working in sweden

Working with Swedes – 5 mistakes you should avoid

This is a guest post from Anne Pihl.

Got a new job in Sweden? Congratulations!

Hopefully you’ve already got a good feel for the company culture at the interview stage and know roughly what to expect when you start. However, unless your colleagues are predominantly expats, you will probably have some adapting to do. Every country has its own form of business etiquette and Sweden is no exception. Here’s a list of 5 common mistakes you can easily avoid.


1. Being late

Punctuality is key in Sweden. Respect people’s time and make sure you come in time for meetings, ideally a few minutes early. Even one minute late is considered to be bad form and does not go down well.

2. Missing Coffee (fika)

Many work places operate a weekly or even daily coffee break called “fika”, which is a very important part of Swedish office culture. This is where you get to socialise with your colleagues and catch up on important office news in an informal way. Make sure you attend. It’s OK to excuse yourself occasionally if you have an important meeting or deadline but regular absences will not go down well with your colleagues.

3. Invading personal space

Swedes have a greater need for personal space than most other nationalities. How closely you should sit and stand to someone requires some judgement. When choosing a seat, avoid sitting directly beside someone if there are more places available, unless you know them very well. Watch out too for how close you stand to someone when talking to them. Don’t take it personally if you feel people edging away – you are probably just standing too close to them.

4. Filling silence

Don’t feel any pressure to fill the gaps if there is silence while waiting for a meeting to start, or even during a meeting. You can always try making small talk but carefully gauge the sort of response you get. Swedes tend to speak when they have something to say don’t necessarily feel awkward or uncomfortable with silence.

5. Rushing to invite

Many Swedes like to keep their work and private lives separate so wait to be invited to after work activities, rather than suggesting it yourself. If you do go out for drinks after work, you are not expected to offer to pay for someone or to buy rounds. People expect to pay their own way and far from being appreciated, offering to pay may make your colleagues uncomfortable and under obligation.

Best of luck with your new job!

I hope you find the tips helpful.

A little about Anne

Originally from Ireland, I moved to Stockholm with my Swedish husband and new born baby 18 years ago to try out Scandinavian living. So far so good. We’re still discovering and enjoying Sweden and nowadays I work as a relocation consultant at www.relocatetosweden.com where we provide assistance with all the practicalities of moving to Sweden as well as intercultural training.

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One thought on “Working with Swedes – 5 mistakes you should avoid

  1. Thats cool post I must say! I am myself Estonian but I lived in Ireland 4.5 years. Moved recently to Sweden and here its very different than it was in Ireland. Anyway, good tips!

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