After the interest of readers for the blogpost Weird things Norwegians do, I thought it might be funny to find out what’s going on with Norwegians when they are having work meetings.
In which other country do you see people coming to work, and therefore to meetings, with their skis on their shoulder? It doesn’t stop there: they will be cheered on their way in by all their colleagues who feel envious of those who hit the ski slopes just after work instead of waiting for the week end.
2. Knitting stuff
In Norway it is totally accepted to do other things during meetings than listen or takes notes, such as knitting. Some say it helps them concentrate to have their hands busy, but it also disturbs other people because of the noise of the pins clinging to each other. In protest to this, some have started a new movement: they carve or chop wood during meetings in revenge to the crazy knitters. Hey guys, is this work or is this a handicraft class?
3. Getting angry while smiling
At first in Norway I felt like everyone agreed about everything. “Everyone and everything is so peaceful here” I thought. People smiling, no one getting angry. How wonderful. Actually, many meetings that appear peaceful to a foreigner are full of people sending each other messages of disagreement and annoyment through passive aggressive smiles and subtle nods of the head. If you manage to see all those disagreements you have earned the medal that takes you to step 350 to integrating in Norway. But honestly, wasn’t it better when you believed they all loved each other?
4. Leaving their tie and their suit at home
No dress code is expected from anyone in a Norwegian meeting. Once I had a meeting with an Ambassador and a representative of a Norwegian Ministry. I was afraid to be under-dressed as I had forgotten about the meeting and had a red with a stripy t-shirt with Pipi Langstrøm on it. But when I saw the ambassador arrive in shorts and running shoes, and the guy from the Ministry with broken glasses he had “repaired” with a piece of white tape just in between his eyes I realised I was quite safe.
5. Forgetting to wear shoes
You are worried your colleague got his shoes stolen on the way to the office? Why else would he be coming to a work meeting in his socks? No this is totally normal: lets have a meeting where we all show off our woolen socks and our slippers. You can even order a new pair of woolen socks to the knitter in there. See, no problems, only solutions in Norwegian meetings.
6. Practice compromise and coffee drinking
Norwegian meetings can be very long. That is why you are provided with liters of coffee. The length of the meetings in Norway is due to something called compromise and also to another Norwegian disease which makes them unable to make a decision because no one wants to seem more important than other people. Expect everyone to speak their mind, which can lead to the meeting lasting a lot longer than planned, and to everyone forgetting the aim of the meeting. This can lead to concluding at the end that we need another meeting.
7. Forget who is the boss
Authority is much more horizontal here than in other European working environments, such as Germany for example. A Norwegian boss cannot say with authority “I decide this is what will happen”, especially in front of everyone in a meeting, even after everyone spoke their mind and that no conclusion was agreed upon based on compromise. Who do you think you are? The boss or something?
8. Make disturbing noises
A meeting is a great opportunity for all the Norwegians around the table to make all the humming and aspiration sounds they want in order to show how much they agree/are listening (although they are actually knitting and carving wood). Aspiration “ha” sounds and “Mmhhmm” hummings will the the rhythm coming from every side of the table for some hours ahead of you. It is disturbing at first but one gets used to it.
9. Have way too many meetings
In which other country is there a meeting in order to plan another meeting? Also sometimes in Norway there are meetings to complain that there are too many meetings. So the aim of the meeting is to change the meeting culture in the office and have less meetings. But Norwegians need a meeting for that.
10. Never be late
This has become strange because it is seldom respected in other countries: be on time at a Norwegian meeting. Because everyone else in the room will be on time or 5 minutes early. We don’t when the meeting will end, but we know to the minute when it will begin.
11. When is it time for a meeting?
Lastly, for those looking for rules on when to schedule a meeting in Norway, my advice, get a calendar with school holidays.
You should never schedule a meeting in Norway:
– after 3pm on a regular week day from Monday to Thursday, so that those who need to leave at 3.30pm to get their kids at the barnehage can still make it.
– on a Friday never after 2pm, Once a Swiss guy put a meeting on a Friday at 5pm, it made national news.
– in July: everyone on holidays in Syden.
– the week before Good Friday, a long Easter week end that Norwegians transformed into a 10 day holiday including week ends and avspassering.
– the weeks before and after Christmas.
Basically you need a calendar and a good update on this year’s dates for school holidays to schedule a meeting in Norway. And you’ll have to schedule them with week numbers. Otherwise it is not a Norwegian meeting.
This article was published in Norwegian in VG on the 11.04.2015 under the title Nordmenns møte-rariteter.