How to make it work with the Nordic people

Scrolling down the Facebook feed. He cringes.

This is how Nordic people would react to some of the ads they see on Facebook. You see, the Nordic countries are some of the wealthiest in the world. Their people can buy a lot. And they are willing to try new things. Plus, they are tech-savvy.

This is why most international corporations set a foot in the Nordic markets. But not all their efforts are fruitful. In the case of the Facebook feed, people from the Nordics often react to the ads they are served in a negative way. Something does not feel right. Is it something about the products or the approach? Most probably the latter.

The Nordic people are often stereotyped: cold, not-talkative, reserved. But this is not the case, as always.

Read on to find out their perspective on things and how they like to be approached (do’s and dont’s).

Good to know

One of the most common mistakes by non-Nordic people and businesses is that they consider the Nordic countries and people the same thing. Sure, they are very similar. They share a common history, live in the same part of the world with its own unique characteristics, even speak similar languages. Aha! This is where people and businesses fail, way too often.

No, Norwegians are not the same as Icelanders or Danes. And Finns are not the same as Swedes. Paying respect to each one’s own national identity gives you extra friendship points. The Nordic languages (apart from Finnish) are almost mutually intelligible. If you speak one, you can understand more or less the rest, to various extents. And no, Denmark is not the capital city of Sweden. (That is often mentioned as one of the most common mistakes made by non-Nordic people). If you fancy some pre-weekend black Danish humour, head over here.

Also, remember to respect their space and time. Anything that can be pushy is a major turn-off for the Nordic people. If you want to follow up on something, you are advised to do it in a gentle way. If they don’t respond, this can only mean one thing: they do not ignore you, they simply do not have something to tell you yet. When the time is right and the verdict is ready, they will get back to you. Patience is a virtue.

Not being pushy also includes not being over-helpful. They need their time to think things through, compare alternatives and reach a decision. Offering too much help on a continuous basis can also make them reject what you offer.

And last but not least, friends. This is a fundamental part of their lives. Most of them have friends since… forever maybe, like school or even kindergarten. And they respect and listen to their recommendations. But, although they believe that they are all part of the society and trust one another for anything, you are better off if you don’t constantly remind them that you know their friends or that they already use a product or service. Social proof works but it needs to be toned down to the lagom level.

But why are the Nordic people so? Read on to help you bring the stereotypes down.

Back to school!

Because it is time for a lesson: history, geography, natural sciences. This is actually what many sociologists and anthropologists believe are the reasons why the Nordic people are um, how they are. Two things rule their psyche: their past and the environment they live in.

Historically, the Nordic region has been peaceful for many centuries now. This is perhaps why their societies have a more than enough stock of social trust and togetherness. There are many things that modern-day Nordic people take for granted because they simply are granted. And they have been for quite a long time now. Just don’t regard them all as one!

Then it is the environment they have been living in since they inhabited this region: mountains, lakes, rivers and wild sea on the one hand and harsh, dark, long, freezing winters on the other. Due to the geography of Scandinavia (and beyond, as far as Iceland), people have been living in remote places, with not many neighbours and fellow men. Transportation and communication were difficult.

So, they had to live largely on their own or with little human interaction. They managed to make friends with nature and nature became their best friend.

Nature has its own slow pace, so this is perhaps one of the best pieces of advice to make it work with the Nordic people is “Take it slow”. Patience is a virtue!

Image: Alexander Benjaminsen /