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Swedish business etiquette

Attitudes and values form the basis of any culture. They reflect the ways people think and behave. Knowledge of these can be of significant importance if you wish to communicate effectively.


Corporate social responsibility

Sweden is one of the world’s leading countries in corporate social responsibility (CSR). Issues such as climate change, gender, human rights and anti-corruption are all taken into account when doing business. Since the 1970s Sweden has been active and fast in reacting to the calls for CSR which nowadays is considered to be a crucial part of strategic planning in Swedish business life.

Punctuality

In Sweden, as in Finland and Denmark, punctuality is very important both when doing business and making social engagements. It follows that you should never be late. If you must be late for any reason it is polite to phone and let someone know. Being late is seen as poor etiquette.

Scheduling and planning are sometimes mentioned as part of the Swedish ‘way of life’. As a general rule spontaneity and improvisation are not the strongest characteristics of Swedes.

Gift giving

In business dealings, gifts are rarely given at the beginning of the relationship. Wait for your Swedish partner to give you a gift first. Although exchanging gifts is not common at the beginning of a business relationship, it is appropriate when you are closing your transaction.

Business dress code

Sweden is one of the European countries where a casual dress code is the most popular in the work place. However, for business appointments you should dress more conservatively. Swedes themselves are usually fashionably well-dressed in public. Appropriate clothes would be a dark suit and tie for men, and a business suit or skirt and blouse for women. Trousers are also acceptable for businesswomen in Sweden. Swedes value quality and that is also true when it comes to clothes.

Working hours

Normal working hours in Sweden are 40 hours a week with an upper limit of 48 hours. Obviously, there is no limit for managers who sometimes have to work at home. Due to the development of telecommunications, more and more Swedes are used to working from home. Always keep in mind, though, that after 5 pm most Swedish employees go home to take care of their families. Working overtime is neither valued nor seen as necessary in fact it can be seen as an indication of poor planning and time management.

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