If you have never been to Scandinavia before, you are in for a real treat when you head to Sweden on business. This beautiful country is well-known for its gorgeous scenery, humanitarian efforts, and tasty meatballs. As lovely as Sweden is, just like any country, it has certain cultural norms that, if violated, can cause major issues in a business relationship. Therefore, when you get ready for your Swedish business trip, be certain to familiarize yourself with these important tips for etiquette.
General Tips About Swedish Business Culture
When greeting your Swedish host, you can anticipate a swift handshake, and the same gesture as you depart. Don’t make eye contact or smile during this moment, particularly if this is your first meeting, as this is interpreted as too aggressive. Swedish business culture is formal and professional. You should be conservatively dressed in more muted tones when you meet with your Swedish colleagues. In addition, refrain from chewing gum, slouching, or leaning on things, as all of these come across as far too casual. You should never raise your voice or get too passionate during a meeting; aim for a tone of voice that is calm, collected, and matter-of-fact. Don’t joke around or try to get too personal in meetings; Swedish people have an unusual sense of humor that Americans might have trouble understanding, and they prefer to keep things professional. In addition, it’s very important to be on time to any meetings, as being late is considered very disrespectful. Keep in mind as well that they will start and end their meetings promptly, and should you need to reschedule, it should be done well in advance. They prefer to get straight to business and work with individuals who will be sincere and serious rather than too friendly and familiar. Avoid complimenting an individual in a group; competitiveness is frowned upon, so any praise should be directed to the group as a whole. Finally, Swedes aren’t afraid of long pauses, so don’t hurry to fill in silence in a conversation. Wait until you have something meaningful to say.
If you want your Swedish colleagues to be open your ideas, it’s best to create a presentation that is well-organized, prepared, and detailed. You need to include all relevant facts and statistics, and don’t focus on creating a visually interesting presentation—they won’t be impressed. The Swedish education system is focused on analytical thinking, so they will be thinking about universal laws of problem solving. While they will appreciate if you have an extensive knowledge base and a lot of experience, they are turned off by bragging, so don’t throw it in their face. Focus on making your presentation the most thorough it can be and they will be a lot more interested in what you have to offer.
In the Swedish business world, there is a focus on working as a team and compromise. It’s important to not be confrontational, and any arguments will be abruptly cut off as they hate offending people. Decisions will be made by lower level executives for the most part. While it may take a while to negotiate, Swedes highly value honesty, so you can anticipate them upholding their end of the deal once the paperwork is signed.
When making conversation with your Swedish colleagues, there are topics that will help you establish a good relationship, and those that can make things awkward.
- Swedish culture—it’s important to understand how Sweden is different from the other Scandinavian cultures, and you can make yourself stand out by knowing about the specific region where you are visiting
- Nature and outdoor sports
- Current events
- Politics is fine, provided that it’s not critical of Sweden
Topics to Avoid
- Don’t ask personal questions
- Don’t be too complimentary to someone you have only just met
- Don’t brag or show off
- Don’t use superlatives
- Don’t complain
Gestures to Avoid
Swedish people tend to not rely on nonverbal communication too much, so it’s best to keep your gestures at a minimum. Give your colleague plenty of personal space, and avoid too much touching, with the exception of handshakes.
We hope you enjoy your Swedish excursion! At Sapphire Mobile Hotspot, we are happy to have a close relationship with international business travelers due to our innovative portable WiFi device. Make sure to invest in one before your next business trip!