Paul: Hi, and welcome to the working with us Podcast. I'm your host Paul Arnesen, a global growth strategist recruitment agency, founder and passionate global citizen. My life and work journey has introduced me to people from all cultures, and working with people from various backgrounds is exciting but also challenging. I love learning how the people from your culture work and what makes me effective as a leader or colleague in multicultural settings. The Working With Us podcast aims to help companies and individuals better understand how it is to work with individuals from specific cultures by speaking to people native to that work and culture. Today we're going to learn about my own culture, Norway, with the help of Norwegian expert Karin Ellis. We will try to understand how the Norwegians are in the workplace, both as a colleague and if you're managing them in your remote team, or maybe you're considering moving there for work, or maybe you're already there and you need some help to adapt to their culture. On the other hand, if you just have a particular interest in Norway and Norwegians, this podcast is an insightful listen to you. So let's get started.
Paul: My guest today is Karin Ellis. Karin is the founder and CEO of the Norwegian Intercultural educational company Ellis Culture found at ellisculture.com. She's an educated IT engineer with more than 30 years of professional experience working for some of Norway's largest international companies. She was born and raised in Norway and has been a leader for multicultural teams in Norway and globally in countries such as Ukraine, India, England, Malaysia and Tanzania. As a result, she has developed a unique understanding of what it means to work with Norwegians. Since 2008, she has been an educator and cultural trainer for companies and job seekers worldwide looking to learn more about work and life in Norway. The courses she has developed on Work in Norway have been attended by several thousand people and are very popular at Norwegian universities. Her books about working with Norwegians and applying for jobs in Norway, which you can find on Ellisculture.com or on Amazon, have been translated into several languages and is an excellent guide to the Norwegian in the workplace. She has also developed Elearning courses, working with Norwegians and applying for jobs in Norway, which can be found on EllisCulture.com as well. In addition to being the CEO of Ellis Culture, Karin Ellis has been the Honorary Consul of Estonia in Bergen since 2014. You can find Karin on Facebook and LinkedIn by looking for Ellis Culture or by visiting her website, ellisculture.com.
Paul: Today's episode is brought to you by Talentroo, an EU-based remote recruitment agency. Talentroo works as a partner to global companies seeking the top talents of Europe. Visit talentroo.com. That's Talentroo.com to learn more about getting help to find the best remote people for your business.
Paul: Hey, welcome, Karin, to this podcast. I'm so honoured to have you as the first guest on this, working with us to learn about working with Norwegian. And as far as I know, you're the only native Norwegian that is actually teaching foreigners about working in Norway. Is that correct?
Karin: Yes. As far as I know, I am the only Norwegian doing this.
Paul: Yes. Yeah, that's great. And that's sort of the essence of this podcast as well. We want to talk to you because you are native and we want to share how it is to work in Norway and to get the real essence of work life in Norway. For someone who has been born and raised there, they can tell from the inside. It's sort of the insider story about working with Norwegians. And before we start with some of the sort of questions I have for you and the conversation we're going to have going forward, I want to talk a little bit about something that I'm Norwegian, so I want to talk a little bit about something that's very important to the Norwegian work, culture and mentality. And that's the coffee, because I remember when I was living in Norway many years ago, I see you have a coffee there already. When I was working in Norway, one of the most important things is that as a leader or a manager, you always need to make sure that there's coffee available. And even if you're working in an office or you're working remotely like I do, I always need to have good doesn't have to be good coffee, it just has to be coffee. You need to have coffee available and you need to have it so you can talk to people or relax or how does it work, what's your experience of this? And give us a little bit of insight about the coffee culture among Norwegians?
Karin: Oh, yes. We absolutely love coffee. And if you offered coffee in Norway, it will usually be black because most people drink black coffee. But in an office environment, Norwegians are not very good at small talking. Really! We don't small talk much, but then we do drink a lot of coffee, and coffee is almost like a social lubricant. So a lot of problems are solved by the coffee machine. So if you're going to work in Norway, it's very important to take part in the coffee talk and not just sit and work all the time, because by the coffee machine, you can talk about anything. It could be private problems, but it could also be problems at work.
Paul: Yeah, I know, it's super important. And as I mentioned, it's not actually the quality of the coffee is not that important because I remember when I worked at a place and they bought the cheapest coffee they can get because we were drinking so much coffee that it became an expense in the end. So they just decided to buy, like, the cheapest coffee you could find and yeah, no one complained about the only thing they would complain about if it was empty, that was the complaint. And they could say, oh, this coffee is really not tasty. But, you know, that's a not an important thing. It has to be black, no milk, no sugar. That's very optional. And I'm living in Italy now. I'm like seeing that. This is like, a very strange concept for the Italians to see because they have a little espresso or a cappuccino. Right. So it's for me, it's something I learned by living abroad about Norwegians from my own culture. Okay. Yes. Any anything you want to add to that?
Karin: No, it's true. Yeah.
