Often perceived as a relatively small and homogenous market, Scandinavia offers great business opportunities. With a robust economy and high standards of living, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland invite the most ambitious and innovative companies to settle in. Check this guide to learn the secrets to succeed in these prosperous markets.
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Scandinavia is known for being a more or less culturally homogeneous region, for its Norsemen heritage, and for the unique characteristics of its political and economic model, which has prevailed since the second half of the 20th century. This may lead us to assume we can create a single strategy for the whole region.
But, for several reasons, it’s wise to approach each country separately. One of these reasons is linguistic diversity. Across the region, we find five major languages: Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish, and Icelandic. There are also regional languages such as Faroese and Greenlandic, spoken in the Danish dominions of the Faroe Islands and Greenland; and Sami, in northern Finland and Sweden.
While foreigners often think of the region as a single, uniform bastion of equality, diversity, and tolerance, there are some slight cultural differences between these countries that are relevant when doing business. Take for example the organizational structure of a company: Norway and Sweden have a tendency to favor more decentralized and consensual-based leadership, while Denmark and Finland tend to prefer hierarchical structures.
This makes a case for planning specific strategies for each country instead of treating the region as a homogeneous block.
Overall, Scandinavians tend to prefer a more reserved and diplomatic approach to conflict. This feature is not unique to corporate culture, as it reflects a solid tradition that is at the very essence of the cultural and political values common across the region. When communicating with Scandinavians, a good rule of thumb is to always aspire to these traits: openness, politeness, and nuance.
Scandinavia is an economically thriving region, and its cultural values synergize with a strong welfare state as well as solid pro-market policies. All five Scandinavian countries are integrated into the Schengen Area as well as the European Economic Area (though Norway participates through the EFTA). These allyships positioned the region as an extremely attractive and innovative entrepreneurial bulwark.
Scandinavia is a key region in the world economy, proven by the fact that it’s the home of renowned companies such as Nokia, Securitas, Maersk and H&M. Because of this (and because of its world-leading education system), English is widely accepted as lingua franca, though legal documents and marketing campaigns still need to be conducted in the target country’s language.
In this e-book, our cross-cultural experts share actionable tips on how to build lasting business relationships in Scandinavia.