Working in Sweden – Take your work seriously – How to be Swedish

Apart from weekends, holidays and sick leave days, Swedes go to work. If they like it or not.
When 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:
  •  Dress casually at work. Preferably not you’re maybe a nurse or soldier.
  • Be punctual. That means, make sure you come punctually to work, and leave work punctually as well. 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.
  • 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 the last drop of working power out of you.
  • 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 keep 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?
  • According to law you have yearly (at least) 25 days of holidays at your disposal. Most of which you will probably take during the months of July. (Check out the post “Don’t work in July“)
  • You’re entitled to 480 days of paternity leave. 90 of those days are reserved for the dad. Around 25% of the paternity leave is taken by fathers.
  • Expect the company to pay for trips to kick-off events and trade shows, where your Swedish colleagues are likely to indulge in ample eating and drinking. The bonding process may be taken too seriously and taken as far as to the hotel bed.
  • When you make an appointment in, say, a couple of months get used to saying the week number first.
    “Nästa möte, vad sägs om vecka 35?” “Tyvärr, då är jag på Kreta med min sambo. Men vecka 37 skulle passar utmärkt.”
    “Next meeting, what about week 35?”, “Unfortunately, I’ll be on Crete then. But week 37 would fit perfectly.”
  • It’s rare to blend work contacts with private friends. The first time your working colleagues meet your friends will probably be on your wedding (or funeral).
  • Share your ideas with your boss about how you would change something. He or she will appreaciate your attempts (even if not followed up) and give you the feeling you have an impact on the decision making process.
  • Enjoy flat hierarchies (as we learned in a previous post abou hierarchies in Sweden)
  • 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.
  • Address your boss with his or her first name. As you do with everyone in Sweden, except the members of the 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.


All ‘How to be Swedish‘ posts, here

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