Paul: Okay. So something I will always do in this kind of podcast is I will go over kind of a list of facts about Norway because I want to put Norway on the map for people that don't know much about the country in itself. They might have heard about it from media or read about it somewhere else, but maybe you don't really know where it is and what is all about. So I will just give you some basic facts and I will read those up now, and then we can discuss later, Karin, about these facts if it's necessary, or we just go straight to the question. So just without further ado, just let me just jump into some of the facts here. So Norway is a country. It's located in the northern part of Europe. They are part of Scandinavia with borders to Sweden in the east and Finland and Russia in the north. And Norway is a long-stretched country from south to north. It's divided by basically in the middle of Norway there are some mountains. So you have like, the east, where most of the people live actually southeast, like around the capital, which is Oslo. And then you have the other side of Norway, and then you have the north. So we Norwegians usually say Norway is like the south. You have the southerners, and you had the northerners and think you're in Bergen, right? Because I think that a foreigner might not really see this. We are only 5.4 million people in Norway, but it's such a long-stretch country. And then this mountain divide actually, in some sense has shaped a little bit our culture. Don't you agree?
Karin: Yes, we have cultural differences in Norway as well. And I spend a lot of time in Oslo since Oslo is the capital. But as you rightly said, I live in Bergen. And for instance, when I am in Oslo, I use my if I use my Bergen irony, because in Bergen we use a lot of irony. It's not always understood. So I have stopped using my Bergen irony when I am in Oslo. So that's one of the differences. But there are many differences. And in the north, people are known for being much more friendly, much more open and direct. So in the north, they have a juicy language. So they will use words that would not be considered acceptable in the south. And also with jokes. They have very juicy jokes.
Paul: It's very interesting. We do have cultural differences within Norway.
Karin: Yeah. And obviously, not to confuse the listener, the Norwegian culture is very sort of similar in sort of the working life. This is more on a personal level. We have this cultural difference, especially the language in the north is very interesting. I think that's so much to do a research on that, because it's quite an interesting topic to discuss, actually.
Paul: Okay, so just go for a little bit more with the details. So the official name of Norway it's the kingdom of Norway. So we have a king, Harald. He's very popular. You never should talk anything bad about the king. The king is always a very dear friend of the Norwegians, I would say. We also have a prime minister that runs the government. So that's how it works. Norway is best known for excellent seafood, spectacular nature, the Vikings, and being really good at winter sports. So if you look at any statistics about Winter Olympics, you will see that Norway is number one in terms of medals. And we are very proud of that as Norwegians. Also, Norway is consistently ranked as one of the best places in the world to live, according to the Human Development Index. I think at the moment, we are number two on that list. Actually. We've been number one for many, many years. Number two. And number one is not that big difference. The living standard in Norway is high and so is tax. Still, a few Norwegians have any issues accepting the increased tax burden as they understand how it contributes to society. The high standard living and taxes means that most Norwegians are paid on average more in salary than most people around the world. This is something to consider when you're working with Norwegian or if you have a company moving into Norway. In general sense, they expect a higher salary than if you're working from if you have a foreign company. Christianity is the most prominent religion, although religion is not very important for most Norwegians other than the traditions it has brought along. So we still go to church during Christmas and weddings and baptism and everything is still a traditional thing. But I think that most Norwegian now are more open-minded. And there's also, some think around three, four, 4% Muslims in Norway now. You see a lot of immigration. It's becoming like a melting pot of different things. And it's very interesting when you look at the society as a whole. The official language in Norway is Norwegian and Sami. So Sami is a language that is spoken by the Sami people in the north. It's not widely spoken, but it is one of the official languages. English literacy in Norway is among the highest in the world, mainly due to strong emphasis on learning English and exposure to English-speaking media from a very young age. Like, I remember growing up on the telly if we had any channels, so I'm born in the 80s, there was like, English television shows all the time, as if you have the same experience. But we are sort of exposed to English from a very young age. And I think that sort of contributes to when we go to school and learn English, we can sort of use that language, at least listen to it very early on. So. Most Norwegian speak really good English. We also are very good educated and generally well educated because the schools are very good and we also have free university. So you have a lot of people with higher education in Norway. So let's go over to Working in Norway now, because this is the topic of this podcast. So when it comes to the work day, so I'll let Karin give us the insights here. But a typical Norwegian office worker, their work day would between be between 08:00 A.m. And 04:00 p.m., Monday to Friday. And also it's also important to understand that the Norwegian, they have excellent job security and also good protection through very solid labor laws and also high union membership in general. As a result, the voice in the workplace is strong and is very essential. So as a leader or manager working with Norwegians, you need to understand that this is sort of part of their mentality. So, Karin, I would let you now give the listeners and me some insights into working with Norwegians. So I will just kick off with some questions. I don't know if you have any comments to the facts or that I just mentioned. Anything you want to mention that I didn't talk about now that is important for the listeners to know.
Karin: Well, just a little comment on the television shows in English. And in Norway, they were not dubbed. We had subtitles. So we were used to listening to English and learning it that way by not having them dubbed. That's something I thought of that could be mentioned.
Paul: Yeah, absolutely. And I live in Italy and it's very difficult to find non-dubbed international movies. So for me, that's a very I don't understand it. I think it's a cultural thing as well. It helps with language, learning to listen to something in another language. So it's definitely something that we benefited from growing up.
Karin: I did too.
