If you’ve lived in Norway for awhile, you’ll be familiar with the funny ad campaigns run by one of the grocery chains here. In the TV ads, some humorous situation is played out in the extreme, yet always ends with this message on the screen: “the simple is often the best.”
This phrase could apply to the stereotypical Norwegian communication style. People here are known for speaking plainly and without an excess of words. They come to the point quickly and don’t want to waste time beating around the bush.
All well and good; yet as we talked about this topic during a recent Intercultural Communication at Work course, the ‘NNs’ (non-Norwegians) there came up with one instance where they didn’t appreciate this – what shall we call it? – economy of expression by native speakers.
Actually, they were talking about a situation where not only are few words being used, but rather none at all.
This, said the NNs, happens in the morning when ‘Ns’ (Norwegians) walk by them on the way to their desk and say – nothing.
No hello, no good morning, no how are you? Just silence and gaze avoidance as they slide on by.
Leaving the NN feeling a bit upset and confused – why did that just happen?
This point came up when I asked both the Ns and NNs to work in pairs and each make a list of what their group could do to promote integration at work.
Which wasn’t easy for them, by the way – but with a bit of help from me, the pairs got to talking together and writing down their ideas.
Once they had gotten some down, we went through them together.
What we quickly noticed was that this morning time non-communication came up again and again, as several pairs made this same point.
It makes you start to wonder, what’s going on out there around the country?
Because this wasn’t the first time this has happened; on the contrary, I’d say it’s become a feature of every time I run this Int Comm course.
So are all my course takers just unlucky to work at places where that’s how the work day is expected to start?
Maybe you’re reading this and thinking, but that’s not me! I always greet my co-workers when walking into the office in the morning.
Of course you do, and of course many other ‘Ns’ do as well.
Good for you.
But if you’re reading this and thinking, oh, well that just might be me, ask yourself why?
When you’re walking up to others in the morning, are you yourself tired? In a bad mood? Shy? Thinking you’re letting other people have their, I don’t know, space – by not bothering them with a morning greeting?
Get over it, please, and do it soon.
Because quite often, promoting integration and making us NNs feel welcome to be in your country doesn’t require grand gestures.
Quite often, the simple is the best.
(Wasn’t that easy?)