Image by Lena Granefelt (2013), retrieved from Work in Sweden

An Introduction to Swedish Business Culture

In Sweden, business is done through a delicate balance of team-playing and individual responsibility (Swedish Institute, 2016).

Consensus is central to decision-making, so decisions can require a long time and a lot of meetings to come to fruition (Swedish Institute, 2016). The culture is very communitarian in that everyone is regarded as equal when it comes to rights and opportunities (Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner, 2012).

With such a focus on the democracy of the business culture, individuals are expected to respect one another and take responsibility for their actions in the workplace. In turn, they are offered similar respect through flexible work hours, a healthy work-life balance, and the ability to dress casually (Swedish Institute, 2016).

Companies are less hierarchical, and workers don't need to stand out from the crowd to be successful (Swedish Institute, 2016). However, status is achieved through achievement and successes (Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner, 2012) more than it is ascribed. This respect for age and experience can be motivating to younger professionals, or it can work to discourage them (Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner, 2012).

Swedish companies perceive time as moving in a straight line and as a sequence of events, similar to American companies (Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner, 2012). They value the present the most, with slightly less emphasis on the past and future (Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner, 2012).

When doing business, Swedes are more diffuse than specific (Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner, 2012). In an example from Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner (2012), a Swedish company earns a sale to an Argentinian company by investing time in getting to know the Argentinian team, over an American company that focuses instead on the product it is selling.

Employee benefits are generous, compared to American standards, with 5-7 weeks of paid holidays, during which professionals completely unplug from work (Swedish Institute, 2016). Coffee breaks are taken very seriously, tend to happen twice a day, and even have their own name. "Fika" often includes home baked snacks for employees to share (Swedish Institute, 2016).

Working parents are offered generous parental leaveā€”a total of 480 days to be taken between 60 days before the child's due date and the child's 8th birthday (Swedish Institute, 2016). A bonus is even paid to parents who split the time evenly (Swedish Institute, 2016).

About 70 percent of Swedish workers belong to a union, and a majority of workplaces have "collective agreements" (Swedish Institute, 2016) that regulate wages and working conditions for union and non-union employees. Like the United States, there are also laws in place that forbid discrimination, and which maintain the safety of workplace environments (Swedish Institute, 2016).

The retirement age is 65, and retirement pay is covered through a combination of guaranteed state pension, employer contributions and personal savings (Swedish Institute, 2016).


Granefelt, Lena. (2013). Work in Sweden. [Online image]. Retrieved from http://work.sweden.se/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/swedish-business-culture-coffee-break.jpg

Swedish Institute. (2016). Social benefits. Retrieved from http://work.sweden.se/living-in-sweden/social-benefits/

Swedish Institute. (2016). Taking care of business in Sweden. Retrieved from https://sweden.se/business/taking-care-of-business-in-sweden/

Swedish Institute. (2016). Work in Sweden. Retrieved from http://work.sweden.se/living-in-sweden/swedish-business-culture/

Trompenaars, F., and Hampden-Turner, C. (2012). Riding the waves of culture: Understanding diversity in global business (3rd ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.