Paul: Yeah. Okay. So the first question I have is that I read your book, I bought your book. I bought a Kindle version working with Norwegians. It's an excellent book. You have it there? Yeah. I didn't have time to order it in paperback, but I found it on Amazon as a Kindle. So I'm very grateful for that. It's an excellent book about learning about Norwegian. And even for me, being Norwegian, it gave me a little bit of insight into the thing I haven't really considered for a long time. And one of them is the term called Frihet Under Ansvar or with freedom comes responsibility. So what does that mean and why is that important to understand when it comes to the Norwegian in the workplace?
Karin: I think that's the most important unwritten rule of how everything works in Norway, and it's linked to trust. So according to the World Value Survey, Norwegians are the most trusting people in the world. So we have a lot of trust. So in the workplace and everywhere in schools, universities and so on, we like people to have we trust people, so we give a lot of freedom. But for foreigners who come to Norway, they see the freedom. The freedom is easy to see and understand, but it comes with a responsibility. So we have a term in Norway, “Frihet Under Ansvar”, which means with freedom comes responsibility. So there is an inherent responsibility with that freedom. And the responsibility is well, the expectation is that you actively take responsibility for your work, usually without having been told. So so you will not be told what your responsibilities are. So you need to find out actually what they are, and then you need to actively take the responsibility and deliver what is expected. And only then, when you do this, will you get the freedom. So the freedom comes with a package. And this was instilled in me at a very early age, before I started school. So my mother explained it to me, and I had to move my school work. I had to work independently with my schoolwork, with my homework. And my mother always expected me to take the responsibility without her explicitly telling me to do my homework.
Paul: Yeah, and it's the same experience I had growing up. It was like, okay, here's your homework, and trying to go to my parents and ask for any help. It was more like, well, you figure it out. You know better than me. And although I didn't know better than them, but it was like they tried to give us, you take care of yourself. You are independent. I don't know if they thought about this. It was just like their way of sort of talking to us as kids. And this is obviously something that has been instilled in us growing up as well. When we come to the workplace. It's super interesting when I read about this because I think maybe a lot of foreign, not only the people coming to work, they fail to understand it, but also maybe managers and leaders that they might feel a necessity to sort of overmanage or micromanage Norwegians. And it wouldn't really work that well because that's not freedom which comes responsibility. That's like, I'm telling you what to do. So I don't know if a micromanager will be really successful in working with Norwegians.
Karin: It would be absolutely unsuccessful. I think that would not work with Norwegians at all. Norwegians are almost allergic, I would say to micromanagement. So if they feel that their leader, their boss is breathing down their neck all the time and controlling them and not giving them trust and freedom, I don't think they will stay in that job. In fact, I left a job myself several years ago, a job that I loved because I had a non-Norwegian manager who was trying to micromanage me and I left.
Paul: Yeah, that's something. I think that I also felt that personally when I was working many years ago. But I was from a Norwegian manager so that always happens. It can happen to everyone. And I think it's just about training and leadership training, in general, that can sort of solve a lot of this, especially for foreigners coming in.
Karin: Paul, if I may, I would like to add a fact that according to the World Value Survey, again, Norwegians are the most independent people in the world. So when asked Norwegians what is important for the children to learn at school, it's actually independence. And Norway is actually on top of the scale there. Working independently is very important for Norwegians.
Paul: Yeah. Let's just segue to the next question I have here now. So how would you describe a typical person from Norway?
Karin: Well, it's very risky to describe a typical person because it can easily become very stereotypical. And as we have already talked about, there are cultural differences in Norway too. And as we all know, we are all individuals. But on the other hand, being stereotypical for a moment can be helpful also because it will help us navigate in the complex world. So it's like the first guess about Norwegians, but also how you perceive Norwegians depends on your reference point. So when I say that Norwegians can be very shy and reserved, it depends on how reserved and shy you are as an individual and people in your culture. But I would say that we tend to be a bit shy. So a typical example of that is that Norwegians will not speak to strangers on the bus or in the lift and so on. And it can take time to make Norwegian friends. So people who come to Norway often find the social life harder to deal with than expected. But once you've made a Norwegian friendships are on a long-term basis, so it's a little bit more difficult to make friends. But then we have friends that I have friends that I've had almost all my life. So it's definitely on a long-term basis. But at work, Norwegians can seem a little bit remote and by that a bit uninterest in your work. But this is not a fact. This is linked to two things. First of all, it's linked to the trust that I've mentioned already. So they will trust you to do your work and to ask if you have any questions. The second thing is that they are giving you space, so they want you to have space to get on with your work, develop your own methods, add your personal touch without anyone breathing down your neck. And once you figure out these rules, people will usually tell me that they love it once they've understood the rules, but it can be a bit difficult to get started in this kind of environment.
Paul: Yeah, and I think this is something that we can talk about because it's interesting when we talk about that with making friends and the social skills of the Norwegian in general, especially when we talk about somehow the way that the world has sort of the world of work has been shaped in the last few years. Seeing that people are more working from home, they get isolated and these things. This makes it a little bit more difficult maybe to manage a team of Norwegians that works from home because they need that social lubricant because they're not they're shy, but like in a way that is just their personality, sort of their cultural traits that they don't really go up to strangers and talk to them. They want to be included more. And I think if I can go to the next question, there is like, what is the sort of the perception of the Norwegian in terms of work life and career and also the personal life? Because it's work and career are two different things. So you work, but a career is a long-term thing that you do for many, many years. And what is sort of the typical what's the perception that Norwegian have in terms of this?
