The Business Lunch: Norway’s Most Popular Dishes and Mealtime Etiquette

norwegian-coastal-landscape-8-1422143-mNorway is a country that very rarely shows up on the international business radar. However, given its healthy economy and strong role in the EU, it’s likely that you’ll find yourself headed there to engage with Norwegian colleagues or clients.  While there, you will find yourself invited to a business lunch as a friendly, informal way to introduce yourself.  While Norwegians are very egalitarian and patient with colleagues of all backgrounds, there are certain points of etiquette that are crucial to be aware of during a productive and successful business lunch.

First of all, be sure to arrive right on time; Norway has a very punctual culture, and to arrive even a few minutes late to a gathering makes a bad first impression. The tone of the meal generally depends on what meal it is; a lunch will probably be dedicated towards actual business, while a dinner will most likely be more social.  However, look to your host to see where the meal is directed, and it is appropriate to assume that he or she will pay the bill.

Table manners are very important to Norwegians, and you may find that a knife and fork are used even to eat “finger food” such as sandwiches and pizza.  If a toast is offered, always make direct eye contact with your counterparts, (historically, this was to prove that you didn’t slip poison into anyone’s drinking horn), and say, “Skål.

Image 4If you are unfamiliar with Norwegian food, it may be fun to try some of their most typical dishes.  Norway is particularly proud of their salmon, which is very flavorful and healthy, due to growing up in fresh, cold Norwegian fjords.  Try their famous Røkt Laks (smoked salmon) or order it poached, grilled, or marinated with dill and mustard sauce, a dish known as Gravlaks.  Other fish you can try include stockfish, which is unsalted, dried cod or haddock, or Lutefisk, which is stockfish softened in water and lye and then grilled, generally served with potatoes, bacon, peas, and mustard.

If you’re not a big fan of seafood, you might enjoy the typical dish Kjøtkakker, which are fried meatballs served with gravy, peas, and potatoes.  Also, while this is traditionally a breakfast food, be sure to try the Brunost, a sweet brown cheese that can be served on toasted bread or melted into a sauce to be served on venison.  Lamb is also a very popular dish in Norway, and you can order it simmered with cabbage (Fårikål) or in leg form (Fenalår).  The truly adventurous can even order a boiled lamb’s head: Smalahove.  For dessert, you can’t go wrong with Pannekaker, thin pancakes served with fruit or jam, or Kingles, sweet pretzels frosted with an almond-flavored icing.

Even if you’re not a big foodie, take this opportunity to expand your palate with some interesting new dishes—it will make for a good impression and a great culinary experience.  To fully appreciate Norwegian cuisine, why not learn the basics of the Norwegian language?  Send us an inquiry for more information on beginner’s classes.