In hotels, etc. breakfast is served from around 07:00 to around 10:00 and can be similar to a continental breakfast [bread, rolls, croissant, etc.] or a cooked English breakfast [toast, marmalade, bacon, eggs, etc.] Breakfast cereals are usually available. The normal Norwegian breakfast is bread with slices of cheese, cold meats, preserves, etc. made up into open sandwiches. Coffee, tea, milk and juice are the typical drinks.
Lunch is usually served from 11:00 to 1:00 p.m. Beer or wine seldom accompany lunch, either business or social, in cafes, restaurants, or office cafeterias. Still or carbonated mineral water is usually available, as are milk and fruit juice. Lunch in a restaurant includes a main course or open sandwich with a rich assortment of toppings – such as cold meats, different types of cheese, and vegetables.
Dinner is usually served from 5:00 to 7:30 p.m. In Norwegian homes, it is served not usually later than 8:00 p.m., the usual time for weekend dinner parties. The evening meal may be similar to lunch, with fish, cold meats, vegetables, and dessert. Wine and beer are the usual drinks served with dinner. The traditional Norwegian dinner has three courses: soup, fish or meat and dessert. Coffee is served after the meal [never during] and is usually taken in the living room.
Typical dishes include smoked salmon, pea soup ‘komle or kompe’ [a potato dumpling], breast of pork [svineribbe], rack of lamb, a Norwegian speciality, esp. at Christmas [pinnekjøtt], cod, lobster, etc. – prawns are always on the menu.
The most popular venues for business entertaining depends on what venues are available locally. For example, boating excursions, the theatre or opera, and excursions to the countryside as well as restaurants may be used.
You should always arrive at a social event on time or a few minutes early.
Meals at a Norwegian associate’s home can be either relaxed or formal; follow the lead from the information your host gives you when you are invited. Ask how you should dress. Moreover, you may be surprised at how long it may take to be invited to a dinner at a Norwegian home. For Norwegians, it is a formal occasion, and a spur-of-the-moment invitation is unlikely to be given. Once in the house, you will be shown to your seat. Bring nice shoes for the party but avoid high heels as Norwegian often have good wooden floors in their houses. Do not wander from room to room; much of the house is still considered out of bounds to the guests.
Norwegians are very hospitable and will invite you to their homes occasionally during the week, but most often on weekends. Invitations will be sent out weeks in advance as the event has to be planned. Norwegians find it difficult to be spontaneous in inviting people to their homes. Be sure to arrive promptly and take a bottle of wine, or flowers for the hostess – both make good gifts.
At the table, be sure to look for place cards, or wait until the host directs you to your seat. Do not take the initiative to seat yourself, as the seating arrangement may be predetermined.
Before the meal, one might be offered an aperitif – aquavit, other drinks or white wine, served in the living room. Aquavit is a clear spirit, flavoured with caraway, and very strong. It is typically served ice cold; men usually drink it in one shot, and women sip it slowly. Do not take your aperitif to the table. Instead, try to finish it before dinner is served.
Although beer is served with some meals, wine will be offered during more formal events. Take the first sip after your host has said a few words and toasted everyone at the table.
The most common toast is ‘ skål’, pronounced ‘skoal.’ Do not sip your drink until the host or hostess has said ‘ skål ‘; only then, should you take your glass and raise it. Always wait for the host to say ‘welcome’ before starting your drink. A toast to welcome you is traditional, and is always said with the wine and not with the aperitif. Wait for your host or hostess to make the first toast; after that, you can propose one. Maintain direct eye contact from the moment the glass is raised to the moment it is placed back down on the table. If many people are being toasted, make eye contact with each individual as you make the toast. Do not begin eating until the host has started.
The most honoured position is either at the head of the table or in the centre, with the most important guests seated first to the left and then to the right of the head of the table or the host[s] in descending order of importance. If your hosts are a couple, one will be seated at either end of the table, with the male guest of honour seated to the left of the hostess. The male guest of honour should always say thank you during dessert [in the form of a small speech]. The female guest of honour is seated to the right of the host.
Men and women are seated next to one another, and couples are often separated and seated next to people they may not have previously met. The purpose of this arrangement is to promote conversation.
Men always rise when women enter the room and both men and women rise when older people enter or leave a room.
When the meal is finished, the knife and fork are laid parallel to each other across the right side of the plate, the tips pointing in toward the plate.
If you put both utensils down on the plate for any length of time, it is a sign to the waiter that you are finished, and your plate may be taken away from you.
There will be separate glasses provided at your setting for water and white and red wine. After-dinner drink glasses come out after dinner.
When not holding utensils, your hands are expected to be visible above the table. Thus, you do not keep them in your lap; instead, rest your wrists on the top of the table [never your elbows].
Salt and peppershakers or holders should be passed so that the receiving person takes them directly; do not place them down on the table first.
If you do not want more food, leave just a bit on your plate. If you clear your plate you will be offered more. You may always have additional beverages; drink enough to take the level in your glass below half-full and it will generally be refilled.
When you have finished eating, place your utensils on your plate in a 10 o’clock-4 o’clock position, with your fork tines up.
Don’t accept or take the last serving on a platter. This action is perceived as rude in Norway.
At the end of the dinner party, the male guest of honour is usually expected to thank the host or hostess, acting on behalf of all the guests. The guest of honour usually precedes the thank-you announcement by tapping his knife gently against his water glass, and then saying ‘Takk for maten’ [thank you for the food]. Using these few words to preface your thanks will be much appreciated – it is traditional, but at the same time used at every dinner table at every meal in every home in Norway.
In informal restaurants, you may be required to share a table; if so, you are not expected to make conversation. Instead, act as if you are seated at a private table.
Waiters should be called by making eye contact, since waving or calling their names is very impolite.
You should never, ever, chew gum at a restaurant or on even in the street.
Smoking is illegal inside restaurants, coffee shops or pubs. In fact, there is no smoking permitted in any place where the public have access. Many non-food venues do have separate, self-contained smoking areas.
Usually, the person who gives the invitation pays the bill, although the guest is expected to make the effort to pay. Sometimes, other circumstances determine the payee [such as rank]. Agreeing payment arrangements ahead of time, before any exchange occurs at the table, reduces any embarrassing complications.
If you go to a pub, you are not expected to buy a round of drinks. If you do buy a round it will be regarded as a ‘treat’, and Norwegians will not reciprocate. Norwegians always pay for their own drink, though one person might order and collect them from the bar.
It’s a very practical idea, when acting as the host, to inquire ahead of time as to whether the guests will require transport home. If necessary, you should call a taxi for your guests at the end of the meal, though you will not be expected to pay for it.
If invited to dinner in a colleague’s home, you may offer to help with the chores, but you will probably not have to. Do not leave the table until invited to do so. Spouses are often included in business dinners [frequently if both business associates are married].
When it is time to depart [usually by 11:00 p.m. or so], make a point of shaking hands with everyone: a general wave in the direction of the other guests is not appreciated.
Never drop by a colleague’s home uninvited or unannounced; always phone ahead and ask if it is convenient to drop in.
It is not uncommon for businesswomen to pick up the check in Norway, especially if they are on an expense account.
Norwegians generally do not socialize with their colleagues after the workday, although they do consider their colleagues to be good friends. There is no culture of dropping into the pub for a quick drink before heading home.
Tips are generally included in the total price; nevertheless, waiters usually expect an additional 10%.