Karin: You mean work and work-life balance? Yeah,
Paul: work-life balance and like long-term careers?
Karin: Yeah, we have a very strong work life balance. And leaders in Norway respect that. The employees also have a life outside of the workplace. So Norwegians will typically leave work at 04:00 (PM) without feeling guilty and they will leave before the boss. I mean, they will not think twice about. So this concept of waiting until the boss has left before you can leave is totally strange and alien to Norwegians. And you will also find if you have meetings in the afternoon that Norwegians will start to leave the meeting and say that I have to pick up my children in the kindergarten. And this is also accepted comfortable in Norway. So there is among foreigners in Norway, there is a misconception, I think, that Norwegians work short days and they work very little. And I think this is based on misunderstanding, because Norwegians are very efficient in the work. In the time when they are at work, they have short breaks, short lunch break, for instance, only half an hour. And many people put in extra hours in the evening, for instance, after the children are in bed and so on. And this is not visible to the outside always. So I think there is a productivity index where Norway score is quite high, actually. So this is a misconception about not working hard, but the days are definitely shorter. And I lived in London in my younger days and I decided to come back to Norway because of this. When I saw the long days that people worked in London and with the commuting and everything, how little time they had with their family, I decided, no, I want to go back to Norway. So that's what I did.
Paul: Yeah. I do think that it's interesting when you talk about that culture of the sort of Norwegians working abroad as well in London. I had one of my best friends who was living in London. He always told me about the long working days, and I asked him why, and he said, It's an expectation. And I say it's a written expectation? No, it's just the way the culture works, which, as you say, is very different from how the culture work. You know, even though I think it's like, okay, it's important to stay at the office very long because you want to prove something. Your manager or leader, which is not that important for even the leaders in over, wouldn't you agree? Would not like they would maybe look at you saying, okay, that person is working really hard and very long, but maybe they don't. Maybe they think that person is a little bit weird for doing that.
Karin: Yeah, absolutely. And I find that many foreigners come to me and say, oh, there's like racism almost in Norway that foreigners are not promoted as leaders. And then I ask them, oh, do you take a part in the social activities at work? Do you drink coffee with your colleagues? Do you talk to your colleagues? Do you spend have lunch with with them? And so on. And then they say, no, I work the hardest and then I haven't been promoted. Well, so this is a difference in Norway from many other countries, that having a good work environment actually is more important than anything else. So when Norwegians choose a job, when they ask what is most important when they choose a job, it is not salary. Salary is number two. And what is rated as number one is having a good work environment. And leaders know this. So it's very important to have a good work environment. And this is much more important than having really long days and working the hardest.
Paul: Yeah. And I think the learning you can take from this, if you're listening, is that especially if you are looking at hiring Norwegians in a work-from-home environment, is that if they are not online at all times, you shouldn't think that they are doing this to not be an active participant in your work. It's their life. So they are probably having dinner with their family because usually dinner is like four or five or they're out skiing in the winter or doing some activities with their children. And that's just the reality. So it's not that they don't want to prove to you that they are working hard. They will do that in other ways by working hard when they should be working, not in the after hours. Also, I think we didn't mention that, but one of the things that I learned living abroad is that Norwegians have overtime paid or I don't know, “Avspasering”, which is like paid leave basically in a way where you take some time off. It's also very combination accepted. So I don't know if you because this term about overtime and how. And you're paid really well. Sometimes if you have to work like during the red days on a Sunday, on a holiday, you get paid fairly, you contributed fairly well to stayed up extra hours. Isn't that correct?
Karin: Yes. Unless you are a leader where you normally don't have overtime paid, then you do get compensated quite well for working overtime. Yes, that's right.
Paul: And I think that that is something that if you bring that into the eight to four mentality and if you have an expectation as a leader that you are not going to pay them to work eight to six because they are on a weekend so they have this thing about those 2 hours extra. I should be rewarded for those 2 hours if I'm going to stay. And I need to plan that and need to agree on that and everything. So I think this is something that is important to understand because you would get very disgruntled Norwegian employees if you don't take this into account.
Karin: Yes. Especially if you ask them to work like 2 hours extra a day. But if you don't ask them, they might put in 2 hours extra without anything just to get their work done. But once overtime is demanded, they are expected to be paid for it.
Paul: And that's an important expectation like what you said there. Because sometimes we Norwegian do work extra and we don't expect anything in return for that because sometimes it's just we want to finish to work. As I said, with freedom comes responsibility. So we have a lot of benefits of flexibility in the workplace. So if we work 2 hours extra on a Thursday, we're and it's not demanded, we're not going to go and say, hey, you need to pay me for those 2 hours.
Karin: But then I would work like that. But then I would also expect flexibility. If I wanted to go, say, to the head dresser or something in working hours, I would. So I would kind of take that time off at some other time as long as I delivered my work. So it would work both ways.
Paul: Okay, great. This is excellent learning and excellent knowledge. Are there any other common you mentioned that this is sometimes a misconception about Norwegians that they work they're lazy in some sense because they don't work on Friday, so they take the day off early. Are there any other misconceptions or something that you have come across that is sort of that maybe comes along and people sort of accept it and then it's no context to it? Is there any other thing that comes to mind?
