There are lots of countries which attract people who want to set up a business. Choice can be caused by many factors, for example, the legal system, multicultural society or low cost of living. More and more entrepreneurs decide to trade in the country famed for Vikings, ABBA musical group, and books by Astrid Lindgren. It is easy to guess that the described place in Sweden. Let’s look at why this part of the world is such a popular business area for foreign contractors and how Swedish business culture looks like if you are wondering about running a business there.
1. Doing business in Sweden – what do you know about the country?
Formally – the Kingdom of Sweden is located in Northern Europe. The neighboring countries are Norway, Finland, and Denmark (by a bridge-tunnel across the Oresund). Sweden has a long and rich history which is connoted with Vikings and their foray into Byzantium or Ruthenia. In the space of time Swedes fought in many wars, including the Thirty Years’ War, which let them won a power position in the international arena. Nowadays, it is one of the biggest countries in the European Union, where you can find over 10 012 614 inhabitants.
If you are thinking about doing business in Sweden you need to know something about their economy. Iron ore, timber, and military weapons are the most important export industries. Naturally, there are more main lines of businesses such as engineering industry or non – ferrous thermal metallurgy. What is more, Sweden is the seventh – richest country in the world in the light of GDP per capita (49 866 USD in 2015). Right there is the highest employment rate in the European Union which total 77% and according to rankings, Sweden has one of the lowest levels of corruption. All this data sounds like a perfect place to start a business in, doesn’t it?
2. Business culture in Sweden – basic customs and manners
There’s no doubt that doing business in a foreign country may carry a lot of cultural shocks. It is better to be well – prepared for the potential behavior of our new overseas partner and seem to be professional.
There are lots of different characteristics of Swedes but all have something in common – they pass for the very tolerant nation, so you do not have to be afraid of cooperation with them. Surely, they will understand that you are from another country and it can be a stressful situation for you. However, let’s try to avoid making mistakes and focus on things which are crucial for the Swedish.
2.1 Swedish business etiquette
If you want to have a good relationship with your Swedish partners you have to remember about being punctual. People from Scandinavia value punctuality, so if there was a chance you can be late, you would inform your associate before.
What about gift giving in Sweden? Generally, it isn’t a popular custom for the very beginning of cooperation. It is better to wait for the present from your Swedish partner first. Another thing is when you are invited for a special dinner or event – in this situation you are expected to buy flowers, wine or chocolates. If there were children, you would take some small presents for them, because the Swedes value their family.
2.2 Swedish dress code
Swedes like high-quality things – it is the same in the meaning of clothes. Swedish attire is rather casual in their workplace, but when it comes to business meetings they wear formal clothes, mostly dark suit for men and a pencil skirt with a shirt for women.
Keep in mind that in Sweden dress culture center around modesty and soberness. Try to avoid glittery and provocative clothes – sometimes you may be even not allowed to enter some restaurants because of that.
2.3 Watch your tongue!
As we mentioned before, Sweden is a multicultural country, where all human rights are obeyed. Swedish business customs do not accept racist and sexist jokes, so even when you don’t want to offend anybody, think twice before you quip.
It is important not to use too many superlatives during the conversation – Swedes like strict information without giving colors to the story. What is more, try to avoid topics connected with private life as the main talking point and under no circumstances should you criticize the Swedish society – their economy, lifestyle or Swedish culture values.
2.4 Business communication
In Sweden communication is held in very simple rules – directness and openness. They do not like wasting time and hit the high points. Swedes respect their interlocutors and expect them to do the same, so do not disturb while they’re talking. Generally, Swedes understand English and are able to communicate with you in this language, but if you know some word in Swedish it would have a positive impact on the business relationship.
Swedish work culture allows you to address a person by the first name, but remember about Swedish personal space – this is treated as a private area. Don’t touch your partner, excluding handshake, which should be swift.
If you want to set up a business in Sweden keep in mind that oral agreements are binding there. Naturally, words will be written sooner or later, but it doesn’t mean you aren’t obliged to do what you promise to perform. Negotiations with Swedes are not quick and hasty. You should expect many questions or explication – they like procedures, rational decisions, and button all issues up.
3. Life and work in Sweden
Not without reason, Sweden can be hailed as a country of health and high level of life. In Sweden, work-life balance is very Swedish work week last 40 hours and the maximum number of overtime per week is 10 hours. In general, standard working hours in Sweden come to 8 hours a day. In one year perspective, these extra hours cannot exceed 200. However, if you have children under 8 years old you have the right to file a motion for shortening of working hours. Another fact what can be interesting is the holiday. In Sweden, holiday entitlement is not less than 25 days and leave can be transferred and used for 5 years.
In many countries in Europe, there is a minimum rate of payment, but in Sweden, you can not find any regulation which imposes national minimum wage. Salary is regulated in special agreements between employers and employees and every sector of the economy fixes their own level of the amount. Despite the lack of minimum pay Swedes don’t complain about money. The average gross salary per hour is 18.50 EUR. Naturally, specialists, lawyers, engineers, and doctors earn more. Swedes also value the services of skilled hairdressers or beauticians.
If we know about work hours in Sweden and how much they earn, it is the time for some words about their life, meaningfully about the cost of living in Sweden. Generally, there are no rules determined the particular amount – everything depends on the place you live in. Cost of accommodation and other daily things are higher in the capital, rather than in the small city. For example, a three-bedroom apartment in a convenient location in Stockholm costs about 1,7436 EUR per month. When we think about food and clothing, we can estimate the weekly amount of spending money in grocery for 63 EUR. Costs of transport are quite expensive – the price of petrol is about 1,60 EUR per liter and if we want to take a three-kilometer taxi ride we can pay 13 EUR.
As we can notice, the average cost of living in Sweden is quite high, but keep in mind that the salary in this country lets inhabitants pay expenses and set some money aside.
4. Maybe an internship in Sweden?
As we know, Sweden is a broadminded country and welcome people from different parts of the world. Internship in Sweden can be a good way of familiarising yourself with Swedish business culture. There are many intern programs which enable people to work there, for example, AIESEC, Erasmus, Nordplus – programs and other different student organizations.
It can be formed as a paid or unpaid internship. On the whole, interns get an amount of money which cover living costs. Sometimes organization help in finding accommodation, but this duty can also fall to participants. Then, it is a good idea to check available options from local housing foundation and choose the most proper room or flat for you.
5. Business in Sweden – you can try
Sweden is a tolerant country which is famed for a high standard of living, so there’s no doubt why people from other countries are willing to set up a business there. If we had to answer the question what is the best advice for an American businessperson who is traveling to Sweden on business, we would answer: follow Swedish business customs mentioned in this article, look professional and be prepared for long negotiations, because as ABBA sang – “the winner takes it all… “
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