Business culture

in Sweden

Meetings

  • Give at least two weeks’ notice if you are arranging a meeting in Sweden.
  • Usually, business cards are offered at the commencement of a meeting.
  • When addressing your Swedish counterpart, don’t hesitate to use their first names rather than their surname and title. This is also appropriate for those you haven’t met before. 
  • Swedes will rarely engage in small talk at the start of a meeting. Rather, people will move directly to the topics at hand.
  • Meetings are usually structured by an agenda that is distributed to everyone before the meeting.
  • There is very little talk outside the set agenda topics.
  • Most meetings will be managed by a particular person, but all individuals are expected to contribute to the discussion.
  • Decisions are rarely made during initial meetings. The first meeting tends to be quite general.
  • When decisions are made, they are most often made by consensus across teams. Impulsive decisions are rare.

Negotiation style

Swedish organisations tend to be egalitarian, so subordinates often have more responsibility in conducting negotiations or closing a deal. Thus, supervisors aren’t always involved in the negotiation process. Regardless of whom you are meeting, Swedes tend to be extremely detail focused and will pay a great deal of attention to the specifics of your presentation. In turn, take note of small details and be well prepared with supporting, accurate and relevant data. If you are trying to sell something, it is best to tone down your use of emphasis in the sense of raising your voice or exaggeration. The key is to remain calm and controlled during negotiations.

Considerations

  • Avoid arranging meetings or business appointments in June, July, August and late February to early March as most Swedes will be on holiday during these months.
  • Avoid bragging about your or your company’s accomplishments. This is frowned upon by many Swedes. 
  • Punctuality in Sweden is highly valued. People are viewed as discourteous if they are late. If you will be late, do let your Swedish counterpart know. 
  • Swedes tend to bypass small talk and go straight to business, no matter the setting. For example, if you’re at a business lunch, your Swedish counterpart may start talking about business before the food has arrived. 
  • Recruitment for jobs is based largely on one’s merit and skills.
  • When dealing with women in a Swedish business context, it’s crucial to remember the emphasis Sweden places on gender equality. To treat a woman differently from their male counterpart in a business setting in Sweden is considered impolite. 
  • Fika (light refreshments and conversation) is common in Swedish businesses. This coffee break often serves as an informal staff meeting. If someone skips fika all the time, people may grow suspicious of you.

Author : Scroope, Chara. (2019). The Cultural Atlas