Karin: Yeah, I would say a common misconception is that some people from Europe or maybe from the US. From other Western cultures assume that working in Norway will be super easy because it will be very easy to their own culture. And this is a big mistake, actually, because the Norwegian workplace culture has some traits which sets it clearly apart and makes it more challenging to work in Norway than in many other cultures. And this is something that they should be aware of. Yes.
Paul: Yeah. What do you do when you hear those misconceptions in a learning setting? Is it something that is hard to make them understand? Because sometimes a misconception can be so easy, especially if you go online and you try to just Google what is working with Norwegians. And obviously that's why you are here talking to me, because you're a native one. A lot of this misconception comes from I don't know where they come from. Is that sort of a media thing? How do you work when it comes to this? And trying to sort of tell them that? I would assume, as I said, because the Americans, they come in, they have this idea and they might be very stringent on having this idea because that's what they believe. Do you have any experience of working with companies or clients or something like this?
Karin: Yeah, I tell them that the biggest challenge is dealing with the lack of clarity in Norway and that is what makes Norway very challenging to work in. Now, I had in my past, I have been a global sourcing manager. So I have been responsible for outsourcing It activity and It tasks and building up teams in other countries. And I found that Norway and I say to Norwegians, we are probably the most challenging people to work with because of this extreme independence. So we don't explain anything. And there can be a lot of misunderstandings linked to this. And I think people who come to Norway need to or are going to work with Norwegians need to be need to understand this and bring some clarity into the environment. So this is what I do in my courses and my books. I give people like a survival kit. How to survive in such an unclear environment.
Paul: No, it's definitely something that you will experience really fast when you get to a Norwegian work environment. That lack of clarity.
Karin: Maybe I could elaborate what I mean about lack of clarity.
Paul: Yeah, please.
Karin: So when research shows that a lot of people, when they start working in Norway, they are told that here's your desk, here is your computer, here is your phone. Just ask if you have any questions. Good luck. And then they are left to their own devices without any guidance. So the lack of clarity, I mean, in Norway there is usually a lack of guidance, a lack of clear expectations, then a lack of follow up because there is so much trust. So when we think that people are working on something, we believe everything is super duper fine unless we hear something. And then there is lack of feedback. And especially if the feedback is negative, then Norwegians don't like to give negative feedback. So you could say that we are a bit shy of conflict. So then you have it from the beginning. Lack of clear expectations, lack of follow up, lack of feedback. It's in all instances, in the process. There can be a lot of misunderstanding when dealing with Norwegians.
Paul: Yeah, that's a good segue to another question I have here, which is what would be if you're working with Norwegian, even if you're a colleague or maybe more if you are a leader, trying to sort of motivate them, what's something that makes a Norwegian particularly demotivated?
Karin: Well, I think not giving them enough space to work independently. And if you were like I said before, if you were trying to micromanage them and if you don't give them trust, that will be very hard for them because they will want to work independently. But strangely enough, I said about lack of clarity, norwegians also like leaders who set clear expectations and clear directions. So that is something I advise also for Norwegian leaders to do because clarity in the workplace makes everyone less misunderstandings and so on. But definitely giving people space to add their personal touch without interfering a lot and trusting them is something that would keep them engaged and happy.
Paul: Yeah, and it sort of ties a little bit back to the freedom. With freedom comes responsibility as well. Because you want to give them that freedom.
Karin: Absolutely. Yes. You need to
Paul: I guess that's also what will then say it's what keeps them happy and engaged at the workplace when you're given that, is that correct?
Karin: Yes, exactly. Yes. Because Norwegian employees will not automatically respect their leader because of the status or title or authority. They will respect their leaders because of other things, such as being good role models, listening to their employees and involving listening to their employees and involving them in the decision process. That is what makes Norwegians respect their leaders.
Paul: It paints a picture here of this kind of to give the freedom which in general sense should be, I think, from all leaders. I think that if you look at this as a style of leadership, it's a model I think can be appreciated anywhere in the world because this is usually if you look at motivational theory, you give people the independence to make their own decisions, they usually perform better than if you're very micromanaging them.
Karin: So I think if I can just add that I think leaders who are going to work with Norwegian employees need to keep them motivated to adapt the leadership style a bit. Especially if it's in Norway, then in particular because if they are going to work in Norway, then there is an expectation that people who work in Norway will adapt to the Norwegian leadership style. If it's outside of Norway and Norwegians are working for a leader outside of Norway, then it's more debatable. But at least the leaders should be aware of these things.
Paul: Yeah, no, that's definitely true. And I think that the second aspect you mentioned there of people working. Say you have an American boss based in the US and have a Norwegian team based in Norway. What they should think about is also you want to get the best out of the Norwegians from the team there. So it's sort of like that's the complexity of having especially if you're thinking about the remote world of work and people working from home, companies that have thousands of people working from home, that work culture is very different from every country. And this is why it's important to understand the basics of what motivates someone that is Norwegian. Even though maybe you only have one Norwegian on the team, it's still important that you as a leader. That's why it makes it so complex to be a good leader in a remote setting. That's sort of one of the things that I talk a lot with my clients about, that it's not like you have one from India, one from Norway, one from from Japan, and then one from the US. Okay. Do you manage them the same? Maybe you have to adapt your style to each one of them to make them happy and productive.
