It can be difficult write a short summary of an entire culture, especially since Norwegian culture is so rich. Culture, according to the anthropologist E.B. Tylor, is loosely defined as everything in a culture including beliefs, art, morals, customs, laws, and other habits that men acquire from being part of a particular society. I will attempt to discuss Norwegian culture in a short overview.
Socially, Norway is a country in which the residents are encouraged to follow Jante Law, which encompasses humility, egalitarianism, honesty, respect, and equality. No citizen is to think they are special or different in any way, nor are they to assume that other people care about them. This is not to say that social relationships never develop, it is simply to ensure that selfishness is kept at a minimum. Norwegians are not impressed by economic or social standing. Exhibitions of wealth or professional achievement is generally frowned upon and seen as unimportant in determining a person’s individual value. Thus, greetings tend to be informal and on a first name basis.
Business is conducted in much the same way; the Norwegian way of doing business is based on honesty, transparency, trust, and openness. Since the relationship is transactional, Norwegians treat it as such, with no pretense. If foreigners wish to create a business relationship with Norwegians, they must be willing to be open about all aspects of themselves, their colleagues, and businesses. This includes openness about expectations and goals. This model also tends to create a working structure in which the work-life balance is valued. Companies tend to have a flat hierarchy with informal leaders and a casual office environment including relaxed dress codes. The only exception to this is government officials or high ranking finance officers.
These customs also carry over into the home. It is not customary to discuss business over dinner. If invited to dinner in a home, it is important to be punctual and bring a gift, such as flowers or wine. Table manners are important and most meals are eaten with a knife and fork. It is not recommended to begin eating until the host has begun. Always accept and reciprocate any invitations! It’s a good way to make friends and to continue learning about Norwegians.