Learn the benefits (and drawbacks) of working in Sweden or for a Swedish company.
Things to know when you are at work in Sweden
Apart from weekends, holidays and sick leave days, Swedes go to work. If they like it or not.
If you go to a Swedish work place, you might find out that things “work” a bit different than in your own country.
Here are a couple of things to remember, in case you ever fancy working in a Swedish company or in Sweden:
1. Enjoy flat hierarchies
When you hand in your CV to apply for a job, don't waste time on collecting and attaching old documents. A few phone numbers to previous employers are enough. Your new boss or human ressource personell will probably rather put more emphasis on what people have to say about how you work than what grade you have on your school graduation certificate.
More about flat Swedish hierarchies and how to cope with them, here
Share your ideas with your boss about how you would solve an issue. He or she will show appreciation for your attempts (even if he or she probably will not follow up on them) and give you at least the feeling that you have an impact on the decision making process.
2. Dress casually at work
Preferably not if you're a banker, nurse or soldier. But otherwise, feel free to put on your favorite shirt/dress and pair of dark jeans.
3. Be punctual
That means, make sure you come punctually to work, and leave work punctually, too. The only time Swedes accept a wait is for dental or medical appointments. When you have an appointment for a meeting at work at 10.00. Be there rather a few minutes before than only one minute too late. If you happen to come too late, the whole group will punish you with very subtle looks, telling you you messed up.
Learn more about Swedish traditions and culture,
read “How to be Swedish – A Quick Guide to Swedishness – in 55 Steps”,
now on Amazon
4. Work overtime, but only if absolutely necessary
Most bosses won’t expect you to work overtime. Overtime is uncommon among most office jobs, unless a big project is on the table, of course. But otherwise, work exactly those hours you're supposed to. Working extra very often, to impress your boss, will only tell him or her that you can't manage your work load very well, it also increases the risk for the company that you could burn out, have more days of sick leave and feel overall less satisfied with your current work place. Most Swedish work places want you to feel good and not squeeze that last drop of working power out of you.
5. Work hard, but try to stressa inte för mycket, don't stress too much
Since Swedes are conscious about others (and their own) well-being, they are good at keeping an eye on whether their colleagues are stressing out too much or have at least as much to do as themselves.
If you discover some incorrect behavior among your colleagues, make sure to report it to your closest workplace friend to skvallra om det, gossip about it. But definitely not to your boss (who actually would be able to improve the situation). You don’t want a conflict, do you?
6. It's unusual to blend colleagues with “private” friends
Yes, you might go for an afterwork with your colleagues some day. But the atmosphere probably will be far less relaxed than with your personal friends. Many Swedes draw a distinct line between work- and private life. It's rather uncommon that Swedes want to blend good old friends from school or university with their new colleagues from the marketing department. The first time your working colleagues meet your friends will probably be on your wedding (or funeral).
7. Start thinking in week-numbers when you make appointments
When you make an appointment in, say, a couple of months get used to saying the week number first.
Niklas: Nästa möte… vad sägs om vecka 35?
Next meeting… what about week 35?
Louise: Tyvärr, då är jag på Kreta med min sambo. Men vecka 37 skulle passar utmärkt.
Unfortunately, I'll be on Crete then. But week 37 would fit perfectly.
8. Address your boss with his or her first name
Use du (you) with everyone in Sweden, except the members of the Swedish royal family.
So, dear soon to be Swede, hand in your CV to a Swedish company and get used to greet your boss with “God morgon, Bengt!” (Good morning, Bengt!) or “Hej Ann-Marie” (Hello, Ann-Marie!) when you enter the office, while wearing a polo shirt or pullover.
9. Avoid making appointments in July
Since Swedish winters are long and dark, Swedes try to make the best out of every day in summer. Therefore Swedish society collectively decided to go on vacation basically during whole July. More about why Swedes don't work in July.
10. Take fika seriously
Swedes are inflexible with the timing of fika (coffee break). So don't disturb their coffee routines. It's not just drinking coffee, it's an integral part of Swedish lifestyle and Swedes consider it important for bonding with their colleagues. More about Swedish fika rules.
Now that you know how to interact with Swedes at work…
… you might even be curious about how to behave in Sweden without embarrassing yourself. Here is the book I wrote for all who are going to travel to Sweden or move there to work or meet the love of their life. To understand Swedish culture and act like a Swede, read:
Learn more about work in Sweden
- Working in Sweden, all articles on Hej Sweden
- Don't work in July
- Working in Sweden (infos from the Swedish Migration Board)
What is your experience at work in Sweden? Please comment below!