Mastering Business Norwegian Idioms: Your Key to Professional Success in Norway

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Imagine walking into a sleek, modern office in downtown Oslo. The fjord glistens through the floor-to-ceiling windows, and the buzz of professional Norwegian conversation fills the air. You’re here for an important meeting, ready to showcase your company’s latest innovation. As you shake hands with your Norwegian counterparts, you realize that true success in this environment requires more than just a basic grasp of the language – it demands an understanding of the nuanced, idiomatic expressions that color business discourse in Norway.

Welcome to the world of Norwegian business idioms, a linguistic landscape that can make or break your professional interactions in the Land of the Midnight Sun. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the vital role these expressions play in the Norwegian business world and provide you with the tools to navigate this linguistic terrain with confidence.

But before we dive in, let’s address a crucial point: mastering these idioms isn’t just about memorizing phrases. It’s about understanding the cultural context, the subtle implications, and the right moments to deploy these linguistic gems. This is where personalized instruction becomes invaluable.

At the NLS Norwegian Language School in Oslo, we understand the unique challenges faced by professionals seeking to excel in Norwegian business communication. Our 1-to-1 business Norwegian classes are tailored to help you not just learn, but truly internalize these idioms and their usage. If you’re ready to take your Norwegian business language skills to the next level, consider registering for our personalized classes at

Now, let’s embark on this journey through the colorful world of Norwegian business idioms.

The Importance of Idiomatic Language in Business

In the bustling business districts of Oslo, Bergen, or Trondheim, success often hinges on more than just the numbers on a spreadsheet or the quality of a product. It’s about building relationships, conveying complex ideas efficiently, and demonstrating a deep understanding of the local business culture. This is where idiomatic language plays a crucial role.

  1. Building Rapport: Using local idioms is like having a secret handshake in the Norwegian business world. It shows that you’ve taken the time to truly understand the culture, not just the language. Imagine the impressed looks when you casually drop “Vi er i samme båt” (We’re in the same boat) during a challenging project discussion.
  2. Enhancing Communication: In the fast-paced world of Norwegian business, time is of the essence. Idioms allow you to convey complex ideas succinctly. Instead of a long explanation about diversifying risk, a simple “Vi må ha flere bein å stå på” (We need to have several legs to stand on) gets the point across effectively.
  3. Demonstrating Language Proficiency: In Norway, where English proficiency is high, standing out as a non-native Norwegian speaker can be challenging. Proper use of idioms showcases a level of language mastery that goes beyond textbook learning, earning you respect and admiration from your Norwegian colleagues.
  4. Cultural Integration: Understanding and using idioms provides insight into the Norwegian mindset. It’s a window into how Norwegians think about business, relationships, and problem-solving.

At NLS Norwegian Language School, our experienced instructors don’t just teach you these idioms; they help you understand when and how to use them for maximum impact. Our 1-to-1 classes allow for personalized instruction tailored to your industry and specific needs. Interested in boosting your idiomatic prowess? Visit to learn more about our specialized business Norwegian courses.

Common Norwegian Business Idioms

Let’s dive into some of the most frequently used Norwegian business idioms. Remember, the key is not just to memorize these, but to understand their context and practice using them naturally in conversation.

1. “Å ha flere bein å stå på” (To have several legs to stand on)

Meaning: To have multiple sources of income or various skills/competencies. Usage: In a strategy meeting for a tech startup in Oslo’s vibrant Innovation District, you might hear: “Vår bedrift har flere bein å stå på, så vi er godt rustet mot markedssvingninger.” (Our company has several legs to stand on, so we’re well-equipped to handle market fluctuations.)

2. “Å sette noe på spissen” (To put something on the tip)

Meaning: To exaggerate or state something in extreme terms to make a point. Usage: During a heated negotiation in a boardroom overlooking the Oslo Fjord: “La meg sette det på spissen: uten denne avtalen, har vi ingen fremtid.” (Let me put it bluntly: without this deal, we have no future.)

3. “Å skjære alle over én kam” (To cut everyone over one comb)

Meaning: To treat everyone the same way, often unfairly. Usage: In a customer service training session for a major Norwegian retailer: “Vi kan ikke skjære alle kunder over én kam. Hver kunde har unike behov.” (We can’t treat all customers the same way. Each customer has unique needs.)

4. “Å være i samme båt” (To be in the same boat)

Meaning: To be in the same situation or predicament. Usage: During a company-wide meeting addressing budget cuts: “Alle avdelinger er i samme båt når det gjelder budsjettkutt.” (All departments are in the same boat when it comes to budget cuts.)

5. “Å ta tyren ved hornene” (To take the bull by the horns)

Meaning: To confront a problem directly and boldly. Usage: In a crisis management meeting for a Norwegian oil company: “Vi må ta tyren ved hornene og adressere kundens bekymringer umiddelbart.” (We need to take the bull by the horns and address the client’s concerns immediately.)

