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Why you should learn Norwegian even if you don't need it for work

Frazer Norwell
Frazer Norwell - [email protected] • 26 May, 2022 Updated Thu 26 May 2022 10:52 CEST
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There are a number of reasons you should consider learning Norwegian, even if you don't need it for work. Pictured is an office. Photo by Redd on Unsplash

It's certainly possible to get a job in Norway without knowing the local language, but not making an effort with Norwegian could be holding you back at work and in your social life. 

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There are plenty of English-speaking roles in Norway, making it possible to get a job without learning the local language. 

"In Norway, many companies will accept English speaking candidates without any Norwegian skills. Examples are high-tech, and research companies, academia, hotels, bars, restaurants, shops and startups," Karin Ellis, author and founder of Ellis Culture, which specialises in explaining the social norms and unwritten rules of the job market in Norway, told The Local. 

Now maybe is a better time than any to secure a job without language skills in Norway. Employers are struggling to attract qualified candidates and post job adverts in English to reach a bigger audience. 

READ MORE: Record job vacancies in Norway

However, not getting to grips with the local lingo can hold back foreigners in the long run, even if they secure a job that doesn't require any Norwegian language skills. 

"It is very important that immigrant workers make an effort to learn Norwegian, even when they work for an English-speaking company. Until you speak the native language, you will never be fully accepted in the workplace or society," Ellis said

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The working life expert added that language-related conflicts could be common in workplaces, and even workers in highly-skilled companies may be reluctant to speak English. Additionally, not making an effort with the language, in the long run, could make it harder for you to gel with your coworkers. 

"Not making an effort to learn the language could negatively impact your relationships with your coworkers because they may reduce their contact with you. Even if they speak English with you in the workplace, it is quite likely that they will prefer to socialise with Norwegian speakers," Ellis explained.  

Even if you only intend on working in Norway for a short while, it may be worth trying to get to grips with the language in case you have a change of heart and decide to stay in the country. 

"Immigrant workers who start on a temporary contract in an English-speaking workplace often stay in Norway much longer than originally planned. Then, several years later, when they decide to change jobs, they regret not learning Norwegian from the start. At that point, no employer will be impressed by the fact that they have not bothered to learn Norwegian," Ellis said. 

On the flip side, learning Norwegian could help give your career in the country a welcome leg-up. 

"Learning Norwegian could boost your career because you will be able to communicate and collaborate with your colleagues on a deeper level and avoid misunderstandings. When employers select candidates, they emphasise people skills and the ability to collaborate," the working life expert said. 

READ MORE: The dos and don’ts of writing a killer CV to impress Norwegian recruiters

Even just being able to engage in small talk in the native language could help your career prospects and put you in contention for promotions, according to Ellis. This is because chit-chat can help highlight your ability to communicate and work well with others. 

"To be a good leader in Norway, you need to contribute to a good working environment by taking an interest in your colleagues, supporting and sharing information with them. All of this is easier if you speak the language, as you are then showing that you have taken the step to become part of the Norwegian community and understand the culture," Ellis said. 

 Taking the time to sharpen your language skills can also help you outside of work and help you make more friends. 

"Learning Norwegian will make it easier for you to get Norwegian friends simply by speaking with them in their language and understanding their jokes. You will then start to share experiences, news and perspectives with Norwegians. This will give you more common topics and interests for conversation and discussion, whether it is during the lunch break at work or at a private party," Ellis said. 

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What do The Local's readers think? 

In a previous survey, The Local's readers were asked whether they thought that foreign residents could speak Norwegian was important. 

The majority, 60 percent, said they thought it was, while 40 percent said it wasn't. 

"I am a native English speaker working in Norway for a large international company. However, all internal meetings and documentation are in Norwegian. This demands that even international companies require Norwegian knowledge," one reader, Susan, told our survey. 

Susan wasn't alone in sharing her thoughts that learning the language was crucial. 

"Well, in many industries these days, it doesn't matter much anymore as the working language is English. However, socially it is better to learn and is also very much appreciated by the Norwegians," Arjen told the survey. 

READ ALSO: Tips for finding an English-speaking job in Norway

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Frazer Norwell 2022/05/26 10:52

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