“Intercultural business communication” has become a catch-all term in the corporate world. Companies do a lot about cross-cultural communication while doing business in China and India. But they take little effort to do those while doing business in Scandinavian countries.
In different years, Forbes has listed Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland) as the best country for doing business. All four countries have high per capita income, competitive business costs, a flexible labor market, and easy interaction with authorities. People have more buying capacity than other parts of Europe.
You always need to be prepared for different experiences when you do business in foreign countries. Otherwise, you may get ‘culture shock’ that may have a negative influence on your business dealings.
It is essential to meet business customs while doing business in any foreign country. Business customs can be grouped into Cultural Imperatives, Electives, and Exclusives.
Scandinavian countries are culturally similar. Business customs in those countries are almost the same. There are minor differences in their traditions. You can consider them as a single state.
Companies that are operating in Scandinavian countries must understand their culture and modify their marketing strategy accordingly. You should be aware that Scandinavian countries are not culturally similar to other European countries like Germany, France, and Italy.
Therefore you should be careful about their Cultural imperatives, electives, and exclusives.
Cultural imperatives and exclusives are related to cultural dimensions and contexts.
I refer very briefly to Hofstede and Halls theories in the context of the Scandinavian culture.
People of Scandinavia do not want to lead; they want to coach instead. Employee autonomy is the highest in Denmark amongst the European countries while Sweden is the second highest.
Workplaces are very informal with direct and involving effective communication with Employees are expected to be consulted before taking major decisions.
Scandinavian people are individualists. They only take care of themselves and immediate families.
They are very curious and creatives. This combination of creativity and curiosity is the driving force for their reputation within innovation and design.
Scandinavia has a low-context culture., that means that means there is less chance of misunderstanding while communicating with Scandinavian people.
Their messages are clear and direct. They communicate verbally and straightforward.
People are very liberal and open to the whole world. Every Danes speak several languages. Students and company employees always get updated with new knowledge and technology.
Cultural differences do not cause any significant problems as it does in China and the Arab world. Anyway, I give some examples of cultural customs:
In regards to imperatives, Scandinavian countries are the least corrupt nation in the world. You must not imply something that they can smell corruption. Any indication to bribery or something like that could spoil your business deal.
People accept different opinions, but they don’t tolerate if you do not respect them. People trust one another. Don’t do anything that breaches the trust.
Cultural electives are customs that you may meet, but you don’t have to. This adaptation could be helpful for business.
Scandinavian people love and adore their national flag. If you bring a homemade cake their flag, they will be overwhelmed with joy.
They are proud of their language. If you say a short sentence to Scandinavian people in their language, they would be more than happy.
Cultural exclusives are customs that are only for locals; the outsider must not participate.
They have only a few customs that outsider can’t participate.
Some strictly family and national matters can be mentioned like baptism, funeral, and some family fests.
Danes, Swede, and Norwegians want the national day and the constitution strictly for themselves.
Danes have listed ten things as their core values:
Free of mind, equal rights for both genders, welfare society, trust, Danish language, organizational sprite and charity works, fun with close people, church, culture, freedom and equal right for all.
Other Scandinavians have similar values.
It is not difficult to meet Scandinavian business customs, but those can make a big difference in business