Norwegian Culture

There are two Norwegian languages, Bokmal and Nynorsk. Bokmal is used by the majority of the population and is the major language for business. The difference between the two is relatively small.

Most young Norwegians are fluent in English, and familiarity with French, Spanish and German is not uncommon.

In general business is conducted in Norwegian, but some international companies uses English. While most people working in international companies and governmental agencies speak English, it should not be assumed that they understand everything being said. Municipal information is in Norwegian. Learning the language is a passport to communication and will certainly be appreciated.

Norwegians tend to keep business and personal relations separate, resulting in a reserved but pleasant business environment. Punctuality counts in establishing confidence and trust, so be on time. Public transportation is usually always on time. Due to an informal and direct business climate, you can expect easy access to top management.

Women in business can be expected to be treated with respect. As in most Scandinavian countries, there is no open discrimination. Norwegian women are found working in every aspect of the business community, holding high positions in government agencies, in the private business and organizations.

Conservative, casual dress is customary for Norwegian business, and in the summer, most people dress for comfort, even to the point of sportiness. Business in Norway is run very much like a family, and there are few entrepreneurs. While Norwegians tend to be open and friendly, they do value their privacy and independence.

Normal work hours can be between 35.5 to 40 hours per week (depending on the agreement and the company), usually running Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

As a basic principle, health care in Norway is distributed according to need, not ability to pay, and everyone who becomes ill in Norway is guaranteed treatment. The health care system uses both public and private services and facilities. The quality of the health services is high, but the waiting time for non-urgent surgery can be lenghty. To get an appointment to see a doctor can take a few days.

Security concerns are few. Crime is considered low, but use common sense. During holiday seasons it is common to ally with a neighbour who can empty the letter box, use the garbage bin and generally look after the house. Bag snatching, pickpocketing, car and bicycle thefts, and drunk people too may cause problems, otherwise it is safe to live in Norway.

In Norway the purchase of sex is illegal. Anyone caught paying for prostitutes could face a hefty fine or a six-month prison sentence. Buying sex is unacceptable because it favours human trafficking and forced prostitution.


For more information, see our entire Culture Shock Norway series:

Part 1: Food & Drinks
Have you ever wondered what Lapskaus, Fårikål or gløgg are? This article goes into detail about Norwegian food and eating schedules.

Part 2: Law and Order
This article explains crimes, homeless children or the lack thereof, Sexual offenses, smoking and drinking restrictions and more.

Part 3: Work
This article goes into detail about what your new job in Norway might be like; covering work ethics, typical working hours, vacation and sick leave and work attire.

Part 4: Socialising and Entertainment
The Viking drinking culture might be a shock to some, while others will find it odd that Norwegians generally don’t drink daily. Also, learn about Sunday dinners.

Part 5: Weather
We all know it is cold in Norway, learn some tips to handle the cold.

Part 6: House & Home
Norwegian home are generally well decorated. You can also bet if Mom is around they will be festive for the holidays!

Part 7: Recycling & Waste
Are those multiple colored trash cans out front your house confusing you? Learn how to sort your waste and recycling properly to avoid a fine.

Part 8: Families & Children
Marriage, divorce, children, cohabitation and abortion are all covered.

Part 9: Babies Sleeping Outdoors
Learn why Norwegians put their babies to sleep outdoors.

Part 10: Holidays
Have you noticed the Norwegians love going on vacation, here is why!

Part 11: Cost of Living
Shocked that that loaf of bread cost 25 kr-? Read about the common cost to live in Norway – this is very useful when budgeting a move!

Part 12: Janteloven (The Law of Jante)
Heard about Janteloven but not quite sure what it is? Find out here.