Sweden Culture of Business

By | July 24, 2022

Subchapters:

  • Introduction
  • Addressing
  • Business Meeting
  • Communication
  • Recommendations
  • Public Holidays

Introduction

Understanding Swedish partners and making informed decisions with respect to the country’s cultural customs helps to conclude agreements between partners and also creates good relations between all parties involved. Visit Aparentingblog for more information about Sweden culture and traditions.

Business etiquette is tied to the cultural values ​​and characteristics of the country. Swedes generally appreciate it when non-Swedish people adapt to Swedish business etiquette. Mutual understanding makes business easier for both parties involved.

Addressing

It is possible to use the services of economic diplomacy to establish contacts in the country. Companies entering the Swedish market can use a number of tools provided by state authorities. International trade fairs or trade missions are among the most suitable ways of establishing first contacts with local partners and obtaining information about the market. In order to approach new customers or establish strategic partnerships, presentations of Czech companies are also organized at the embassy for a defined range of customers. In general, the patronage of the embassy is highly valued and the accompanied entities are thus held in higher esteem. Czech entrepreneurs can contact the economic section of the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Sweden and the foreign office of the PaulTrade agency in Stockholm.

The primary means of communication is generally the telephone, which Swedes prefer over email. The agreed meeting can then be confirmed by email. In Sweden, people are called by their first names, so it’s a good idea to adapt. Compared to the Czech Republic, Swedes do not suffer from being addressed by academic titles, and there is practically no hierarchy here. The overall communication tends to be relaxed, but at the same time factual and direct without unnecessary phrases deviating from the topic.

Business meeting

You should make an agreement on the date of the business meeting in time. It is recommended to make an appointment at least two weeks in advance. Last minute changes are not appreciated. If the meeting is organized in Sweden, it is common to receive confirmation in advance. It is recommended to plan well and arrive on time for a business meeting in Sweden. If you are late, be sure to report it. Being on time for meetings in Sweden is important not only in business life, but also in social life. Swedes love and often plan, and punctuality here symbolizes respect and efficiency. A change of time and place at short notice would not be appreciated. Swedes value their free time, which is mostly spent with family.

It is a good idea to send the schedule before any meeting. At the beginning of meetings, there are short and polite conversations. Swedes are reasonably relaxed, informal and tolerant, yet expect professional standards of behaviour. Being in a good mood is acceptable, but humorous behavior should be kept to a minimum. Meetings are always expected to start and end at the agreed time and usually start and end with a handshake. The handshake is firm and accompanied by direct eye contact. Most adults shake hands with everyone present when entering or leaving a social setting.

  • PaulSourcing: Tips and recommendations for doing business with Sweden. Also includes country basic data and information for entering the its market.

When looking for a date, you need to familiarize yourself with Swedish holidays and vacations, as Swedes strictly observe these customs and respect each other. All major Christian holidays are celebrated in Sweden. The specifics of the country is that there is a slowdown in work activity before and after the holidays. This is especially true in the summer months and around Christmas. During the summer holidays, especially in July, there is a considerable slowdown in work activity. Swedes are often flexible, but generally prefer meetings during working hours. It is not customary to make appointments before nine in the morning and after four in the afternoon. The meeting takes place either in the office with a typical “fig” for them (coffee and perhaps a small dessert) or in a restaurant at lunchtime. Lunch time is approximately between 11:30 and 13:30 and Swedes don’t like to spend more than one hour at lunch. It is recommended to go to formal restaurants with your partner and reserve a table for the meeting in advance. Generally speaking, business meals are not a place to reach an agreement and sign a collaboration. In Sweden, it is not customary to invite business partners to the home environment. Gifts are not customary in business dealings. Exchanging business cards is common.

Sweden is a standard European country and therefore the social culture in this country does not differ much from the Czech one. Czech entrepreneurs should take into account that the Swedes are not as open as the Czechs and it may therefore be difficult to establish closer personal contact with them. On the other hand, you can count on their high seriousness and effort to fulfill the agreed terms of the trade, even if the agreement was only verbal. The price is usually not decisive, the key is quality and reliability, for which the Swede is happy to pay extra. It is recommended to observe the same on the Czech side, otherwise the entrepreneur will close his own way to other shops. Swedes are very conservative and don’t like to change established habits (partners, suppliers). It tends to be very difficult to convince them, but once they decide on a change (for example, a new supplier), they tend to be very permanent and long-term partners.

Swedes are pragmatic. Negotiations are mostly to the point and direct, and Swedes like to stick to the topic of the discussion, however, they are not averse to slightly deviating from the topic in the form of a short polite conversation. It is important to carefully prepare for the meeting and set a goal, speak clearly, provide truthful information supported by facts and figures. It goes without saying that the meetings take place according to a written agenda and their result is a written summary of the most important decisions and agreements. It is important to keep promises made in meetings. Agreed tasks should be completed on time. This will maintain and increase your credibility and build trust, which is essential to any business relationship.

