Understanding Swedish Business Culture

Swedish business culture is different to what people might be used to at home or in other countries. When dealing with a Swedish business, it is important to know some facts about this culture before trying to seal the deal.

Casual Culture

In Sweden, colleagues will address each other in a more casual manner. This is something that found throughout the society from the classroom to the boardroom. Titles such as Dr and Mrs relics of the past in Sweden. Teachers and students, doctors and patients as well as employers and employees will be on a first-name basis.

Work clothing is also casual while being conservative at the same time. Tennis shoes and sandals can be worn in the office and will often be changed for sturdy outdoor shoes when it is time to go home. There are many expats who have moved from America to Sweden who are surprised to see sandals in the office. They often state that people in the US are not interested in seeing their colleagues’ toes and it can take some getting used to.

Lagom As Usual

In Sweden, lagom is more than just a word. It is a concept which can be hard to translate into English. The best translation will be just right or adequate and it can be used for anything.

The concept of lagom will exist in Swedish business as well. Employees and many employers will do exactly what is needed and do it well instead of focusing on things that are unnecessary. This is something that can often be frustrating for outsiders and will take time to understand.

One expat from Australia state that the concept of lagom was hard for them to get a handle on. They would ask their co-workers about the time they spend on a particular task and was told a lagom amount. They have stated that they still do not know how long that is even after 4 years in the country.

Shorter Command Chains

Swedish companies have less hierarchy than companies in many other countries. This means that the managing director of the company is going to be available to their employees. This will erase some of the familiar chain of command arrangements. This form of business will allow employees to take their concerns, questions, and comments directly to the boss.

The majority of workers in Sweden are also members of one of the labor unions in the country. There is a strong union presence in the country which provides employees with better working conditions when compared to other countries. Workplace equality and job security are also important and something that the unions work hard to ensure.

Swedish workers are also more likely to rely on consensus when it comes to making decisions and creating solutions. This is due to the fact that they feel this makes better policies and ideas will be discussed on all levels openly before a conclusion is reached.

The stereotypical Swede will not feel it is necessary to stand out of the crowd. They will also not want to be an individual that makes a choice for the whole company. This will ensure that employee comfort is felt throughout the company, but it can increase the amount of time it takes to make a decision.

The Sacred Break

Before doing business with a Swedish company or working for one, be familiar with the word fika. Fika is a break taken from work for the purpose of chatting and having coffee. The fika break is sacred in the country and there are usually 2 to 3 per day. This means that it should not be a surprise if someone is suddenly unavailable because they are taking a coffee break.


Punctuality is very important to the Swedes, particularly when doing business with them. It is common for employees to arrive on time and leave on time. They will also have fika at set times. A lot of Swedes also value their private lives and will only work overtime when they absolutely have to and it is otherwise unavoidable.

Being attentive to the way that the Swedes do business is important when working with them. Understanding their business culture will lead to a more enjoyable experience.

The Dos And Don’ts


Get to know the language. While English is widely spoken in Swedish businesses, one should still learn as much Swedish as possible before getting started. Picking up a few key phrases and terms will go down well even if only doing business with them for a short period of time.

It is important to know the Swedish tax laws. This is particularly important when going to start a business in Sweden. Keep up to date with VATGlobal. Do research into the tax regulations and the paperwork that is required to complete to ensure getting off the ground on the right foot.

Being on time is a must. This means show up on time, stick to the agenda and finish on time. Pre-planning is essential. Giving everyone enough time to prepare for an assignment or meeting is important.

Be prepared to work hard. Get to know the red tape that is inevitable to succeed in the country as a business or employee.

Allow some time to get acclimated. When starting a business in Sweden, it can be hard to break the market and find a customer base. Be patient and have a back-up plan.


Do not use force. It is better to ease into a company or into relations with the business. The Swedish are not very receptive to new plans and thoughts if they feel they have been forced onto them.

Do not brag or boast. Swedes are modest people and they will avoid embellishing their accomplishments. This modesty is something that they expect to be emulated by those they deal with.

Do not show disrespect. This might seem obvious, but it is very important. Understanding Swedish culture and ethics are important, but also the need to respect others is paramount. Listen and watch to get a feel of the situation before acting

Melissa Thompson
Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn't know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.