In 1988, four Norwegian businessmen in Hamburg came together to establish a club for Norwegian entrepreneurs in Germany. The club is still popular today and recently celebrated its 30th anniversary.

The leader of the Peer Gynt Club, Kai-Axel Aanderud, answered questions about the club’s history, work and success. See photos from the 30th Anniversary at the bottom of this article.

How did you celebrate your 30th Anniversary?

– More than 100 guests was present for the Peer Gynt Club’s 30th Anniversary in Hamburg’s Chamber of Commerce on Sept 20. Petter Ølberg, Norway’s Ambassador to Germany,  gave a speech. He has strong ties both to the Hanseatic city and Germany as his mother was from Hamburg and his father was the Ambassador in Bonn. The club received many congratulations on its anniversary, amongst others from Rita Ottervik, mayor of Trondheim since 2003, who for many years was a guest of the club when she came to deliver a Christmas tree to Hamburg: «I feel honored to be invited to your anniversary, and I am so sorry that it was impossible for me to attend this time. Peer Gynt Klubben is important for the relations between Trondheim and Hamburg and between Norway and Germany as well. I am glad to determine that the great effort and work you have done through the last 30 years have been of great significance to the cooperation between Norwegian and German businesses.»

How did the Peer Gynt Club start?

– When the Peer Gynt Club was founded on Sept 20, 1988 in Hamburg, there were two Norwegian embassies in Germany, one in Bonn and one in East-Berlin, and two German embassies on Oslo. Back then, Norwegians living in Germany could only be employed, it was only in 1992 and the EEA-agreement that Norwegians were allowed to work independently with business activities in Europe. 30 years ago, four businessmen, hotel director Per Jan Doksæter, lawyer Ole Brauer, Jotun-representative Arne Bert Guttormsen and Petter Martin Hammerøy from SAS, established a club for Norwegian entrepreneurs in Germany. In line with the club’s very positive development, it opened for German business memberships in 1994. Today the Peer Gynt Club has around 100 member compaines both from Norway and Germany.

Why the name Peer Gynt?

– The answer lies in the 4th act of Henrik Ibsen’s play “Peer Gynt.”  On the question from Monsieur Ballon: «You are Norwegian?» Peer Gynt answers: «Yes, by birth! But cosmopolitan in spirit. For fortune such as I’ve enjoyed, I have to thank America. My amply-furnished library I owe to Germany’s later schools. From France, again, I get my waistcoats, My maimers, and my spice of with, – from England an industrious hand. And keen sense for my own advantage». Henrik Ibsen was like Peer Gynt cosmpolitan in spirit: He chose to spend 27 of his best years outside of Norway seeking a more cultured atmosphere.

What do you do?

– The Peer Gynt Club contributes to Norwegian-German understanding, knowledge and cooperation, og to strengthen business relations. The club’s development is also marked by new communication channels that shortens the distance between Norway and Germany. The old-fashioned club life is therefore replaced with a new concept: Every first Thursday of the month Norwegian and German members gather along with their guests for dinner and a presentation in one of Hamburg’s finest venues, the exclusive Hafen-Klub by the river Elbe and the harbour. Throughout the years, the club has had many Norwegian delegations visiting, e.g. the Norwegian-German Friendship group on Stortinget (parliament) and the 34 mayors from the “Oslo-region”. The club has also always been an important financial supporter for the Norwegian-German cultural community. It supports the Edvard Munch House in Warnemünde, the Edvard Grieg House in Leipzig, the student organisation ANSA in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, the school sailboat “Thor Heyerdahl” in Kiel, the Norwegian Church Abroad in Hamburg and The German School in Oslo. Norway’s ambassador in Berlin and Germany’s ambassador in Oslo are regular guests. The club’s honorary members are Norway’s former prime minister Kaare Willoch and Germany’s former ambassador to Norway Dr Axel berg, and play an important role in the life of the club.

What will a membership in the Peer Gynt Club give you?

– By participating in the club and our meetings, you get to know many interesting actors within the Norwgian-German business scene. There aren’t many places like this. Besides, you also get knowledge about Norway and Germany through the many events we host.

What industries will be important the next 30 years?

Green energy will be important, especially for the automobile industry. Norway already delivers plenty of aluminium; the world’s largest AdBlue facility is in the YARA factory west of Hamburg; and Norwegian hydropower electricity is sent to Germany through NordLink cables. Martime industry is also important, which goes to show in that DNV-GLs maritime headquarter is in Hamburg. Long-term defense cooperation is a focus with six equal submarines for Norway and Germany currently being built in Kiel. We will also see more focus on travel, Norwegian alone flies Oslo-Berlin 21 times per week, and in food, where Norwegian salmon must increase the quality. We need a more diversified Germany image in Norwegian education and more German education in Norwegian schools, as well as Norwegian students at German universities.