Karin: And I think such a mix can be a very good mix because they have different advantages, different strengths coming from different cultures. And research shows that diverse teams perform better than homogeneous teams, but they need to be managed in the right way.
Paul: Absolutely. I think the team in itself will thrive if they can work together, but the manager needs to have that understanding that give the Norwegian the freedom, but maybe be more structured with the Japanese, for example, something like that. There's like, differences in the way they have to manage them, which is complex. It's a complex thing, but the outcome in the end can be really good. Okay, so the next question I have here on Malik is that I don't know if you already mentioned that, but I think it's always interesting to hear examples of where, say, a misunderstanding has happened in a sort of cultural context, that maybe you have something from your experience of either companies or people not maybe really understanding the Norwegian culture. Any examples that comes to mind?
Karin: Yeah, I think the classical one is maybe that some people from very hierarchical culture will always say yes to the boss. So saying yes and not delivering is the worst. I tell people in my courses that's absolutely the worst thing you can do in Norway. If the answer is no, you need to tell your boss and explain why you're unable to do something. So saying yes is we had a lot of this when we had Indians, when I worked with Indians. So we needed to adapt quite a bit there. And then you have the Norwegian language, and this is maybe not so well known. So first of all, foreigners complain and say that Norwegians are not very polite because they don't say please when they speak English. But this is linked to the language. First of all, the translation of please is often translated into an expression of three words, which is much longer and is more pleading, like you're begging for something. So this is the reason why Norwegians will leave out please when they speak English. And instead of saying please, they will express something more indirectly. And the most typical expression is when they say, it would be nice if you could do this before the end of the week. And many foreigners in Norway, they perceive this as an option. You can do it if you feel like it, or if you have the time, but it's not meant as an option, it's actually an order. So it means please do it. So this can also be another misunderstanding and other. Another misunderstanding could be if a Norwegian says, can you process the data? When they leave out, please? It can be perceived as, Are you able to process the data? So the answer may be yes, but for the Norwegian it means, can you please do it? So that's another misunderstanding. I mentioned earlier about negative feedback. So Norwegians don't really like giving negative feedback. So when they do, they often say something positive, a softener first in the beginning to soften the real message. And I discovered when I worked with Ukrainians that Ukrainians did not understand this way of giving feedback. So what they heard so it was the Ukrainian team leader, when he received feedback from the Norwegian team leaders, he typically heard, oh, the programmers are doing a good job, but this and that needs to be improved. And he always heard, they're doing a good job. And then all of a sudden perceived by the Ukrainian leader, the Norwegians would go with a big bang and say, oh, we've had enough of this. We need some new people on the job because they are not delivering. And then the Ukrainian leader would come to me and said this was very strange because he had received positive signals all the time. So this is something to be aware of, that depending on how feedback is given in culture. So this is a cultural thing. You may not pick up the negative signals from Norwegians. So this was very interesting for me, so I started writing about it in my books after that.
Paul: Yeah, super interesting. And I think just want to go back to the one about please. Also just in other cultures in Italy where I'm living, where they say Per Favore after a sentence and I don't use it. And my girlfriend is always nagging me about this. You should say please, and, you know, it's like, okay, I should I know I've been living abroad for many years and I probably adopted it. But it's also when it's like your mental mode, it's like it's so it sounds so formal. I actually have a story, a personal story about this because I used to live in New Zealand for many years where I learned my English, basically. And I remember when I came back to Norway and I went to the supermarket and I was very polite and the lady behind the cashier was, like, asking me, oh, you're very nice. Because I did like, I said please and thank you and everything for everything as you gave me the bag. And it was just like because I was so adjusted to a more I wouldn't say a polite way of speaking, but just the way they communicate in a different culture that it was weird for her to hear this from a Norwegian. This is a very true thing. And I think also another just that, because I also have obviously many examples of this and maybe you can mention this as well. I don't know if this is something that happens, but I get a lot of messages online from people from different cultures. They are very formal. They say like dear sir and all that. And that's not very I think I feel weird when people call me sir or they tell me there because yeah, just talk to me because we are very even. Like there's not really a hierarchy in Norway.
Karin: No, there's very little hierarchy. We are very egalitarian in Norway where everyone is considered equal and should have more or less the same rights. So salary levels are very similar in Norway. So, for instance, a professor at the university earns only a little bit more than the cleaner. So small salary differences. And we use first names with everyone, including like the prime minister. So first names are common. And it's interesting that you say deer, because deer in Norway, the Norwegian translation of deer is much stronger. So it's almost like darling. So this is why I think Norwegians don't use deer so much in letters and so on, because it's something I would use for my closest family and friends. Again, it's language also.
Paul: Okay, we are getting close to the ending. I have a couple of more questions. One of them I think we can we have talked quite a lot about what sort of makes the Norwegians motivated, what makes them demotivated and how they are in the workplace. Maybe if you're listening now, maybe why should I hire someone from Norway? And that's my question to you. Why should someone hire a Norwegian to work on their team? What value do they bring to the team?
Karin: Yes, I think you should hire Norwegians if you want a creative and innovative environment. Because Norwegians are not afraid to challenge established decisions and ideas. And also if you want people to be able to work independently without a lot of guidance and instructions along the way. And Norwegians, another advantage with Norwegians is that they often take a more holistic responsibility. So more than just doing their job, so they will often show initiatives to contribute to improvement in the environment and so on. So continuous improvement. So I think these are the main advantages of hiring Norwegians.
