Egalitarianism is one of the driving characteristics of Swedes. This leads Swedes to be consensus-oriented in many situations.
Swedes expect to be allowed to perform their allotted tasks free from interference from others.
Business structures tend to be flat with good, open communication across the functions.
Managers are expected to include subordinates in the decision-making process. Buy-in is central to the Swedish approach.
Swedes tend to make good team players, realising the importance of open communication and the need for acceptance from other team members.
Due to the consensual nature of the Swedish approach, meetings can be lengthy and verbose.
Delegates are expected to arrive well-prepared for meetings. Agendas are often used and usually adhered to.
Decision taking can also be a lengthy process as the necessary debate and consensus process is gone through.
Punctuality is essential in Sweden. Lack of punctuality can undermine professional credibility.
Swedes put business before relationships and business relationships are based on respect for competence and diligence.
Women play a very active role in all aspects of business life and will often be found at the highest echelons of Swedish business
A strong separation is made between work and private life and private time is guarded zealously – especially in the all too few months of summer when life is for living.
There are high levels of English language competence in Sweden. Do not, however, confuse a high level with absolute fluency. There are still possibilities for misunderstanding and confusion.
Putting directness before diplomacy, Swedes can be seen as rude or aggressive by those cultures who value diplomacy highly.
Silence is valued and respected in Sweden. It is not always necessary to speak – especially if there is nothing much to be said. Do not confuse silence with a lack of interest or understanding.
Swedish body language is fairly muted in comparison with many other cultures. Swedish audiences can appear disinterested or aloof to those used to a more active use of body language.
Humour is not expected or particularly appreciated during the discussion of serious topics. There will be ample opportunity for humour after the serious business has been completed.
Swedes have a high sense of the importance of environmental issues and these topics are very often discussed.
For its population, Sweden has been remarkably successful in developing an international presence and Swedes feel that Sweden is a fairly important player on the world stage.
More emphasis is placed on the written than the spoken word. It is often not enough to phone someone – follow it up in writing.
Written and Produced by Keith Warburton
This country profile has been produced to give a short overview of some of the key concepts to bear in mind when doing business with contacts in Sweden. It is intended to be an aid to business people who have commercial dealings with counterparties in the country but should not be seen as an exhaustive guide to this topic or as a substitute for more substantial research should there be a need.
With this in mind, we have covered the areas which are key to a better understanding of the cultural mindset underpinning business dealings in Sweden and which are, quite often, extremely different from the approach and thought processes associated with business in other parts of the world.
Therefore this briefing note is broken into short, bite-sized sections on the following topics: