Doing Business in Sweden

The Scandinavian country is known internationally for its history of entrepreneurialism and its affinity for egalitarianism. Nonetheless, expats may find that doing business in Sweden is anything but lagom – a concept at the heart of Swedish business dealings, which means normal, adequate or just right.

Whatever challenges an expat may face adapting to the Swedish workplace, The World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Survey for 2018 ranks Sweden at 10th out of 190 countries – a testament to the country’s advanced economy and transparent business practices. Sweden ranks particularly highly when it comes to getting electricity (6th), registering property (9th) and starting a business (13th).

Despite its size, Sweden has produced a large number of multinational companies and is the European headquarters for many others.


Fact facts

Business language

Swedish is the official business language but English is spoken throughout with a high degree of fluency

Hours of business

8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday

Business dress

Dress code is smart-casual and conservative, although suits are not expected.

Business Greetings

Shaking hands is the most common form of greeting in the Swedish business environment, both in and out of the office, for hello and goodbye. This is the case for both genders.

Gifts

Be careful when giving gifts to business associates in Sweden. They are certainly not expected and could possibly be regarded as inappropriate.

Gender equality

Women have full equality in Sweden. Women doing business in Sweden will usually receive the same treatment as men.


Business culture in Sweden

Egalitarianism

Key to doing business in Sweden is the concept of egalitarianism, a belief in the inherent equality of people. Both organisational structures and management styles reflect this, and utilise generally flat reporting lines and decision-making models that rely on consensus and compromise. For this reason, decisions can take a long time to be made, as many opinions need to be taken into account.

It also affects the way that business is conducted on a daily basis. Whereas senior associates in many other Western businesses are likely to have their own offices, it is fairly common to see a company CEO working alongside his or her employees in an open-plan office.

Jantelagen – Collectivism 

Swedish egalitarianism also makes wealth or status redundant. Overt displays of wealth are likely to be viewed unfavourably. This is largely as a result of Jantelagen, or the Law of Jante, which speaks about a tendency in Scandinavian societies to emphasise collective well-being over individual success. For this reason, expat businesspeople would do well to try and blend in rather than stand out, and should not expect their new associates to automatically be impressed by their wealth and achievements.

Professionalism

Business conduct in Sweden tends towards rationality, calm and discipline, which has earned Swedes a reputation for being reserved and somewhat unfriendly. It is true that firm lines are drawn between business and social dealings, meaning that invitations to post-work socialising or being invited to dinner at a colleague’s house are rare. One opportunity to circumvent the famous Swedish reserve is the twice daily coffee break, when the normal rules of engagement may be partially suspended.

Punctuality

Business meetings in Sweden are typically informal, although governed by certain inalienable rules. The first of these is to be on time – punctuality is a point of pride and signifies professionalism and mutual respect. Another principle to follow is to keep one’s emotions under control, a business value shared by Asian cultures.

Transparency

Finally, transparency and honesty are vital attributes of any business dealing; it follows then that Sweden is one of the least corrupt countries in which to do business.


Dos and don’ts of business in Sweden

  • Do respect silences in meetings or conversation as this signifies an idea is being considered

  • Don’t stand too close; personal space should be respected

  • Do get down to business right away

  • Do be honest and forthright

  • Don’t be late; advise of delays with as much notice as possible

  • Do dress smartly when going out in the evening

Expat Health Insurance Partners

Aetna International

Aetna is an award-winning insurance business that provides health benefits to more than 650,000 members worldwide. Their high quality health insurance plans are tailored to meet the individual needs of expats living and working abroad.

Get a quote from Aetna International

Cigna_logo_300.png

Cigna Global

With 86 million customer relationships in over 200 countries, Cigna Global has unrivalled experience in dealing with varied and unique medical situations and delivering high standards of service wherever you live in the world.

Get a quote from Cigna Global