Idioms Related to Money and Finance

In the world of Norwegian business, discussions about money and finance are often softened or made more colorful through the use of idioms. Here are some you’re likely to encounter in financial districts from Oslo to Stavanger:

6. “Å snu på kronen” (To turn the crown)

Meaning: To be frugal or careful with money. Usage: In a budget meeting for a Norwegian startup: “I disse økonomiske tider må vi snu på kronen for å holde budsjettet.” (In these economic times, we need to be frugal to stay within budget.)

7. “Å få endene til å møtes” (To make ends meet)

Meaning: To have just enough money to cover expenses. Usage: During a small business owners’ seminar in Bergen: “Mange små bedrifter sliter med å få endene til å møtes i oppstartsfasen.” (Many small businesses struggle to make ends meet in the startup phase.)

8. “Å kaste penger ut av vinduet” (To throw money out of the window)

Meaning: To waste money on unnecessary things. Usage: In a technology investment meeting: “Å investere i utdatert teknologi er som å kaste penger ut av vinduet.” (Investing in outdated technology is like throwing money out of the window.)

9. “Å ha noe på bok” (To have something on book)

Meaning: To have savings or money set aside. Usage: During a financial planning workshop: “Det er alltid lurt for en bedrift å ha litt på bok for uforutsette utgifter.” (It’s always wise for a company to have some savings for unforeseen expenses.)

Idioms About Work and Productivity

Norwegians value efficiency and hard work, and their idioms reflect this cultural emphasis. Here are some expressions you might hear in busy offices from Trondheim to Tromsø:

10. “Å ha mange jern i ilden” (To have many irons in the fire)

Meaning: To be involved in many projects or activities simultaneously. Usage: In a project management meeting: “Vår markedsføringssjef har mange jern i ilden med alle de nye produktlanseringene.” (Our marketing manager has many irons in the fire with all the new product launches.)

11. “Å være på hugget” (To be on the chop)

Meaning: To be alert, prepared, and ready for action. Usage: During a sales team briefing: “Vi må være på hugget for å utnytte nye muligheter i markedet.” (We need to be on our toes to capitalize on new market opportunities.)

12. “Å gå i bresjen” (To go in the breach)

Meaning: To take the lead or be at the forefront of something. Usage: At an industry conference in Oslo: “Vår bedrift går i bresjen for bærekraftig produksjon i bransjen.” (Our company is at the forefront of sustainable production in the industry.)

13. “Å legge kortene på bordet” (To lay the cards on the table)

Meaning: To be completely honest and open about a situation. Usage: In a high-stakes business negotiation: “La oss legge kortene på bordet og diskutere de reelle utfordringene vi står overfor.” (Let’s lay our cards on the table and discuss the real challenges we’re facing.)

Idioms About Business Relationships and Networking

In Norway’s collaborative business culture, building strong relationships is crucial. These idioms will help you navigate the world of Norwegian business networking:

14. “Å dra i samme retning” (To pull in the same direction)

Meaning: To work together towards a common goal. Usage: During a team-building workshop: “For å lykkes må alle avdelinger dra i samme retning.” (To succeed, all departments must pull in the same direction.)

15. “Å gå hånd i hånd” (To go hand in hand)

Meaning: Two things that naturally occur or work well together. Usage: In a customer service strategy meeting: “God kundeservice og økt salg går ofte hånd i hånd.” (Good customer service and increased sales often go hand in hand.)

16. “Å ha gode kort på hånden” (To have good cards in hand)

Meaning: To be in a favorable position or have good chances of success. Usage: Before entering a crucial business negotiation: “Med vår nye teknologi har vi gode kort på hånden i forhandlingene.” (With our new technology, we have good cards in hand for the negotiations.)

17. “Å spille med åpne kort” (To play with open cards)

Meaning: To be transparent and honest in one’s dealings. Usage: During a supplier evaluation meeting: “Vi verdsetter leverandører som spiller med åpne kort.” (We value suppliers who are transparent in their dealings.)

Idioms About Challenges and Problem-Solving

Every business faces challenges, and Norwegians have colorful ways of discussing these situations:

18. “Å være ute å kjøre” (To be out driving)

Meaning: To be in trouble or to have lost control of a situation. Usage: In a project status update: “Hvis vi ikke møter deadlinen, er vi virkelig ute å kjøre.” (If we don’t meet the deadline, we’re really in trouble.)

19. “Å ikke se skogen for bare trær” (To not see the forest for all the trees)

Meaning: To be so focused on details that one loses sight of the bigger picture. Usage: During a strategic planning session: “I prosjektplanleggingen må vi passe på å ikke se skogen for bare trær.” (In project planning, we must be careful not to lose sight of the big picture.)

20. “Å sette fingeren på noe” (To put the finger on something)

Meaning: To identify or point out the core of a problem or issue. Usage: In a productivity improvement meeting: “Konsulenten hjalp oss å sette fingeren på hva som forårsaker ineffektivitet i produksjonen.” (The consultant helped us pinpoint what’s causing inefficiency in production.)

Idioms About Success and Achievement

Celebrating success is an important part of business culture, and these idioms will help you express achievement in true Norwegian style:

21. “Å være i vinden” (To be in the wind)

Meaning: To be popular or successful at the moment. Usage: During a marketing team celebration: “Vår nye app er virkelig i vinden for tiden.” (Our new app is really popular right now.)

22. “Å ha vind i seilene” (To have wind in the sails)

Meaning: To be making good progress or experiencing success. Usage: In a quarterly results presentation: “Etter den vellykkede produktlanseringen har vi virkelig vind i seilene.” (After the successful product launch, we really have wind in our sails.)

23. “Å slå to fluer i en smekk” (To hit two flies with one swat)

Meaning: To accomplish two things with a single action. Usage: In an IT strategy meeting: “Ved å oppdatere vårt CRM-system slår vi to fluer i en smekk: forbedrer kundeservice og øker salgseffektiviteten.” (By updating our CRM system, we’re killing two birds with one stone: improving customer service and increasing sales efficiency.)

Cultural Considerations and Usage Tips

While mastering these idioms is crucial, it’s equally important to understand the cultural nuances that govern their usage. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  1. Context is Key: The appropriate use of an idiom can vary depending on the formality of the situation, the relationship between speakers, and the specific industry. In a 1-to-1 class at NLS Norwegian Language School, you can practice using these idioms in various contexts to ensure you use them appropriately.
  2. Frequency Matters: While idioms can enhance your speech, overusing them can make you sound unnatural or trying too hard. Our experienced instructors at NLS can help you strike the right balance.
  3. Regional Variations: Norway, despite its relatively small population, has significant dialectal differences. Some idioms may be more common in certain regions or may have slight variations. Our classes can help you navigate these regional differences.
  4. Formality Levels: Some idioms are more casual than others. Understanding the formality level of each idiom is crucial for using them appropriately in different business situations.
  5. Non-Native Speakers: When speaking with other non-native Norwegian speakers, be prepared to explain the meaning of idioms you use. This can actually be a great way to build rapport and showcase your language skills.

The NLS Norwegian Language School Advantage

Mastering these idioms and understanding their cultural context can be challenging on your own. This is where the NLS Norwegian Language School in Oslo comes in. Our 1-to-1 business Norwegian classes offer:

  • Personalized instruction tailored to your industry and specific needs
  • Real-world practice scenarios to help you use idioms naturally
  • Cultural insights to ensure appropriate usage
  • Flexible scheduling to fit your busy professional life

By investing in personalized language instruction, you’re not just learning a language – you’re gaining a powerful tool for professional success in Norway. Ready to take your Norwegian business language skills to the next level? Visit to learn more about our specialized business Norwegian courses and to register for classes.


In the complex world of Norwegian business, mastering idiomatic expressions is like finding the key to a locked door. These colorful phrases do more than just enhance your language skills – they demonstrate cultural understanding, facilitate clearer communication, and help you build stronger professional relationships.

Remember, language learning is an ongoing journey. Continue to listen for new idioms in your business interactions, and don’t hesitate to ask native speakers for clarification or additional examples. With practice and exposure, you’ll find yourself using these expressions naturally, elevating your professional communication skills in Norwegian.

As you embark on your journey to master Norwegian business idioms, keep in mind the words of the famous Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen: “A thousand words leave not the same deep impression as does a single deed.” In the world of business, your actions will always speak louder than words, but with these idioms at your disposal, your words can certainly pack a punch.

At NLS Norwegian Language School, we’re committed to helping you achieve your language goals and thrive in the Norwegian business world. Our personalized 1-to-1 classes offer the focused attention and tailored curriculum you need to master these idioms and much more.

Whether you’re negotiating deals in Oslo, collaborating with teammates in Bergen, or pitching to clients in Trondheim, a strong command of Norwegian business idioms will set you apart. It shows respect for the local culture, demonstrates your commitment to professional excellence, and opens doors to new opportunities.

Are you ready to take your Norwegian business language skills to the next level? Visit to learn more about our specialized business Norwegian courses and to register for classes. Let NLS Norwegian Language School be your partner in achieving Norwegian language proficiency and business success.

If you want to learn Norwegian, you can register for classes here. We look forward to hearing from you and helping you become fluent in Norwegian.

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