Working with Norwegians
Would you ever play chess without knowing the rules? Being in Norway without awareness of the cultural codes is like playing chess without knowing the rules – you will make many mistakes … This is why we recommend our non-Norwegian staff to participate on the cultural training “Working with Norwegians”.
The International Staff Services at the university HR-department are now offering cultural training for international staff and their spouse/partner. Karin Ellis, hired to do this training, has several years’ experience in running courses both for foreigners working with Norwegians, and for Norwegians working with persons from other cultures. Before becoming a trainer, she worked in international companies for many years. Her trainings are based on practical experience from diverse environments. We have asked her three questions relating to cultural differences and about the training:
Why do you think we need cultural training?
Everybody who is going to spend some time in a culture different to their own should learn about the codes of conduct for that culture to be able to understand the behavior and be in control of the situation. The cultural training session will reveal how Norwegians think and act in various situations to enable the participants to know what is expected from them, both in a professional and social setting. They will get more confident and have less risk of cultural misunderstandings. Participants on these trainings typically say that mistakes made in the past could have been avoided if they had attended the training earlier.
In what way would you say that Norwegian culture is different from many other cultures?
We have never had an aristocracy in Norway and this is one of the most egalitarian societies in the world. In a business environment people often ignore the hierarchy and work across it rather than going through the formal channels. Norwegians give and are used to being given freedom with responsibility, where the leader will give freedom and will expect responsibility from the employee. Many Norwegian leaders will not follow up on a detailed level and the employee is responsible for flagging any potential problems or delays as soon as he/she sees them. These are just a couple of examples, the training session will cover these and other cultural insights in more depth.
The university has employees from 70 different counties. With all these different people working together, do you have a general advice for all of us how to minimize problems caused by cultural differences?
It is important to realize that we are all a product of our own culture, and we should not assume that everyone's beliefs, values, thoughts and actions are just like ours. Mutual respect is achieved by trying to have an open mind and allowing a bit of room for the cultural differences. To be very concrete, my advice to foreigners is that they should be aware that Norwegians expect an honest answer when they ask you to do something. If you know that there is a problem to deliver what you are asked to do, you are expected to bring it up as soon as possible. And for Norwegians my advice would be to ask open questions (how, what, when etc.) to allow the other person to express his/her view, rather than asking closed questions to be answered by a mere “yes” or “no. This simple technique will reduce the risk of misunderstandings and the response will be more informative and a much better foundation for further dialogue.
And if YOU want to discuss cultural differences, or want to learn more about the Norwegian culture, we invite you to join the training. Read more at: http://www.uib.no/poa/en/kurs/2011/10/working-with-norwegians
Last updated 14.10.2011