Doing Business in Sweden

Business Etiquette SwedenDoing business abroad brings with it cross cultural challenges for an international business person. Understanding a country's business culture and etiquette is an important ingredient in establishing a relaxing atmosphere and easing business proceedings.

This short guide to doing business in Sweden is an introduction to the above mentioned areas of business culture and etiquette. It is not a comprehensive summary of all 'doing business tips' nor meant to stereotype the Swedes. Rather it examines some key areas for consideration when doing business in Sweden.


Egalitarianism is the most dominant social value in Sweden. Consensus and compromise are ingrained into the business and social life. When doing business in Sweden you will notice the lack out outward signs of hierarchy and status present in many other countries.

Doing Business - Meeting & Greeting Etiquette

When doing business in Sweden the handshake is done swiftly and firmly. Between men and women it is a lot lighter. Men should wait until a woman extends her hand first. If wearing gloves, remove them before shaking hands.

Swedes like to establish relationships on an informal level. However, private and business lives are very much segregated so this informality does not equal intimacy. When doing business in Sweden, expect to address a person by his/her first name. 

Swedes tend to stay farther apart when conversing than many other countries. Personal space is private so with the exception of the handshake, avoid touching. Do not backslap or embrace. Avoid speaking with your hands in your pockets as this is considered bad etiquette.

Swedish communication style is direct and open. This can come across as abrupt but is not meant to be so. When conversing, be sure to listen intently to anyone speaking and not to interrupt. Turns are taken to offer opinions.

Doing Business - Dress Etiquette

When doing business in Sweden, think conservative. For business purposes, men should wear good quality suits with silk ties and shirts. Women should wear suits or business dresses that are stylish yet understated. Trousers are acceptable for business women in Sweden.
The egalitarian values of Sweden mean you should remember to keep a low profile. Avoid wearing anything flashy. Even senior executives do not dress any more elaborately than average employees.

Doing Business - Meetings and Negotiations

If you plan on doing business in Sweden make appointments at least two weeks in advance. Refrain from scheduling meetings in the months of June, July, or August, as well as late February through early March. These are very popular times for Swedes to go on holiday. During the Christmas holidays many Swedish business people are unavailable.

Punctuality is important when doing business and also for social engagements. Never be late. If you must be late for any reason it is absolutely crucial to phone and let someone know. Being late is seen as poor etiquette and will reflect badly on you.

Before doing business in Sweden, know that Swedes respect someone who comes to them with knowledge and experience. They are very detail-oriented. Any proposal or presentation must be meticulously planned and logically organized. The first meeting may be low key and very matter of fact. A decision will never be made in the first meeting. At this stage the Swedes will be evaluating you, your company and your proposal. Several meetings are required before all details are cleared and questions answered.

Do not show emotions during negotiations. Always remain cool, calm, collected and controlled when doing business.The Swedes value consensus as the only way of making decisions. Therefore, do not channel all your energy into endearing yourself to the top-level executives. In many cases, the power to make a decision will fall to middle managers, who may even pass it over to lower levels.

Doing Business in Sweden

The above few examples of cross cultural differences in business practices and culture highlight the areas where business people can face challenges when doing business in Sweden. Cross cultural understanding is an important tool for any international business person, company or organisation to acquire when doing business abroad.

Business Culture Guides

We offer free guides to doing business in many countries. Please visit Business Culture Guides for a full list.

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