Swedes communicate well in international business situations, helped in no small measure by the generally high levels of English spoken in the country.
The international nature of many Swedish businesses makes it essential for any ambitious Swede to have a good knowledge of the world business language.
However, as with all non-native speakers of English, Swedes take into the second language their own approach to communication matters. As with many northern European countries, directness is prized more highly than diplomacy. The search for consensus and agreement does not preclude the use of direct debate – in fact, it makes it absolutely necessary. The result of this respect for plain speaking is that Swedes can be seen as rude or at least overly abrupt by those cultures which place diplomacy before direct speaking. Cultures as diverse as the UK and Japan are often taken aback by the apparent contradiction of a culture which professes to seek consensus and negotiated compromise whilst at the same time following a seemingly confrontational path.
Silence is golden in Sweden. Many cultures find any level of silence intolerable and will rush to fill it. Swedes are more comfortable than most with silence. If you don’t have anything to say, why speak? In meetings, try to cope with these silences by respecting them. Anybody who feels the need to talk incessantly will not necessarily gain respect for his or her volubility.
Although Swedes have a good sense of humour, it is not necessarily appropriate in all business situations. Serious business should be treated seriously.
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This World Business Culture profile is designed as an introduction to business culture in Sweden only and a more detailed understanding needs a more in-depth exploration which we can provide through our training and consultancy services.