Working in an international environment where everybody is from almost everywhere there are bound to be some sort of clash or kerfuffle between the cultures, especially when you add Scandinavians to the mix.
Us Scandinavians are well known for our Vikings and our punctuality (we will arrive 10-15 minutes early and walk around until the exact time we agreed upon). Working with us is completely different, and here are some of the things that could really get on a Scandinavians nerves - A How To, on what not to do:
Telling us that we will work with the Nordics:
This might actually confuse us if there are no Finnish and Icelandic present. You only have Swedish, Norwegian and Danish in the office and say here is the Nordic team, we will look at you and say: So, you mean the Scandinavian team, right? A good rule of thumb is this: Scandinavia is Norway, Sweden and Denmark, the Nordics includes Finland and Iceland. We do forgive you for this but don’t be alarmed if we are confused.
You’re inviting a Scandinavian that is in Scandinavia to a meeting at 11 am or 11.30:
Usually, in Scandinavia, we have our lunch break between 11-12. You might receive an email asking to postpone it to 12 onwards. Don’t get us wrong, we can be flexible, but our cultural norms dictate that we eat lunch around the 11-12 mark.
You schedule the meeting at 11, and you are not there until 11.10:
This will make us very annoyed, and some will even get mad at you. In Scandinavia we value timekeeping and each other’s schedule, this means we will make sure we will be in the meeting/conference call at 11 sharp if we are delayed we make sure to tell you about it and we expect to get the same. It all boils down to respect, and not telling us you will be late shows us that you do not respect us or our schedule.
Telling us we do not look Scandinavian:
Thanks, I guess? Will be a response you will get. We do look different from each other, not all of us are blonde, blue-eyed and built like mountains. We vary in size, hair colour and eye colour. If you want to compare us to Thor (most people do this comparison of the Marvel character Thor) then we all should be Ginger, have a long flowing ginger beard, long messy hair, of lesser intelligence and unable to keep track of all our belongings. If you are curious, google it!
Asking us if we have Polar bears in either Stockholm, Oslo or Denmark:
Of course, we have Polar Bears, some have them as pets, while others ride them to school. Us Scandinavians even live in Igloos with no wifi or electricity. WARNING - Sarcasm Alert!
Asking if we only eat herring all the time:
We will answer sarcastically here too most likely in the way of No, we eat sharks, seals, and whales, covered in liquorice and mulberries. In reality, we eat a lot of different things, cinnamon buns are a classic, as well as waffles shaped like hearts, no square ones, they do not taste the same.
Disrespecting the cheese, aka killing the cheese:
This one really annoys us, if we find a ski slope or a door stopper in the cheese, you will need to answer to your crime, why don’t you use a proper cheese slicer? Do you even know how to slice cheese? Were you raised in a barn? Are you even human? All of these questions’ run through our minds. Just letting you know there are different cheese slicers depending if it is a hard or soft cheese. If you need help a Scandinavian will be able to point you in the right direction.
Asking us to announce what we have done at work:
Asking a Scandinavian to announce what they have done, or what they have achieved in their role, we get very uncomfortable and it goes against the social norm for us. We generally tend to keep quiet when we are working, and it is because we do not need to demonstrate verbally that we know what we are doing. However, if we are loud about things, it means we do not know what we’re doing and would need some extra training. Bear this in mind when working with a Scandinavian.
Not allowing us a Fika if it is established:
Fika is a coffee break where we take 10-15 minutes out of our day to breathe and communicate with our colleagues from different departments outside the formal setting. It is a social lubricant that is needed to be able to be efficient in our job and communication. It is something more companies should try. This is a key point to help you recruit more Scandinavians to your company, and make sure that every department gets to know each other.
So, there you have it, there are plenty more, but these are the basics. Stay away from making these blunders and we will become your best friend (over time) and no we do not have a cold shoulder, we generally do not know how to act in social situations without alcohol, I blame the Vikings for that, if they weren’t so fond of alcohol, maybe we would function in this world.