Paul: That sounds good. And obviously I have worked with a lot of Norwegians in my life and I also work with a lot of non Norwegians in my life. And there is a clear distinction between I would say for me personally, it really depends on where in the world you are living and who you work with. But we, as Norwegian, we have, I think, a very strong pride in doing our work well and doing it like when we have a task and we are given that job, we want to do it and we don't. Want to disappoint because we are social, where we all work together, we pay taxes that are high, but we know it also contributes to society, even at the workplace. It's sort of like my job. It's important because if I don't do it well, my colleagues might have a problem. So I think it's not an individualistic thing to do a job, it's a community thing.
Karin: Yeah, we are quite team oriented in Norway, so that's important to know. So when I help job seekers, for instance, I tell them, please don't brag about yourself, but you can brag about your team, because teamwork is very highly appreciated in Norway.
Paul: Yeah, I think I wasn't supposed to talk about this because I think it can be a long conversation, but you mentioned the word brag, which I think is interesting to talk about in a Norwegian context, because we have something in Norway, you can explain it. It's called Jante Loven, or the Law of Jante, which, if you are familiar with if you're listening, you're familiar with something called the tall poppy syndrome, which I have in the UK, in the New Zealand, Australia. It's the same sort of concept and idea, but in Norway it's really strong. It's a very strong thing. Can you tell us a little bit about that before we move on?
Karin: Yeah, well, Jante Loven is fiction. It was written by a Danish author who moved to Norway and he wrote it to describe the Scandinavian urge to fit in with to conform with the rest of the society. So it has ten rules and all the rules are a flavor of you're not to think you are anything better than us. So if you stick out too much by being either being too rich and flashing your wealth, or working too hard in the workplace much harder than everyone else, or being extremely successful. People will start frowning at you as if you're a bit vulgar. So in Norway, self-bragging is almost like a taboo. So in my job seeker courses, I spend a lot of time on explaining how they can promote themselves more indirectly in a tasteful way to the Norwegian culture or to and Norwegian employers. So this is important to know about, actually. If you work too hard in the workplace, much harder than everyone else, and don't drink coffee and don't contribute to the work environment, people will start frowning and think that you're just a very cold and machine like person. Because in Norway we don't like to recruit machines. We recruit human beings who are also nice to be with. It's very important to be aware of that. So this was Jante Loven.
Paul: Yeah. And I will add all the links to an article about that. I know that you also talk a lot about that in your book, but it's actually a very interesting concept to understand because it's a big part of a lot of Norwegian's way of thinking. I have a lot of examples of this. Just a family. I knew that they were very wealthy, but they didn't want to drive the nicest car in the city because everybody would look at them to say, look at them with a nice car. And they were so worried about that. So they bought like a cheaper car, even though they could afford the nicest car available. So it is something that's
Karin: I have an electric car. I don't have the most expensive electrical car because I don't want to be perceived as if I'm flashing anything. So I bought like a medium car.
Paul: Yeah, because that's something I live in just a context. I live in Milano, so I like fashion capital. I'm trying to be Norwegian in the fashion capital of the world. It's very complicated sometimes, because if I dress very Norwegian, then people will look at me as someone who is standing out as weird. So I have to dress more fashionably, which is very non-Norwegian. So it's a very interesting this thing is a very learned thing that is very hard to get rid of.
Karin: But I would like to say that the culture is changing and changing more in that direction as you're describing more towards fashion and wealth and so on. And you will see more of it in Oslo. So Oslo in many ways is not typical of Norway. So if you have been to Norway and you've been to Oslo and you think you know Norway, then I would say you don't because Norway is not actually typical for with the rest of sorry, Oslo is not typical for the rest of Norway.
Paul: No, that's what we mentioned at the beginning. Norway is a long stretched country from I think that if you fly from Oslo to the top of Norway, it's the same distance as if you fly from Oslo to Rome. So you can imagine this, but basically the entire length of Europe is the entire length of Norway. So you can imagine the people that live under the midnight sun and the dark days in the north, or even the people that live on the west, close to the harsh weather there. They have a different upbringing and different style of life and culture. So this is something that you will learn more when you interact with Norwegian. I think that also is good because you will find people from everywhere in Norway because that's where they flock to sort of find work most of the time. Okay, so the last things I have now basically then goes more to trying to help the listeners to get some value that they can reach out to later. So what would you recommend? Someone either wanting to work in Norway or looking to maybe hire Norwegian? Where should they go? What should they do to better understand the culture?
Karin: They can attend my courses and read my books, of course, and then read and listen and ask Norwegians.
Paul: And isn't it also true that most because Norway has something that is very interesting, they have in every big city around the world, they have a Seafood Council and they usually have like a celebration on our constitution date, the 17 May. And you can actually find most of these things around the world. So if you ever want to meet Norwegians, look on the calendar for the 17 May and see if you can find any celebrations around your city, anywhere in the world. You might find something and you can go there and you can talk to some Norwegian if you have a very particular interest in working with them.
Karin: Yeah, I don't think there's any other countries celebrating the National Day or actually it's the Constitution Day more than Norwegians. They will celebrate all over the world. It's a very big day.
