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Sweden Customs and Etiquette Brief


Country Overview:

  • Location: Northern Europe, bordering the Baltic Sea, Gulf of Bothnia, Kattegat, and Skagerrak, between Finland and Norway
  • Size: 450,295 sq km
  • Population: 9,747,355 (2014 est.)
  • Capital: Stockholm
  • Exports-commodities: machinery, motor vehicles, paper products, pulp and wood, iron and steel products, chemicals, hydropower
  • Imports-commodities: machinery, petroleum and petroleum products, chemicals, motor vehicles, iron and steel; foodstuffs, clothing
  • Currency: Swedish Kronor (SEK)
  • Ethnic groups: Swedes with Finnish and Sami minorities; foreign and first-generation immigrants: Finns, Yugoslavs, Danes, Norwegians, Greeks, Turks
  • Religion: Lutheran 65%, other 35%
  • Government type: constitutional monarchy
  • Chief of State: King CARL XVI GUSTAF (since 19 September 1973) Head of Government: Prime Minister Stefan LÖFUÈN (since 3 October 2015); Deputy Prime Minister Åsa ROMSON (since 3 October 2014)
  • Language: Swedish (official), small Sami- and Finnish-speaking minorities

Meetings and Negotiations

  • Ensure that, maintaining eye contact coupled with a firm handshake, you shake hands with all attendees on both arrival and departure.
  • Younger people are likely to begin addressing you by your first name sooner than the elderly.
  • Swedes rarely engage in small talk at the start of a meeting. Instead, people will move directly to the topics at hand.
  • They do not make decisions during initial meetings and as such, the first meeting that you have is likely to be fairly general and low key.
  • Additionally, always bear in mind that the egalitarian nature of Sweden means that decisions and consensus are made across teams. As such endearing yourself to the most senior executives and directors will be unsuccessful.

Business Attire

  • Swedes value being well dressed and nicely groomed.
  • Men: wear good quality suits with silk ties and shirts.
  • Women: wear conservative business dresses or a suit.


  • Punctuality is absolutely essential. If you are late, then this will reflect very badly on you and will be viewed as discourteous.
  • Personal space is important in Sweden and as such it is recommended that you maintain an awareness of someone’s personal space and that you do not invade it.
  • Avoid unnecessary touching.
  • Business personnel in Sweden are typically fairly reserved and as such it is important that all dealings are formal and serious until it is deemed acceptable by the respective Swedish personnel to allow events to become more relaxed.

Gift Giving

  • Business gift giving in Sweden is not usually done between business associates, even on holidays.
  • When personally receiving a gift, it should be opened immediately upon receipt.
  • If you receive a gift from a business associate then reciprocate, but do not try to go one better by purchasing a lavish gift. Present them with a gift that is comparable to the one you received.
  • Appropriate Gifts: Books about your country, desk accessories
  • Gifts to Avoid: Lilies; expensive gifts that can be viewed as a bribe


  •  Although most meetings are managed by a particular person, all individuals are expected to contribute.
  • Swedes are direct communicators and as such, “Saying what you mean and meaning what you say” is both practiced and expected.
  • ‘Awkward silences’ are rarely seen as awkward in Sweden and They do not rush to fill conversation silences.
  • It is essential that you are cool and controlled during negotiations and that you do not demonstrate any emotion as this will be perceived negatively.
  • Try to ‘tone down’ the use of emphasis or superlatives as it is very rare that a Swede will over elaborate during a conversation – even if they are trying to sell something.
  • Topics to Discuss: the weather, sports, and nature
  • Topics to Avoid: personal questions and lifestyle (Swedes are very private)

Over 100 Customs & Etiquette Sheets can be found on the WTCA Resource Center. For more information, please contact support[at]

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