Differences in work culture between India and Norway (part 1)

Hi Everyone

Having been in India for more than one year make hopefully have made me aware about what is important to think about when working in cultures as different as India and Norway. But it is still always interesting to see some formal information written by others. When one of my Indian colleagues pointed me to this site, with information about working in Norway, I found it quite interesting.  So let me try to break this down piece by piece and see how it is different in India and Norway.

Business structure – According to the article, the Norwegian business structure is extremely non-hierarchical. The suggestion that it is better to try to find the person responsible than to try to find out how the hierarchy work I think is a very good advice. In India, I do think it is absolutely completely the opposite. You really need to find out how the hierarchy is. I have been in situation (not just in Capgemini) where a subordinate have been completely overruled by his/hers superior. In India it is expected that if you are at a higher level in the organization you are also the one who know best. This even if you might not even have been informed about the particular issue being discussed. The idea that a subordinate might be the one who actually works on the case and know it best is unheard of here in India, while it is very common in Norway. We have had situations in Norway where my boss asks me for advices. That would probably not have happened in India.

Management style – Like when it comes to the business structure, the management style is also quite different in India and Norway. I very much agree with the article saying that in Norway a boss is expected to be more of a facilitator than the person who is an authoritarian and who make all the decisions. As I have said about business structure, this will clearly be very different here in India.

Meetings – The funny thing about meetings in India is that it seems to never exist at all, while in Norway people seems to think that a good meeting can solve every problem. Well, maybe not really so, but sometimes it can feel like that. In Norway meetings are mostly conducted as open discussions. Yes, people do come prepared, at least mostly. People are mostly prepared to listen to everyone else’s opinions. In India, I think I hardly have been in any meetings the way we think about meetings in Norway. We have a lot of phone calls with people in other countries, but typical department meetings or such does not exists. As long as it is actually the manager who decides I think that people here don’t really see the need for that kind of meetings. Maybe some of you readers can tell me how it is in other Indian companies?

Team working – This is one of the areas where I’m not sure if I do really agree 100 % with the article. That Norwegian teams can be an enormous asset, yes, true. But I do think that a well lead Indian team can be just as good. In Norwegian teams it does happen quite often that too many people actually have their say, and that it can lead to conflicts. Yes, an Indian team has to be managed in more detail, but if this is in place, I do think that this team can be just as efficient as a Norwegian one.

Communication style – I very much agree with the idea that in Norway we are usually quite direct. One of my Indian/American colleagues’ call me blunt, which I must admit is a word I don’t really like, but one that probably describes my way of speaking quite well. Another difference which I find notable is that Norwegians seems to be more curious than Indians. In Norway it would be rude on a Monday morning not to ask colleagues what they did in the weekend. And you can ask quite detailed about this. In India I feel this is quite different. Sometimes I have asked questions, and it feels like some people almost feel offended if I ask them what they did in the weekend. A bit like this is nothing of my business.

The rest of the points at the site I will discuss in a new post tomorrow (hopefully).

Talk to you soon!



6 thoughts on “Differences in work culture between India and Norway (part 1)

  1. Hi Karsten, thanks for this article…and your insights..I just want to comment about the weekend thing you noticed…most Indian people do not live “weekend” to “weekend” (unlike say the westerners)…it just comes and goes with family and chores etc. Maybe younger people look forward to weekend excursions/hangouts but its life as usual for most family- bound professionals. So its not like they don’t want to share what EXACTLY they did…the undertone is more like “usual stuff, just no office”..

    • Thanks for your comment! I do agree that it might be more like “I did nothing in the weekend”, but still it is quite interesting with the differences of discussions at lunchtime. On Fridays in Norway everyone will talk about their plans for the weekend. On Mondays they will ask and speak about what they did in the weekend. This I have hardly seen in India. And I absolutely agree that Norwegiand are more keen on using weekends to explore new things.

      • I think weekends are a welfare state or a rich state phenomenon, where the state is caable of taking care of its citizens. That is certainly not the case in India.

  2. Pingback: Differences in work culture between India and Norway (part 2) « from Norway to India

  3. well, I do agree that there was a hierarchy present in most of organizations. However, the scene is highly evolving especially in tech companies. if a manager doesn’t listen to his sub-ordinates and overrule/override their decisions, then he is quickly disregarded as fool or egoistic.

    Indian companies are full of egoistic managers and time has come to get rid of them. They are such a liability.

  4. Pingback: Komplisert global kommunikasjon | Masterbloggen

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