Business meetings and negotiations

August 10, 2013

In Norway, it is still relatively easy to reach top-level executives within a corporation. It is often possible to go all the way to the top but care should be taken to determine whether this is really the wisest move – sometimes the best place to start may be a bit further down the organizational structure.

The best time for meetings is usually between 9 and 12 in the morning and 1 and 4 in the afternoon. Meetings should be set up beforehand and confirmed by letter, telephone or e-mail. Punctuality is important and it is considered impolite to be late to meetings. Although latecomers are always welcomed, they will be seen as somewhat unprofessional and can not expect to receive a briefing to bring them up to speed. Repeated cancellation of appointments is not popular and will quickly give off a bad impression. For social events such as dinner parties there is a grace period of about 15 minutes. And be aware that words of welcome are usually spoken about 30 minutes into a reception or cocktail party.
When it comes to language, Norwegians are reputed to be relatively skilled speakers of English. This is true in most cases but many are reluctant to admit that there is something that they do not understand. This means that they may have grasped the general idea but perhaps not all the finer details in your discussions. It may be a good idea to check to see if your Norwegian partners have truly understood the ramifications of your ideas. Moreover, their skills in written English do not always match their oral skills, so be sure to read through any papers and clarify any ambiguities at an early stage. Many Norwegians have a working knowledge of either German or French but will seldom feel comfortable participating in discussions in these languages during meetings.
It is crucial that you be thoroughly prepared for business meetings. Start with an agenda and choose a fact-oriented presentation form. It is also important that you stick to the time frame. You may find that negotiations move more quickly than you had expected. Norwegians may well be empowered to take quick decisions and inclined to do so. Other times, proposals will need to be discussed internally in their companies and some time may elapse before a decision can be taken.
Contracts and agreements are mutually binding. Prices and specifications are black and white and an offer stands as tendered. Bargaining will probably get you nowhere and may well generate resistance among your Norwegian counterparts. This attitude has given Norwegians a reputation as inflexible and tough to deal with. On the other hand, Norwegians are direct and present their intentions immediately without pussyfooting around. And all parties are expected to honour all agreements and promises. Norwegians set great store by openness and honesty

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