Swedish society is a great example of tolerance and openness.

This nation is one of the more reserved within the EU. When you want to develop a conversation with a Swede, he or she will always first listen to you and then give you his or her opinion. Swedes do not interrupt each other while speaking which makes the business conversation very clear and well-organised.

Swedes are egalitarian in nature. They speak softly and calmly without emotions, especially in public. Swedes rarely take hospitality or kindness for granted and will often give thanks. Failing to say thank you for something is perceived negatively in Sweden.

Behaviours in Sweden are strongly balanced towards ’lagom’ or, ’everything in moderation’. Excess, flashiness and boasting are abhorred in Sweden and individuals strive towards the middle way. People work hard but not too hard, they go out and enjoy themselves, but without participating in anything extreme. Due to the strong leaning towards egalitarianism in Sweden, competition is not encouraged and children are not raised to believe that they are any more special than any other child.

Business Meetings

  • Ensure that you give at least two weeks notice if you are arranging a meeting in Sweden.
  • Punctuality is absolutely essential. If you are late, then this will reflect very badly on you and will be viewed as discourteous.
  • Swedes rarely engage in small talk at the start of a meeting. Instead, people will move directly to the topics at hand.
  • Meetings are typically governed by an agenda which is distributed to individuals prior to the meeting. There is very little talk outside of the agenda topics.
  • Although most meetings are managed by a particular person, all individuals are expected to contribute.
  • Swedish business personnel are focused on detail and as such, any presentations should be well prepared with supporting, accurate and relevant data. Be assured that your hosts will pay a great deal of attention to the detail.
  • Swedes rarely make decisions during initial meetings. The first meeting that you have with your hosts is likely to be fairly general and low key.
  • Swedes are direct communicators and as such, "Saying what you mean and meaning what you say" is both practiced and expected.
  • ’Awkward silences’ are rarely seen as awkward in Sweden. Swedes do not rush to fill conversation silences.
  • If you are trying to sell something then try to tone down the use of emphasis or superlatives as it is very rare that a Swede will over elaborate during a conversation – even if they are trying to sell something. Failure to adhere to this could result in your delivery being viewed as insincere.
  • It is essential that you are cool and controlled during negotiations and that you do not demonstrate any emotion as this will be perceived negatively.
  • Additionally, always bear in mind that the egalitarian nature of Sweden means that decisions and consensus are made across teams. As such endearing yourself to the most senior executives and directors will be of no avail.
  • www.kwintessential.co.uk
  • www.folk.uio.no - Swedish stereotypes
  • www.eoiaviles.org – essay speaking about a typical Swede (PDF)
  • www.fika.de - funny way of describing what it is typical Swede
  • www.international.monster.com - etiquette guide to Sweden
  • www.ediplomat.com - etiquette guide to Sweden, working and behaving in public places