‘Embarrassed’ by local dress code

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Newcomers to Norway might note that Norwegians tend to dress down for work, and dress up for play. Monday through Friday in worn jeans and wooly sweaters or even T-shirts, most Norwegians just want to be comfortable at the office. The relaxed dress code does not sit well with all.

Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre (left) and Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg are among the few who pass muster for their style of dress, according to one business consultant. PHOTO: Arbeiderpartiet

“A good many Norwegians do not know how to dress in a professional setting,” Benedicte Finnema, former commercial director for the Oslo Chamber of Commerce, told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN). Finnema has lately been conducting corporate seminars in style and etiquette and is highly critical of how Norwegians represent themselves at the office, warning that it can have a dire effect on international cooperation. In her eyes it is all about presentation.

According to Finnema, badly-dressed Norwegians can be spotted instantly at conferences abroad. “I am often embarrassed on Norway’s behalf,” she told DN, warning that the consequences of under-dressing in an international business setting could be more than just the worst-dressed title. “You can’t show up to a contract negotiation in London, Singapore, Bangkok or China in a pair of jeans and an all-weather parka,” she says. “All your credibility, reliability and respect go out the window with a sloppy style.”

Finnema does list some exceptions to the poor Norwegian standard, such as lawyers, people in the shipping and finance industry, and the odd politician. She praises Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, whose style she characterizes as an appropriate mix of boring and discreet. On the female side, Conservative leader Erna Solberg and Minister of Education Kristin Halvorsen have impressed her of late.

Implementing a stricter, more professional dress code must start from the top down, with management being the first to leave their tired jeans at home, Finnema argues. While style can be more casual in a creative environment, she recommends and longs for a stricter dress code in the Norwegian workplace: “You can be as talented as you like, achieve the very best, but remember that the way you dress is also a part of your presentation.”

Views and News from Norway/Liv Buli
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