Perhaps Oslo's biggest criticism is its high cost of living and doing business.
Business travellers breathe a sigh of relief when they learn their next assignment will be Oslo. The food is delicious — if they like fish —and their Norwegian colleagues are level-headed, warm and inviting.
There are a few drawbacks, however. For one, make sure your credit card is ready to pack a punch. That's because Oslo often ranks in the world's top 20 most expensive cities.
The city is humming. Modern-day Norwegians, like the Vikings who inhabited the country centuries ago, have a reputation for being uber-efficient and creative. At the same time, they have a no-nonsense approach to business. That unique mix has led to expertise in fields ranging from finance to telecom, and spurred a home-grown energy sector boosted by the vast oil resources off Norway’s western shore. It’s also drawn numerous international companies, including Opera Software, Statoil and Telenor.
Oslo is located at the tip of one of Norway's many beautiful fjords giving it a lush, hilly backdrop, a charming and active waterfront and temperate climate compared with the northern part of the country. While the winters can be snowy and cold, the spring and summer is balmy and warm, making it an ideal time to visit.
New development programmes are bulking up the waterfront core museums and visitors can see opera in a new, world-class venue. A major highway was rerouted beneath the fjord to help eliminate heavy traffic and officials hope to do the same with other roads to create an even more pedestrian-friendly environment, especially around the Opera House.
Oslo Gardermoen Airport is located almost 50 km north of the city and is the main arrival point of international flights. Its terminal building is as Scandinavian as it gets with laminated wood lining its surfaces (it is the largest laminated-wood structure in the world) and plentiful natural light. Good news for business visitors during harsh-weather winter months: The airport has an almost-perfect on-time record and often ranks as one of the most punctual in Europe according to website FlightStats.com. It is in the midst of a massive construction project to almost double its size and raise the capacity to 28m passengers from 23m.
Don't be surprised if you see airport and airline staffers wheeling around the airport on two-wheeled scooters. These are simply a more efficient way for them to quickly move through the terminal.
The Flytoget Airport Express train (170 Norweigan kroner, roughly $27) is the quickest way to get to the city centre. The high-speed train departs the airport every 10 minutes and reaches the Central Station in 19 minutes, travelling at 210km per hour. With a 96% punctuality rate, this option is reliable no matter what the weather.
Taxis are available, but will set you back a mean 610 kroner (almost $93) between the airport and downtown. The train is the most commonly used option. The airport offers flyer-friendly amenities like free wireless internet access and water bottle filling stations past security, and with 600 new electrical outlets installed throughout the terminal, there is rarely a shortage of places to power up devices.
Perhaps Oslo's biggest criticism is its high cost of living and doing business. Everything from milk to cars is expensive and exorbitantly so. A business dinner for one with wine at a midrange restaurant easily clocks in at 510 kroner ($81). Most hotels in the city centre include free breakfast, so stock up before a meeting.
Norwegians are open and accepting. Many in Oslo speak excellent English and have a worldly understanding of other cultures. Still, it is worth noting that Norwegians respect confident, well-prepared business presentations. They are conservative and straightforward in decision making, preferring not to be rushed into any deal. Expect to get right to business with fewer formalities than other countries. It is all about efficiency and honesty.
A new boutique hotel, the Thief, opened in 2013 near the Aker Brygge district, a mixed use residential and commercial complex on the water's edge. Nearby businesses make this a convenient option for walking to work. With 120 rooms, this is the city's most modern and quirky hotel appealing to design-savvy travellers, especially. With free wireless internet, plentiful international power outlets and iPads delivered upon request, business travellers are looked after very well here. After work, guests can use their room key card to access the adjacent Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art.
Diplomats and celebrities opt instead to stay at The Grand, which dates back to 1874 and hosts the Nobel Peace Prize banquet. This 290-room grand dame, which sits on the bustling Karl Johans Gate pedestrianised shopping street, is currently completing a massive renovation although guests will hardly notice. Where you stay often says a lot about your business, and this famous hotel is the cream of the crop in Oslo.
Dinner for one
The Nordic region is well-known for its seafood and Lofoten Fiskerestaurant, along Aker Brygge, is one of the most famous in the region. Its menu bears local delicacies like pan-fried hake and skate and Norwegian lobster, but even its signature fish and chips are popular. Business travellers who are seeking a break from intense negotiations in their free hours after work will find it here. Arrive early to score a waterfront table.
On the famous hill overlooking the city, the Ekebergrestauranten isn’t an easy place to reach. While the blue tram (18 or 19) makes stops at the nearby Ekebergparken station, many diners come by taxi from the city centre (roughly 130 kroner or $20). Still, with its premium views and well-known Nordic menu, this is indeed the place to relax by yourself with a glass of caquavit (a flavoured Norwegian spirit) after a long day. Bespoke menus are served within the airy dining room or on the terrace, although guests often vie for a seat outside in season. The herring platter and traditional fish soup are popular, but the more adventurous should try the cured reindeer loin (both tender and healthy given the reindeers' diet) or the Holte Gard chicken for the most local flavours.
Off the clock
Ekeberg Park is the city's prized sculpture park and overlooks the fjord. Take the blue tram (18 or 19) from the city centre and stroll down the walking paths to capture the depth of the city's natural surroundings. More than 30 sculptures and art installations by Norwegian artists have been set up throughout the park making any walk quite interesting. Views of the fjords surrounding the city and Aker Brygge pedestrian area are especially notable from this hillside park.
To see Norway's most visited attraction, the Holmenkollen ski jump, take metro line No. 1 to Frognerseteren station and walk five minutes to the entrance. Try your hand at Olympic greatness by visiting the simulator that has you skiing down the giant slope and propelling you in the air, or opt for a more restrained zip line ride from the top. The price tag is close to $100 (this is still Oslo, after all), but the experience is worth it for adventurous visitors.
Norwegians believe strongly in the democratic principles of respect and interdependence; that is to say they try view everyone on equal footing. Criticism is limited, and equality in society and the workplace is placed at the forefront. It is best to avoid flaunting financial or workplace achievements in favour of seeking a more common denominator with a colleague or potential client. Ostentatious behaviour is frowned upon and interactions are often casual. Feel free to introduce yourself using only a first name.
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