Coffee and water are usually served during meetings. Swedes do not consume alcohol during business meetings. In some cases, when contact is established with the counterpart, it is possible to serve light table wine or light beer with the meal.

The size of the negotiation team intended for a business meeting depends on the size of the company, but it is usually composed of 2-3 people. Swedes generally dress well and of good quality, and the same applies to meetings. The atmosphere of business meetings is relaxed, a tie and a suit are not necessary. Consensus business negotiations are typical for Sweden, where the participants are equal and everyone involved participates in the decision. For this reason, the processes with Swedish partners can seem relatively lengthy, however the Swedes are very efficient as a result. Opinions are well received and communicated after the decision.

After the meeting, it is advisable to remind the other party by email or phone. Although Sweden is a large country in terms of area, we did not notice any significant territorial differences in business dealings within the country.

Communication

The official languages ​​are Swedish and five minority languages ​​(Lappish, Finnish, Meänkieli, Yiddish and Romani). There is otherwise a general knowledge of English among Swedes, all business negotiations can be conducted in English, however, it must be taken into account that specific orders, project documentation, etc. will only be in Swedish, so it is necessary to have a translator.

An underestimated feature is the mentality and behavior of the Swedish population, its peculiarities and differences resulting from other historical developments and cultural background, also with regard to the multicultural structure of contemporary Swedish society. It is therefore recommended to act sensitively and rather to avoid topics where the Swedish majority approach differs significantly from the usual Czech perception of reality (primarily society’s relationship to women or to national and sexual minorities, but also social issues and the role of the state, etc.). On the other hand, it should be pointed out that Swedish society is also changing with advancing globalization and it is not possible to rely on stereotypes from the past. In general, as in other countries, the rule is not to criticize, but rather to praise.

For partners from other cultures, negotiating with Swedes can be difficult, with the main obstacle being trying to change their attitude towards making big concessions. Swedes are methodical and detail-oriented, rarely changing their positions and pushing hard for concessions themselves. If you want to do business with Swedes, it is important to be honest and all agreements must be written and signed, as written contracts are considered a memorandum of understanding and proof of agreement.

Sweden has a better reputation than reality. Dealing with the authorities is complicated by a relatively extensive bureaucracy, a dense network of regulations and regulations, and the often strict attitude of officials. The path of information through the official apparatus tends to be lengthy and complicated. Also, the decision-making process in companies (the decision is always collective) can be inflexible and time-consuming. Regulations cannot be circumvented, shortening waiting periods is almost impossible. In general, there is almost no improvisation here.

Recommendation

Sweden is a modern country, open to creativity and innovation. What is new and different is considered attractive. Present innovation as potential for quality improvement and cost savings.

In Sweden, women are equal to men in business (and everywhere else) and as a result have more opportunities and freedom than in some other countries, for example they can pay the bill in a restaurant or invite a male business partner to dinner without any problems or embarrassment.

Prepare carefully for the meeting, set a goal. Speak clearly, give truthful information backed by facts and figures. It is advisable to remind yourself after the meeting, by email or phone. Decision making in Sweden takes place collectively, opinions are taken into account regardless of company hierarchy. It may take some time to evaluate the outcome of the negotiations. Be patient, but don’t stop communicating. References, especially from other Scandinavian or Western European countries, are of significant value. The sense of honor and honesty is great in Sweden. It is not easy to build a business relationship, but if it is successful, it is a quality and stable partnership.

Public Holidays

All major Christian holidays are celebrated in Sweden. The specifics of the country is that there is a slowdown in work activity before and after the holidays. This is especially true in the summer months and around Christmas. During the summer holidays, especially in July, there is a considerable slowdown in work activity.

In 2022, the calendar includes the following holidays:

  • January 1 – New Year
  • January 6 – Three Kings
  • April 15 – Good Friday
  • April 17 – Easter Sunday
  • April 18 – Easter Monday
  • May 1 – Labor Day
  • May 26 – Ascension
  • June 5 – Pentecost
  • June 6 – Swedish National Day: Before 1983, it was celebrated as Swedish Flag Day.
  • June 25 – Summer Solstice: The day is a Saturday between June 20 and June 26, but as is customary in Sweden, the actual celebration is on the eve of the holiday (St. John’s Day), this day is also a de facto public holiday in Sweden
  • November 5 – All Saints’ Day: A Christian holiday that commemorates all the saints, not only those who are officially canonized, but also those “whose holiness is known to no one but God.”
  • December 25 – The first Christmas holiday
  • December 26 – Boxing Day

If a holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, it is common practice to have the previous Friday or the following Monday off.

Sweden Culture of Business