Arabs and Latins, who are accustomed to strong, steady eye contact. On the other hand, Norwegian gaze behavior may confuse many Asians. Negotiators from these cultures are used to soft, indirect eye contact, and equate the Scandinavian gaze with staring, which is regarded as rude, hostile behavior.
Visitors should have confirmed appointments. Although references and introductions are useful anywhere in the world, you can also contact Norwegian companies directly by telephone, fax or mail to make an appointment. Intermediaries are much less important than in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.