Every nation has its own set of business custom rules, and Swedes also have their way of doing things. Here’s a list of helpful tips for anyone who’s doing business with Sweden.
Make sure you punctual for meetings or if possible a few minutes ahead. This is also valid for networking functions where the idea of arriving a polite 10 or 20 minutes earlier doesn’t exist. People try to come a little early and don’t hang around after the planned time of the event.
2. Coffee counts
Many workplaces run a weekly or even daily coffee break which is a significant part of the Swedish office culture. This is where you get to socialize with your colleagues and catch up on main office news in an informal way. It’s OK to excuse yourself rarely if you have an important meeting but constant absence will not work well with your colleagues.
3. Keep your distance
Swedes have a great require for private time. This indicates that you shouldn’t sit straight next or even close to someone if there are more seats vacant.
4. Silence is not social death
Don’t feel stressed to fill the gaps if there is silence while waiting for a meeting to start, or even during a meeting. Swedes don’t usually have a big line in small talk and will only speak when they have something to say.
5. Keep it low
This applies to a variety of matters from how you wear to how you talk. Appearing any way arrogant, raising your voice or using body language does not go well with most Swedes. Even compliments should be paid carefully.
6. Speak their language
Speaking Swedish is a sign of respect for your Swedes partners and you should take the time to learn at least some Swedish. Company documents are better to be translated into Swedish if you want to get better results with your business proposals. Don’t fall for machine translation as it won’t cut it; use instead.
7. Don’t rush to invite
When eating lunch with colleagues, you are not expected to offer to pay. Everyone plans to spend their way and far from being respected, offering to may make your colleagues uncomfortable and under debt. Swedes usually keep their professional and private lives separate so wait to be invited to after work activities rather than suggesting it yourself.
8. First names please
Swedish workplaces are far less hierarchical than most other countries and it’s normal to call all your colleagues, including your bosses, by their first names. This should not, though, be confused with being well familiar with them - the relationship is still official and topics of conversation should be limited.
9. Dress Code
Smart casual is sometimes wrong in Swedish offices when it comes to dress code. Most workplaces do not need suits and ties or the female equivalent. Smarter looking jeans are also usually worn together with a jacket and shirt/blouse.
10. Patience pays off
Swedes are master planners and love to plan ahead, which means that any new plan has to be scheduled for conversation and implementation and will therefore take time. Swedish business culture also holds the democratic decision process. Don’t try to rush things and your patience will finally pay off.
11. Holidays are sacred
It’s normal to take three weeks holiday or more in the summertime and many businesses shut down completely in July, the most significant holiday month. Swedes expect their holidays to be respected and if things don’t happen before the holidays, you will just have to wait until everyone is back at work.