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Country Profile: Norway

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Cultural Etiquette


Cultural Dos and Taboos

1. The handshake is the standard greeting for men and women in more official situations.  Hugs may occur between friends. Verbally, however, people may greet each other by saying hello.

2. Among men, it is common for last names alone to be used in forms of address. Outside the personal sphere, however, it is advisable that professional and governmental titles be used. In business, titles are used more rarely in verbal communication although they are customarily used in written communications. The formal form of address such as Mr.or Mrs. followed by a surname is typical in business and government until invited to move to a first name basis.

3. Common gestures include a toss of the head denoting "come here," while a display of the finger is considered vulgar. An old Norwegian superstition originating from fishermen's folklore suggests that spitting in the direction of one who is leaving or departing will bring them good luck. While one should not freely act upon this custom, it is a fascinating cultural note. Most Norwegians today, however, suggest that any spitting at all is considered improper.

4. Punctuality is the norm in this culture, so be sure to be consistently punctual for both business meetings and social occasions.

5. Most Scandinavians, including Norwegians, tend to have fairly quiet dispositions. As such, one should avoid speaking loudly or indulging in any overt and flamboyant behavior. (Naturally, this is a generalization and should be regarded as such).

6. In conversation, sports (especially soccer and skiing), sightseeing (especially regarding the natural beauty and environment of their country), travel and politics are considered to be good topics of conversation. Note, however, especially in regard to matters of political or social import that Norwegians appreciate tolerance and will rarely be impressed by narrow-minded or fundamental beliefs. In this regard, while many political and social topics are open for discussion, one should avoid criticism of other peoples or systems. Inappropriate topics of conversation include personal topics or controversial issues such as the hunting of whales.

7. If you are invited to a Norwegian home, stand quietly outside the doorway to the entrance of the abode and wait to be asked in; once you are inside the home, wait again until you are asked to sit down; and when you are sitting at the table, wait for the host's invitation to begin eating.

8. Note that a dinner in a Norwegian home may have numerous (usually three, but possibly more) courses. Special dinners may last several hours. Pace yourself and try to finish what is on your plate.

9. Dining is typically continental-style with the fork steadfastly held in the left hand and the knife in the right hand.

10. Initiate your own departure (usually around 10 p.m. during winter and 11 pm in the summer months), as your hosts will rarely do so.

11. In general, if one is invited for dinner, taking a gift is regarded as an appropriate gesture. Generally, most gifts should be wrapped. Suggested gifts include flowers (excluding lilies, carnations, white flowers or wreaths, all of which are associated with funerals), liqueurs, wine, liquor, or fine chocolates. Because of the high taxes on alcohol, any gift of an alcoholic product is considered a good choice.

12. Dress is generally casual and should conform to the temperate climate. Business wear is more conservative; suits are the norm for both men and women. Women generally to be more restrained in regard to makeup and jewelry, opting for a more natural look than other parts of Europe.