We visited the residence of the Norwegian Ambassador, H.E. Ms. Janne Julsrud. We were honored with the presence of several key management personnel from Norwegian companies with operations in Singapore: Sverre Prtyz, PatrickO’Neill and John Theodorakis of BW Group; Terje Knutsen of Yara; Lars Ellegård of DnB Nor; Erik Valen of Nordea; Anne Margrete Mellbye of SN Power; and Ole Jakob Sørdalen of Innovation Norway. Two Norwegian students, Snorre Ansa and Erik Tjønneland, were also among the guests.
Through a video and speeches by the ambassador and the guests, we learned more about the Norwegian business climate and social culture. Norway is a low-power-distance country, with a relatively flat hierachical structure in organisations. Instructions and communications are not only conveyed top-down, but feedback from the ground is also actively encouraged by top management, and business units in different geographical locations often have a relatively high degree of autonomy compared with a more centralised chain of command in Singapore. Norwegians also have a more informal business culture, compared with the Swedish, who have a longer history of centralised, standardised manufacturing operations as evidenced in companies such as Ikea and Volvo. As a young country, the Norwegians are very conscious of the freedoms that they enjoy today, and celebrate their constitution not with a show of military might, but rather with a view to the future, with children at the centre of their Independence Day festivities.
After the speeches, our gracious hosts unveiled a special treat for us: traditional Norwegian-style waffles, prepared with strawberry jam, sour cream and goat cheese, served over candlelight. We were then free to interact with the guests and find out about their individual backgrounds and perceptions of Norway, Scandinavia and Singapore. While interacting with the guests, I was particularly struck by the irony of the fact that Norway, while being a major oil exporter, is also a world leader in the development of green energy in the form of wind, solar and hydroelectric power. I also learned from the video and guests that Norway is a very sparsely populated country, in stark contrast to urban Singapore.
From the video and anecdotes, one can see why Norwegians are so keen on sustainability and environmental preservation – their country is very close to Mother Nature’s wild side, replete with sprawling fjords and gushing waterfalls. I believe that once we have seen the lush lands of Norway with our own eyes, we will definitely return with a renewed passion for sustainable and green development, and the drive to protect our environment will follow us for the rest of our lives.
– Candice Chua