Norway: Doing business & staying in touch

Doing business in Norway

Smart dress is expected of businesspeople in Norway and prior appointments are necessary. Norwegian businesspeople tend to be formal and reserved, and punctuality is essential. English is widely spoken and business cards are usually exchanged during meetings. The best months for business visits are February to May and October to December.

Morning meetings usually take place in offices, while early afternoon and lunchtime appointments frequently take place in restaurants. If a late-morning meeting is arranged, it is good practice to issue a lunch invitation but bear in mind that whoever extends the invitation usually pays for the meal. Traditionally, lunch is a light snack but in a business context, it may involve a more substantial meal.

English is widely spoken, and in the business community, the language is usually spoken to a very high standard. Most Norwegians also speak Danish and Swedish, and knowledge of French and German is common. Normal business hours are between 8am and 4pm, with employees leaving their offices promptly to return home for middag (dinner), eaten at around 1700. However, when an invitation is offered to either dine out or eat at the home of a business colleague, the meal will often be scheduled for slightly later in the evening. Criticism of, or jokes about, peoples, cultures or systems should generally be avoided as many Norwegians pride themselves on their political correctness.

Norwegians are direct and ready to negotiate, with minimum small talk. Trust is important and, in negotiation, Norwegians are less likely to indulge in tactical dealing and will be more interested in the facts of the product than personality or social skills. Visitors should make a fair pitch with room for a little adjustment but not an initial offer that could subsequently be seen as a negotiating tactic, as this may be perceived as dishonest.

Office hours

Mon-Fri 0800-1600.

Economy

The Norwegian economy is dominated by its oil and gas industry, which accounts for nearly 20% of GDP and 60% of export earnings. There is little cultivable land in Norway but many farmers breed livestock, combining this with forestry to supply Norway's numerous sawmills. Consequently, wood products and paper are both thriving industries.

Offshore fishing has been in decline for some time, although a large number of fish farms have been established, making Norway the world's largest supplier of salmon. Heavy engineering industries, principally shipbuilding and machinery, have also declined (although Norway retains a large merchant fleet). Although growth has been sluggish in recent years (1.3% in 2009, down from 2.7% in 2008), Norway maintains a very high standard of living.

Norway has been a major oil and gas exporter since the mid 1970s, after discovering large deposits of both in the North Sea. Proven oil reserves are estimated to be in the region of 11 billion barrels (one-tenth of Saudi reserves and 1% of the world total). Much of the income is invested in a fund, now worth over US$400 billion, for such time as the oil and gas run out (perhaps in 15 to 20 years).

Norway is a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and as such trades freely with the EU. Large conference centres are available in the big cities, particularly in Oslo, while most of the larger hotels around the country offer meeting facilities.

GDP

$414.5 billion (2010).

Main exports

Crude oil, natural gas, refined petroleum products, machinery and forestry products.

Main imports

Motor vehicles and other transport equipment, raw materials and metals, industrial equipment, chemicals, foodstuffs.

Main trading partners

UK, Germany, The Netherlands, France and Sweden.

Keeping in Touch in Norway

Telephone

Numbers starting with 800 are usually toll-free while those beginning with 9 are mobile numbers. The international access code is 00. International calls are often prohibitively expensive, so ask for Telekort (Telenor phonecards) when visiting post offices and Narvesen kiosks. Unfortunately, Telekort cards can be hard to find, so it’s often easier to use a prepaid card bought from a private company who issue you with a PIN and a local access number. If you have a laptop with you, Skype is by far the cheapest way to make international calls, and it can also be found at the occasional internet cafe.

Mobile phone

Roaming agreements exist with many international mobile phone companies. Mobile phones cannot be hired. Coverage is mostly good, but may be patchy in mountainous areas.

Internet

There are many internet cafés throughout Norway and you can also access the Internet via public libraries, often free of charge. Wi-Fi is widespread.

Post

Hotel receptions, shops and kiosks selling postcards will sell stamps. Airmail within Europe takes two to four days.

Post office hours

These vary from place to place but are generally Mon-Fri 0830-1600 and Sat 0800-1300.

Media

Norway's public broadcaster NRK has had competition from private local and national stations since the heady days of monopoly. Press freedom is guaranteed by the constitution and public radio and TV broadcast without interference from the government.

Press

The most respected daily papers are Aftenposten (www.aftenposten.no) and Dagbladet (www.dagbladet.no). The main English language paper is The Norway Post (www.norwaypost.no) and the international editions of most major international newspapers (including the International Herald Tribune and the Times) are freely available.

Edited by Jane Duru
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