There’s no “I” in “TEAM”

Two men and a woman sitting around a table with papers in front of them
Working together as a team is an important part of Norwegian work culture. Photo: Benjamin A. Ward/HiOA All rights reserved.

Norway is one of the countries that place emphasis on team success rather than personal excellence. Norwegians have learned to work together and achieve goals as a team. It is important to understand that this mentality is present in all aspects of life and not only in the confines of a work-related environment, where there is always a certain goal to be achieved – be it a sales number, a deadline, a conference to be held etc. In many industries though, the capitalistic view is as common in Norway as in other countries, but the old joke remains of the  so-called Law of Jante (Norwegian: Janteloven), a set of rules created by Dano-Norwegian author Aksel Sandemose in an attempt to describe the negative disposition of Nordic countries towards individualism.

The ten rules (or commandments) of the Law of Jante

  1. You are not to think you are anything special.
  2. You are not to think you are as good as we are.
  3. You are not to think you are smarter than we are.
  4. You are not to convince yourself that you are better than we are.
  5. You are not to think you know more than we do.
  6. You are not to think you are more important than we are.
  7. You are not to think you are good at anything.
  8. You are not to laugh at us.
  9. You are not to think anyone cares about you.
  10. You are not to think you can teach us anything.

Now, if you are not familiar with the North-European culture, these rules may sound inexplicably harsh. Keep in mind, though, that they are only a way to express just one simple concept: we live, work and evolve as a team.

Work culture in Norway

The Norwegian work culture has a flat structure and empowered employees. For a newcomer it may be difficult to distinguish the boss from the rest of the employees. Decision-making is often by consensus, depending on the nature of the situation. There is a high degree of autonomy in both what employees do and how they do it. Employees are often given a great sense of individual responsibility to carry out their tasks, and expected to ask along the way, rather than given clear directions. This is very different from many other working cultures, and employers generally has is a high level of trust that everyone contributes to the common goals and objectives.

Dress code is informal in most businesses, except those working with sales, finance and officials – that is, men are required to wear a tie only on very special occasions

Personal development, a good working environment and friendly colleagues commonly motivate Norwegians, more so than high financial or other quantitative rewards. Employees are expected to work for the common good, and to a lesser extent for personal fame and fortune. Team spirit is a key aspect in Norwegian work culture and salary structure bears witness to that.

Salaries and taxes

The gap between top- and entry-level salaries in Norway is surprisingly narrow, at least when compared to other countries with strong economy, such as Germany or the USA. Simply put, a line manager in a Norwegian corporation does earn more than a janitor, but the difference is not huge – at least not as much as you might expect. You pay rather high taxes in Norway, but when having a family in Norway you see the benefits of the taxes, which includes medical costs, payments for maternity and paternity leave, supported kindergartens and education, even at the university level. These are high costs that in other countries, parents start saving for the kids early.

Children are highly valued in society and this influences work culture. It is acceptable for families with young children to leave work early to pick up their children from kindergarten.

Work/Life balance

At the very core of Norway’s culture lies the importance of work/life balance. There is a general notion that people work to live rather than live to work. Norwegian lifestyle focuses on family values, sports and outdoors life. Norwegians have a close relation to nature, and many families have cabins (Norwegian: hytte) close to the coast or in the mountains. Do not be surprised if you find your colleagues leaving work early on Fridays to go to their “hytte”. If you don’t’ have your own cabin, there are plenty to rent for a low cost in the mountain or by the fjord. Oslo offers a great number of cabins from 2 – 40 people.

Information on renting a cabin in Oslo and surroundings

Tips on mountain trips in Norway by the Norwegian Trekking Association