The most important thing to know before working in another country is the culture – power distance and differences between Spain and Norway
The culture expert in Norway, Rina Sunder, is often seen in Norwegian media talking about the importance of knowing the culture of the country you are working in. She shows examples of businesses that fall through because of misunderstandings or violations of the cultural codes. One of the main differences that surprises the foreigners working in Norway is the flat organisational structure and the lack of hierarchy. They are not used to your boss being “one of the other co-workers”, and having a more friendly relationship with him/her. Like mentioned earlier, difference in power distance was one of the topics I investigated when writing my thesis on intercultural differences at the work place in Spain and Norway. “Power distance is the extent to which the less powerful members of organizations and institutions (like the family) accept and expect that power is distributed unequally.”
Spain has a higher score on power distance compared to Norway. This means that in Norway, people expect and accept power relations that are more consultative or democratic, compared to Spain where less powerful people accepts more easily power relations that are more authoritarian. The results found in the research, shows that in a hierarchy, people focus more on contacts and power rather than on effort, knowledge and experience. The interviewed explained that it can be hard for a Norwegian to enter in the Spanish business world because they often focus only on your title, position or importance, and you need the right contacts to get in. This is shown in cultures with high acceptance for power distance, where subordinates acknowledge the power of others simply based on where they are situated in certain formal, hierarchical positions. Norway is more transparent and people relate to one another more as equals regardless of formal positions.
Like mentioned above, the results also showed that the relationship between the boss and employee is different in Spain and Norway, in Spain it is more distant and the boss is more authoritarian while the Norwegian boss is usually more equal the other co-workers, direct and personal. There is also a difference between the importance of dress code and appearance. In Spain you communicate with your looks related to how important you are and your title, while in Norway normally they prefer people to be laidback, relaxed and “normal”. It is more focus on what you do and who you are rather than your title and importance.
In the next post I will talk about the differences between individualism and collectivism in Spain and Norway, the importance of personal achievements and individual rights vs. as members of a lifelong and cohesive organization or group.