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
Sweden is an open, diversified and competitive economy which has always looked to international trade as an outlet for its products and services. Over the past few decades Sweden has increasingly focused on the development of high-tech products and services and on the green economy which has helped put a relatively small country right at the vanguard of global development.
In addition, Swedish demographics have been helped by the influx of large number of immigrants from around the world who have added both numbers and skills to the highly educated native Swedish population. All of this adds up to a country which represents a host of opportunities to companies and individuals who have the right products or services – ones which will appeal to a very discerning mark place.
Doing business in Sweden is relatively simple and unencumbered with much of the bureaucracy and red tape often found in other countries. However, Sweden is a high-cost economy and you can lose a lot of money quickly if you don’t get your strategy and planning right from the outset. Part of your planning should be to do some homework on Swedish business culture – like all other countries Sweden has its own unique approach to doing things in a business context and you really need to understand these nuances if you hope to make the right impression.
Sweden is one of the most egalitarian business cultures in the world and people from a more hierarchical culture can often find it difficult to understand how this impacts on business operations. For example, going straight to the top might not be the right approach in a country where power and information are shared openly throughout an organisation and showing less respect to one person than another based on job title will definitely be frowned upon.
This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of Swedish business culture in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on: