Sweden’s 9 Essential Business Etiquette Rules

The Swedish business culture is formal and structured. Professionalism, punctuality, equality, and work-life balance are essential to Swedes.

Egalitarian, formal, and structured are words that describe Swedish business culture. While these things are true of many Scandinavian countries, Sweden has a reputation for being reserved and professional.

But there’s more to the Swedish business culture than professionalism. Here are 10 must-know business etiquette in Sweden.

1. How important is punctuality in Sweden?

Swedes and punctuality are two words that go hand in hand. When Swedes make plans, they stick to them and expect the same from others. Like Mexican business culture, punctuality is crucial here, and Swedes appreciate it when others are on time.

If you’ll be late, inform your Swedish partner ahead of time.

2. Business dress code

In Sweden, a casual dress code is standard even in the workplace. Business meetings require a conservative outfit. Men should wear a suit and tie. Women can wear a blouse and skirt or trousers, or a business suit.

During winter, you can wear boots, heavy coats, and gloves to work but change into formal clothes once you get to the office.

Social settings like restaurants don’t require formal attire. This changes when visiting a high-end restaurant, as some may require a suit and tie.

3. What is Swedish etiquette for business meetings?

Swedish business etiquette focuses on professionalism and respect. Swedes don’t appreciate small talk and jokes at business meetings. It’s not uncommon to start discussing the agenda during the first few minutes of your session.

Address people by their first name. If you know a few Swedish words (like Hej aka Hello), use them when greeting your business partners. Hand gestures and body language are not common in Sweden; avoid using them during business meetings.

A brief and firm handshake with direct eye contact is the standard greeting. If your meeting has a stranger, wait for introductions.

Using phones during meetings is rude. It’s a sign of disrespect and lack of focus.

4. Business cards

Exchanging business cards is common when doing business in Sweden for the first time. Your business cards should have a professional design. You can give out business cards in English.

If you’re attending a business fair or gathering, carry more business cards than you think you’ll need.

5. Decision-Making & Authority Hierarchy

In Sweden, decision-making flows at all levels of the business hierarchy. Swedes’ management style is democratic and emphasizes collective decision-making.

This means that lower-level representatives may have an equal say in the decision. Everyone has a voice, and their input is valued.

6. Negotiation

Negotiations in Sweden are tough and tend to move at a slower pace. Before making a decision, Swedes will take time to consider all aspects of the situation and weigh their options.

Verbal contracts hold significant weight in Sweden and are legally binding. Communicate all the critical points of the agreement. Ensure all parties agree before finalizing business dealings.

7. Gender Equality in Business

Gender equality in Swedish business
Gender equality in Swedish business

In Sweden, gender equality is a priority. Businesses and companies have an inclusive workplace where everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed.

In 2021, Sweden scored 83.9 out of 100 points on the gender equality index. Sweden leads the European Union in gender equality.

8. Giving Gifts

Gift-giving is not the norm for Sweden businesses. Some may interpret gift-giving as an attempt to influence the other party. Avoid giving gifts during business meetings or negotiations.

Gift-giving happens during Christmas or when visiting someone at home. If the house has kids, it’s appropriate to bring a small gift for them. Swedes open gifts immediately.

Items you can gift include a book, unwrapped flowers, a hat or scarf, and wine.

9. What is the work culture like in Sweden?

Sweden companies don’t have a strict hierarchy and rely on a horizontal structure. This means employees are encouraged to take the initiative and make decisions without consulting their superiors.

Sweden’s working hours are similar to those in North America, with most people working 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. There’s an hour-long lunch break. July in Sweden is the summer holiday when most people take time off.

Swedes love their coffee break (fika), a big part of the country’s work culture. Coffee breaks are a time to relax, enjoy coffee and refreshments, and chat with colleagues.

They keep their professional and personal lives separate. Swedes value family time and have a solid work-life balance. Overtime hours are rare, and carrying work home is rare.

What is considered rude in Swedish culture?

  • In Swedish culture, direct eye contact is vital during conversations. Avoiding eye contact screams mistrust.
  • Interrupting someone during a conversation is rude. Wait for your turn to speak and respect others’ opinions.
  • Loud or aggressive behavior is not tolerated in Sweden. Speak in a calm and controlled tone and maintain a polite demeanor.
  • Arriving late for meetings is a sign of disrespect. Punctuality is generally adhered to.
  • Swedish culture values equality, so address everyone by their first names, regardless of gender and position.
  • Insincere compliments are rude. Give genuine compliments when you can or avoid them altogether.

Sweden Business Etiquette (Quick Summary)

Do’s ✅Don’ts ❌
Respect work-life balance. Do not expect employees to be available for work outside of regular business hours.Smoking is banned in all public places, including offices and restaurants. Smoke in designated places only.
Be mindful of body language. Don’t invade someone’s personal space; avoid touching people unless it’s a handshake.Don’t use your phone when in a business meeting.
Schedule meetings at least two weeks early and have a set agenda.Don’t schedule meetings in July. It’s a vacation month in Sweden.
Address everyone by their first name.Avoid gender-specific language.


Tabitha is a curious and enthusiastic writer who believes in the power of words and the importance of good manners. Etiquette is her passion, and she enjoys sharing her knowledge with others. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys traveling, reading, and spending time with her family.

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