An Introduction to the unspoken truths in norwegian culture.
How to understand the North Norwegian culture
Welcome to Norway! You are here either of your choice or because you had no choice. Yet, if you are here, welcome, and we wish you a fruitful stay!
We want to draw your attention that even if you’ve traveled and lived in other places and countries in the world, you will discover that some of our values may differ from yours. We want to present them to you, and you can consider how you can include them in your life in Norway. It is not because we would like you to become like us, it is because we would like you to get to know us, and, this way, to make your stay more comfortable and enjoyable.
We will mention some of our values on this page, and we invite you to read about them and see how you can bring them closer to your own. We consider cultural differences enriching us, and we are glad you came to us.
The first thing you need to get used to when you decide to live in North Norway is that you need much patience.
You need time to sort out a lot of paperwork: visa, ID number, bank account: bureaucracy takes time in any country, in Norway too. You also need to find a place to live, get in line for a kinder garden place or school place if you have children, learn the language, finding a job if you do not have one already.
Another thing you need to know is that time can be perceived differently by different people from different cultures. In Norway can have to do both with the weather and the long days vs long nights and with the safety of the society.
We have a saying: “Let’s wait to see what time brings”. Perhaps you have a similar one in your culture. In this way, time can be looked at as being an unlimited resource which it is at our disposal, and we always have plenty of it. We know it may sound a bit strange, yet it can be helpful to think this way. After all, time is personal: make it work in your advantage.
When you are new in a place and don’t know anyone, you need to get out and meet people. Perhaps you’ve heard that Norwegians are “shy”. It is partly true; they may not be the first people to get out and greet you.
Another thing you need to consider is that people who are settled in a country already have their lives, routines, and friends. Therefore, they may be already busy within that circle and do not have resources and energy to take in new people. Yet, we like meeting new people through social engagements and hobbies.
If you never had time to think of what you like to do or which hobby you would like spend your free time on, now you have the possibility to find out. Many organizations need members and people willing to contribute to organizing activities useful for the community. you find them on www.frivilig.no - find your town and see what is available where you are.
You can find something you are interested in and join an organization because that is where you will meet people outside work.
If you already have a job, it will help you extend your circle of people. They will learn who you are, what you do, and what you stand for, and you will learn the same thing about them.
If you have children, get involved in all the volunteer work around children’s activities, and you will get to know other parents.
If you still need to get a job, the same organizations are the perfect places to build a network and show your personality and skills. People around you will notice, and they can either recommend you or give you suggestions on where you should apply.
If you wonder, why you should volunteer and work for free when you do not have a job already. We can tell you that it pays off not in money yet in experience, which you can put on your CV, in people you know and may help sometime, in relationships. These resources are just as valuable as money.
For instance, there are few dance clubs and, singing choirs, amateur acting, where you can try and see what you like and what you may be good at. There are knitting gatherings for women and not only. Norwegians are outdoor people, and they enjoy exercising. You can try all the sports clubs and see what you want to practice. Being in Norway, it is a good idea to try skiing and see if you like it and it is ok not to like it.
If there is nothing you fancy, and you have a new skill, you can also teach others, then make your club/organization with your favorite activity. People interested in the same thing will find you. Make it known in social media and to everybody you know, and the word will spread, and suddenly you will do what you like together with people interested in the same thing.
Rember that meeting people and being social is important, no matter where you are in the world.
Leadership & teamwork
You may also find a different type of leadership in North Norway. The leader is also a colleague who does not know everything. This is why you are working in teams and many places the working tool is “the meeting”. There, you are expected to contribute with opinions and ideas. You may not be told what to do personally, yet the whole team get’s a suggestion, and you are expected to volunteer for the tasks you consider you can do. Ultimately, the entire team will get the credit, not necessarily one person. If you do not know how to do something, you are expected to ask questions. That can be difficult to do when you do not speak the language.
You may also discover that even if you express ideas and suggestions out loud, they may not be followed. The point of saying them is for the leader to have options and choose the best one for the organization, considering all the suggestions. This is why speaking is important, even if you won’t get credit for the idea, or even if you say something irrelevant.
We like to work in teams, and we like to be able to count on each other. It is something we have learned in school. Yet we are aware that our school system which focuses on teamwork and relationships may not be like yours. It may be that you come from a school system which encouraged individual performance and not team projects. We suggest you think for a moment what is it that you are used to and try to adjust.
We are preoccupied of our work environment. We do spend one-third of our life at work. Therefore, we need to have nice colleagues and a good work atmosphere. Many of us do not work only for money, we also need to like where we work and who do we work with, it makes our working life more pleasant. We like to have lunch together and would like you to join us, even if you don’t speak the language yet. It will allow you to get to know us and for us to get to know you. We also appreciate initiatives when it comes to organizing after-work activities from time to time, like mountain trips or dinners/drinks in town.
We have a high degree of gender equality compared to other countries in the world. It comes from our history and our economic conditions. We were and we are still too few people to afford to let women go without work. This is why you will find women working everywhere, including construction, mechanics, carpentry, oil platforms, and not least, in leadership positions. It is a value our society is built on and we are proud of it. Therefore, we appreciate being respected, even if it may not be what you're used to from your own culture.
Society based on rules
You will soon find out that you live in a society where people respect rules generally. This is why, you will be surprised to find out that both in your social and work performance, you will be expected to respect the rules. The rules tell us how to reach a result, and if you do not, you took the rules into account and can see what happened in the process.
How things are done is just as important as the result obtained. The measure in which the rules are respected in a country makes it civilized or not. It may be a good idea to think about how things were done in your culture and compare it with what you find in Norway. They may not be similar.
For those looking for jobs, it is important to know that your potential employer will also look at and consider your personality just as much as your professional skills. It is also important that you fit in the existing team.