Sweden flag Sweden: Business Environment

Business Practices in Sweden

Opening hours and bank holidays

General Information
Official portal of the Swedish government,, very useful for knowing how to do business in Sweden.
Commisceo Global, Swedish business culture as per Commisceo Global
Opening Hours and Days
Saturday and Sunday closed, or occasionally just Saturday afternoon and Sunday for shops. Opening hours for most shops are from around 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Public Holidays

New Year's Day 1 January
Epiphany 6 January
Easter Monday March/April
Good Friday the Friday before Easter
Labour Day 1 May
Ascension Day the sixth Thursday after Easter
National Day 6 June
Saint John's Day a Saturday between 19 and 29 June
All Saints 1st Saturday of November
Christmas 24, 25 and 26 December
Holiday Compensation
When a public holiday falls on a Thursday, many Swedish people take the Friday off.

Periods When Companies Usually Close

Summer holidays July

Business culture

The Fundamental Principles of Business Culture
Sweden constantly ranks as one of the most business-friendly countries in the world and is hailed as a fascinating business model. Its economy is based on a paradoxical mix of pro-business policies with an all-embracing welfare state. This can be explained by one of the central characteristics of the Swedish culture - egalitarianism. The belief in the genuine equality of individuals and the resultant desire for consensus has defined the Swedish business culture, both in terms of organisational structure and management approach. There is also a relatively large number of international firms emanating from Sweden compared to the size of its population. Consequently most Swedes are open to engaging in business with foreigners.

Swedish companies adopt almost universally a flat organisational structure where there is low power distance between managers and employees. Directors are also more openly available to their subordinates, which erases some of the chain-of-command arrangements that are usually seen in other countries. Employees feel comfortable to take their comments, questions or concerns directly to their boss. Compromise and consensus are also a quintessential element of the Swedish business culture, especially when it comes to decision-making and reaching solutions. Policies and ideas are expected to be discussed openly and across all levels before any decision has been reached.

Building close personal ties with business partners is not necessarily a key factor of successful negotiations in Sweden. In fact, most Swedes draw a very strict line between their professional and private lives and tend to remain more reserved at work. They are also more interested in merits and skills rather than the personality of people they engage in business with. Therefore, they are not likely to make an effort to get to know their foreign counterparts personally. When socialising with Swedish professionals, foreigners should avoid bragging about their accomplishments and treat every single one of their counterparts equally.
First Contact
Appointments should be made at least two weeks ahead of time for an initial meeting. As most Swedish firms are international by nature, the Swedish are used to engaging in business with foreigners and a third party is not really necessary to establish contact. It is recommended to avoid planning meetings in June, July, August and late February to early March as most Swedes will be on vacation during these months.
Time Management
Punctuality is one of the key elements of the Swedish business culture and tardiness is usually not tolerated. It is important to arrive on time or even slightly early to meetings and any delay should be communicated immediately with an explanation and an apology. Meetings are almost always structured and have a set agenda, which is distributed to everyone before the meeting starts. Meetings rarely run over time and tackle issues that are not part of the agenda.
Greetings and Titles
Handshakes are the most common form of greeting regardless of the gender. They tend to be firm but fairly brief. It is important to maintain direct eye contact while shaking hands. Titles, both academic and honorific, are of little importance and people tend to address each other by using their first name, even upon the first meeting.
Gift Policy
Gifts are rarely exchanged at the first meeting. It is more appropriate to exchange gifts upon closing a deal. It is important to ensure that the gift is not too expensive as it can be considered as a bribe. It is also somewhat customary to exchange small gifts among colleagues and business partners at Christmas. As most Swedes are family-orientated, it can also be appropriate to bring a gift for the children of your Swedish business partner. Gifts are usually unwrapped immediately.
Dress Code
The dress code in Sweden is among the most casual in Europe. Smart casual or even informal dresses are considered appropriate in most sectors (except for banking and certain public services). Swedes value being well dressed and nicely groomed in general. A conservative and formal dress code applies to business appointments. Men are expected to wear dark or medium coloured suits with shirt and tie whereas women should wear stylish yet conservative business suits and/or dresses. Accessories should not be flashy or expensive as ostentatious display of wealth is frowned upon in Sweden.
Business Cards
There is no specific protocol surrounding the exchange of business cards. Cards are usually offered at the beginning of a first meeting. As most Swedes are proficient in English, it is not always necessary to have one side of the card translated into Swedish.
Meetings Management
The first meeting usually serves the purpose of establishing contact and having a general discussion about the transaction. There is not too much time allotted to small talk and people can get straight to business. As Swedes draw a strict line between their professional and private lives, they will almost never ask their foreign counterparts personal questions. Most Swedes are proficient in English and it is not necessary to bring an interpreter to meetings.

Presentations should be meticulous and well-structured as Swedes are usually extremely detail focused and tend to pay a great deal of attention to the specifics. It is important to be well prepared and back up your claims with accurate and relevant data. As most Swedish firms have a flat structure, subordinates have more responsibility in conducting negotiations or closing a deal. Supervisors may therefore be not fully involved in the negotiation process. By the same token, everyone is expected to give their opinion and there is a need for continuous consultation, which makes meetings frequent and sometimes long. Meetings may be extended or continued the following day until a fair negotiation is achieved.

During meetings, it is very important to remain calm and patient. Swedes usually do not display anger or other emotions in public, less so in business meetings. Hard selling, conflict and confrontation are to be avoided. Like other Scandinavians, Swedes often prefer direct communication over diplomacy and respond better to a honest straightforward approach. When selling something, it is best to tone down your use of emphasis and avoid exaggerations. It is common to have moments of silence at meetings and foreigners should refrain from talking incessantly for the sake of breaking the silence. People usually raise their hands and take turns to speak at meetings and it is considered rude to interrupt someone.

Most business entertaining revolves around lunch or dinner and breakfast meetings are fairly uncommon. Meals are taken relatively early compared to most countries in Europe (lunch being taken between 11:30 and 13:00 and dinner between 18:00 and 19:00). It is very common to discuss business over meals and Swedish professionals can delve into negotiations even before the food has arrived. Nevertheless, reaching a decision or having a discussion over complex details are not common.

Sources for Further Information
Cultural Atlas - Swedish Business Culture Sweden.se - Taking Care of Business in Sweden Hej Sweden - Swedish Work Culture Culture Crossing - Swedish Business Etiquette

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Latest Update: July 2024