Posted by: Sarah | February 11, 2014

Working In Norway Vs Working In The UK

lysakertorgLast week I returned to work after taking a generous 9 month maternity break, only this time I returned back to work back in Blighty and not Norway.  Everything else was the same.  Same job, same colleagues and even the same laptop with a Norwegian keyboard which the local IT team are enjoying (my UK laptop hasn’t arrived yet!).  It’s only my second week but I’m already noticing some differences, so here’s my guide to working in a Norwegian office vs British office.

  1. The Commute:   Okay, this is probably personal choice but in Norway, most folks won’t commute longer than 45 minutes.  My commute was no longer 10 minutes so was very lucky.  On a good day my journey to work now takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes.  On a bad day (which is all I’ve been experiencing so far) it takes between 2 and 2.5 hours.  Not good.  I vote Norway on this point.
  2. sapclockhouseOffice Layout:  When I first started working in Norway I was surprised to see how everyone had their own office but I quickly grew to like the idea.  I’m pretty loud and on the phone all day, so it suited me well (not to mention my colleagues).  I think this is changing in Norway with more offices moving towards an open plan approach – something which is very common in the UK but I forgot how noisy it is.  You can be surrounded by colleagues all on separate phone calls.  It’s great for open communication but makes it difficult to concentrate.
  3. Office Politeness:  Last week someone sneezed from behind my partition and someone from behind another partition quickly chirped up with a “Bless You” – a very British way of saying “I heard you and hope you’re okay”.  It’s not always the case but in a Norway office you could be slowly coughing your way into an asthma attack and no-one would raise their head.  Luckily I was surrounded by very caring colleagues in Norway who were quick to help :-)
  4. Office Etiquette:  Today I bought too much for lunch.  My arms were full with food, drink, purse and no hand spare to grab my badge and open the door.  A fellow office worker (no idea who she was) flew across the corridor and offered to open the door for me.  Folks hold doors open.  The hold lift doors for you.  You can chat openly with folks in the coffee queue.  I don’t remember it being so friendly!
  5. Food:  We’re lucky at SAP – lunch is provided for all employees.  The canteen in UK has to win here.  Every day we get a choice of meat, fish, salad, chefs special, fresh sandwiches, wraps, soup and delicious desserts.  Too delicious in fact.  I think my aggressive weight loss program is about to take a turn for the worse!
  6. Celebrations:  I don’t expect a lot of work to be done in Norway over these two weeks since the Sochi Winter Olympics are on.  We were in Norway during the last Olympics and all I remember was the conference rooms being booked out with the ski races being shown on the large screen with lots of folks sat in there with their laptops ‘working’ and ‘watching’.  The Norwegians are so proud that you couldn’t possibly stop them from enjoying this sporting contest.  In fact, if there’s a really big race during the Winter Olympics they’ll order some hot chocolate and waffles to really make the experience memorable.  I haven’t seen this kind of spirit in the UK just yet.


  1. Wow, I never knew working in the UK was so similar to the US. Or maybe just my city. But really, the commute with traffic can be 30 mins- and hour (to drive a handful of miles). But then people hold the door for you and keep bandaids and tissues in their bags to share and such. Though the office set up is moving towards mini office rooms for a handful of team members and bigger rooms you can congregate at and brainstorm and problem solve, and newer offices are starting to have crazy things like gyms and spas and ping pong and rock climbing walls. (If only I worked in one of those!) But it’s really very similar to the office you are describing :)

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