Relatively isolated from the main currents of Continental European cultural change, many of Sweden’s artistic traditions developed their own distinctive character.
Swedes can sometimes seem a bit reserved at first, but people are generally very friendly and are always happy to help and to answer any questions you might have. A good way to get to know Swedish people is to join Swedish societies, clubs, associations and non-profit organisations. Learning some Swedish language is also a good way to experience more of the culture.
Love of nature is a well-known national characteristic. Many Swedes like to spend their free time in the forest or by the sea.
Being punctual is important to Swedes – arriving just prior to an appointment, but not too early!
Forming an orderly queue is expected of everyone when waiting to be served in a shop or bank, for example. Many places use a system of “queuing tickets”, whereby you take a number from a ticket machine and wait for your turn.
Taking your shoes off before entering the home of a Swedish family is a common act of courtesy, especially in winter. Some Swedes bring a lighter pair of clean shoes to wear indoors when visiting people. It is also customary to have a small present for the host to say thank you for their hospitality, when invited for dinner or other occasions. When you next see the host, it is then customary to thank them again ‘tack för senast’
Swedes are used to having a generally relaxed and friendly working environment, and this extends to their clothes. Jeans and other casual wear usually qualify as smart casual, with suits only being worn for important meetings. In the office and other social situations, people are generally referred to by their first name. Titles such as ‘Mr.’ and ‘Dr.’ are no longer commonly used. Greet both your male and female Swedish colleagues with a handshake.
Swedes take their rest and relaxation seriously as they are part of their renowned work-life balance. Great importance is placed on family, and Swedes structure their work life around quality time with their loved ones. They will work hard in the office and will aim for “lagom” in their work, which loosely translates as doing just enough or the right amount to complete a task effectively.
In Sweden, the fika – a coffee break that normally consists of coffee or tea, cookies or sweet buns, but can also include soft drinks, fruit and sandwiches – is a social institution and is usually held twice a day in the office.