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Business Culture

Sweden - Business Culture


Sweden's business culture is highly egalitarian, with a lack of formal hierarchy. Compromise and consensus are key business principles, and people at all levels are often empowered to make decisions. If conducting business in Sweden, you should try to identify the most appropriate people with whom to negotiate, who might not necessarily be in senior management.

Appointments should be arranged at least two weeks in advance, and you should arrive on time, as punctuality is considered important. When arranging your trip it is advisable to avoid the main holiday periods of June-August, February-March and Christmas.

Most Swedes speak English well, so there is no need to translate correspondence or business cards into Swedish.

Business attire is conservative and smart, consisting of business suits for men and suits or smart business dresses for women.

The usual greeting is a brief, firm handshake, which is lighter when shaking hands with women. Business cards are exchanged at the initial meeting. Personal space is important in Sweden and the acceptable distance between people is wider than in many other countries.

Titles are not normally used in Sweden, where status is regarded as unimportant. You are likely to be addressed by your first name and should reciprocate accordingly.

Swedish communication styles are direct and open, and can sometimes be perceived as abrupt. Small talk is rarely used, and it is considered inappropriate to show emotion in business meetings. Don't interrupt anyone else who is speaking, as this will be seen as rude.

You should prepare well for the meeting, and ensure that your presentation is thorough and well organised, as the Swedes are very systematic and pay great attention to detail. Avoid hard-sell tactics or exaggerating your accomplishments. Do not be surprised if there are long periods of silence, as these are often used for reflection.

Initial meetings are primarily used for the purpose of getting to know you and your company and considering your proposal, it will usually take several meetings before decisions are reached. Once business deals are made, however, they will be implemented quickly.

Although business relationships are quite informal in Sweden, the Swedes like to maintain strict boundaries between business and their private lives. Personal information is rarely exchanged, and it is quite unusual to be invited to the home of a Swedish contact. Gift giving is not common in business and may be interpreted as a bribe.


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