After all, the Swedish starting point is ‘we are normal’. Indeed, Swedes have a tendency to think they are a little more normal than others. They believe they are quite sensible, and logical. They are often unaware that the rest of us, their international business partners, may have a different opinion. We think they are amusing, entertaining and, at times, really quite odd.

Take business life for example. Swedes attend meetings. Lots of them. Three things in Sweden are certain:  death, taxes and more meetings.

Mötet gick bra!

When Swedes say ‘Mötet gick bra’  (the meeting went well) what exactly do they mean? There were heated discussions? The meeting went on for ages? The incredible number of decisions that were taken? I doubt it.

Other people on the planet believe that the sole purpose of a meeting is to produce decisions. Swedish meetings, on the other hand, are held to find out whether or not you are at the meeting to decide when the meeting will be to decide when you will meet to talk about what happened at your meeting.

Swedish meetings are short but many. They are arranged to give Bengan, Maggan, and Lasse a chance to say what they think. If you want to reach a decision then you’ll have to arrange another meeting because in the meantime Bengan, Maggan and Lasse have to go back to the office and ask Ninni, Kicki and Titti (yes, there are girls of that name) what they think.


This, in Swedish, is called the förankringsprocess. If  Swedes mention the word ‘process’ then it’s better not be in a hurry. There’s a process for everything. This one means getting everybody involved in everything. 

Everyone voices an opinion and everyone listens. Then they compromise. The word compromise is music to a Swede’s ears. Everybody gets something. Not too much and not too little. Nobody wins and nobody loses. They may agree to disagree but what they will agree on is the exact time and date of the next meeting.


Swedes stick to the agenda. They tick off each point after everybody has taken turns discussing it. They have to move quickly through the agenda as they all have another meeting planned ten minutes after this one has finished. They intensely dislike the last point on the agenda which is övriga frågor, ‘any other business’. No self-respecting Swede wants to be guilty of causing the meeting to run over time. There is a distinct danger that ‘any other business’ could drag on and flexibility is not a Swedish strong point.

Decision time

Swedes rarely say yes or no. This means that instead of saying ja or nej they say nja which means ‘yes-but-no-but-yes-beut’. You see, saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ can lead to conflict so Swedes avoid these words and replace them with ‘it depends’, ‘maybe’ and ‘I’ll see what I can do’.

Foreigners may get heated, irritated or even angry. Swedes call this hysterical behaviour. Hysteria is abnormal and uncomfortable and should preferably not occur in office hours. If, on the other hand, a Swede ever tells you to go a place called ‘hellsicke’, then, take my word for it, you’ve upset him. 

You may wonder how on earth they ever make a decision. Business Swedes themselves have sometimes called this beslutsimpotens – which, I suppose, means not having the balls to decide one way or another.

Milk and no sugar

Someone once said that if the Swedes gave up their coffee breaks they could retire five years earlier. Coffee is an integral part of any meeting, either as an on-going self-service affair during the discussions or as a separate break. The coffee break is not to be confused with the briefer, more frequent leg-stretcher. Or ‘bone-stretcher’ as they sometimes call it. The Swedish word for leg and bone is the same.

Work/life balance

Most Swedes are dedicated to finding a healthy work-life balance. They might say they work hard; it’s just that they are not often at work to do it.

Look in a Swedish diary and you may get the impression that no one in this country is ever at work. Try to get hold of someone on a Friday afternoon and this will be confirmed. Swedes will start to ask you about your plans for the coming weekend as early as Wednesday afternoon. By Friday lunchtime they have mentally gått för dagen ‘left for the day’.

Red days

The Swedes have a fair share of public holidays. In a good year they take as many days off in May and June as most Americans take in a year. And they still have their five weeks vacation to take out when it suits them. