There seems to be a notion among some foreigners in Oslo, perhaps in Norway, that it is common here to fix a job for a friend. Some even get impatient when it doesn’t happen, and maybe believe the reason to be racism or something similar.

The saying exists.

But is is not that simple. 

I don’t know the whole of Norway workwise, not across fields of every type of work either, but I would say that if you do this directly it could and would often be seen as corrupted, if not downright corruption. You normally don’t just do someone a favour and expect a return favour. It may probably happen, but often what goes on is more complicated and you are also supposed to follow rules, not just use a system for your own benefit.

Especially in public bodies, administration etc, there were always and still are formal rules as to who can be employed or not.

In private business usually you were more free to do as you like when thinking of a person’s education etc. I have worked mainly as a teacher and a musician, not in commercial business, so I don’t know the formal and informal rules there.

But the feeling is, in general in Norway, you are given and are expected to have a lot of independence in certain ways, we teach our kids to be independent almost from the beginning, the right to decide for yourself is a cliché which is in many cases very true, even in situations in society definitely too much, I think. In some ways it is beneficial and a positive side of culture.

This means…I don’t think it is common to fix things like this directly for a friend and expect an equally direct repayment of favours, as I said, this would at least in many places be seen as both meddling with other people’s business and also often be seen as unfair. 

What actually goes on is complicated, I think, and not the same in every situation.

You may be recommended by someone, in which case of course it is necessary that you know each other well enough for the guy or girl who recommends you to believe in you, as useful for the workplace – but it is up to the person in charge to hire you or not, within the borders of whatever system he or she is working, tight or not so tight rules. 

Or you just accidentally slip into a work environment of some kind in the course of other things in life or work, is noticed by someone who is in charge, and who then also think you may be beneficial or of good value for the business or office or whatever, and asks you to do a job or to apply for a job. Even then (in the last case) it may happen that you don’t get it, because the job interview is normally the gate you gave to pass in any case. Sometimes formal issues stop you, someone else is better qualified and they have to give him or her the job, or the boss finds out you’re not the right person for the job after all.

The key to getting through this is usually a combination of professional knowledge or skills and the ability to fit in in the work environment, socially and in the way the work is done in this specific workplace.

Independence used to be an important part of being fit for a job, which to some may sound as a paradox, but I believe if I were in charge of something I would prefer a combination of social antennas and the ability to learn – and an independent mind, an interest in what the café or office or whatever is doing, a feeling for what is possible and what not, within the situation, and the ability both to learn your work and develop it in a sensible way.

A feeling, after a while, of what questions actually need to be asked before you do something rash, and what are obvious facts of life.

Cheating of different types goes on, I guess, as in any country or society, perhaps also when hiring people, but it has not been the rule, definitely not. Certainly not an official feature, and in general I don’t think in practice either, not for the majority of people at work.

But each type of business or field has its own culture, in addition to regional cultures and personal habits, each field of work sometimes has its own do’s and don’ts, formal and informal rules, also when it comes to hiring etc. The way in can be wildly different, I think, depending on the type of work and the workplace.

New times…may also have brought new habits and new problems, of which I don’t know too much and don’t really speak of here. Things change fast in the world of today, also in Norway, and there are conflicts and things going on in society.

There is also, traditionally, a strong sense of justice, which I think today may be going too far sometimes, but the principle remains, that everybody is entitled to having basically the same right to possibilities, not least in the job market. This is a starting point or a silent fact in every discussion in this field, and may of course in its turn need another flock of explanations…

Edited after publishing.