Paul: Yeah, no, it's so big that I was once in Seattle in the northwest of US and Washington State and they have a big 17 May celebration there. But I think that there was only maybe 1% Norwegians. The rest are Americans or descendants of Norwegians. And it was super interesting, very fascinating. And it sort of makes you very proud as a Norwegian to see that. But anywhere in the world you will find. So I think this is also a way to sort of find them if you feel like you want to interact with them. And I think that if you are already planning to move there or you have a job coming up or something and you want to get some introduction, it's a very good way to go. And as I said with the Seafood Council, which is also very unique, we always have people, Norwegians living in cities and they do events and they do different kind of activities there for the communities of Norwegians and also places where they're not many Norwegians, they also do events.
Karin: Yeah. And you could maybe look up the Chamber of Commerce because there are lots of Norwegian, for instance, Norwegian Chinese and Norwegian Spanish and so on, chamber of Commerce. So you could look them up and see if they are located where you live and maybe join them.
Paul: But I think the best solution for now is actually to look up Karin online at ellisculture.com. You will find a lot of information there for sure about where we can region before we really ended. Is there anything else you wanted to mention or add that we haven't talked about so far that you think is important for the listener to know about?
Karin: Yes. I would like to tell a little story because that illustrates what I have already been talking about. There was a professor at one of the universities in Norway who discovered that people who came to Norway from some cultures, after spending some years in Norway, their careers came to a halt. They did not have the development that one should have expected. So when they came to Norway, there were stars in the country they came from with top grades and everything. And you should have expected them to develop in Norway, but they did not. And then he started looking at the US. To compare and he found that in the US. Similar kind of talents in the US really excelled. But in Norway, norway they did not. They stagnated. And then he went and asked these talents who had come to Norway but had not had a very good career in Norway. So he asked them what had happened and they all told the same story. They said that when we came to Norway, we had every opportunity. But nobody told us. So this is a lack of clarity again. And where we came from, if we had done something that the boss had not asked for us, asked us to do, we would have lost a job. So we had every opportunity, but we did not dare to take it. And now we understand that we had the opportunity and it's too late. They had wasted typically wasted maybe three years not where their career had come to a halt because they had not understood that in Norway you have every opportunity, but you need to take it. So this is my message to you. If you come to work in Norway you have every opportunity, but you need to take it yourself because nobody will tell you. Usually.
Paul: No. It illustrates greatly the sort of our the way of thinking and the way of life. And it sort of it flows through our blood and society and how we think about each other and everything that you have all the opportunities and we have given all these opportunities as well. Something that we are blessed with in many ways, that it's a great country to live in. And I think that the reason it is great and why we score really high on different indexes is that there's very little limitations of what you can do and achieve. And I think it's actually a misconception sometimes that they say the land of free is somewhere else, but maybe we can say the Norwegian. It's a land of free because we have so much option and so much opportunity, and it's given to you, and you can take it, and you can have a lot of success in Norway.
Karin: But it's also independent work taken to extremes. So you need to understand that you are expected to work independently, and very seldom will there be any sanctions. So there's a high tolerance for making mistakes because there will be mistakes in such an unclear environment. But we have a high tolerance for trial and failure. So we see trial and failure as part of the learning process.
Paul: Okay, that's amazing. I'm really happy with everything we talked about so far. I want to thank you so much for your time. Before we end it, I want you you to tell the listener, or if you're watching, where they can learn more about you and find your services.
Karin: Yes. I suggest you look up Ellisculture.com on the internet. Or you can find us on Ellis culture as Ellis culture on Facebook or on LinkedIn.
Paul: Perfect. And how do you do you get a lot of requests and stuff on LinkedIn? Are you able to respond to everything? Yes,
Karin: I do. So I have learning courses about working with Norwegians and applying for jobs in Norway. I have the books and I can also do classroom courses for companies.
Paul: You heard that you can learn about Norway? You don't have to go there. You can attend the Elearning course from Karin and you will get all the value you need.
Karin: Or an online class.
Paul: Exactly. Super. Thank you very much, Karin. I hope this episode was as interesting as for me as it was for you. I love learning about different cultures and obviously being Norwegian myself, I think. It's kind of I'm talking about myself here, so I might be very biased. I am biased. I wouldn't say anything else. But I think it's just an eye opener to try to also for people that if you don't really understand your own culture, it's also difficult to try to understand other cultures. So I think it's a good learning experience and I hope a lot of Norwegians are listening to this as well, because you should definitely get Karin's book and just start reading it, because it's a fun book to read and it gives you a lot of insights and things that you take for granted. And I thank you very much for all your insights and all your available information. And I will add all the information and everything we talked about in the show notes of this podcast. They will also be available on the website that will come working with us, co the transcription of the interview links to all resources to Karin services and everything we will find there. And yeah, I think that's it. And thank you again so much for your time. Karin, what's next for you today?
Karin: Oh, clearing the snow. It's snowing outside.
Paul: Yes, that's the typical Norwegian afternoon tradition or even before going to work tradition. So remember that if you work with Norwegians and they don't arrive at the office early, it's because they had to clear the snow from the driveway because we do that ourselves. Yeah, okay. Thank you, Karin. Have a great day. And thank you all.
Karin: Thank you, Paul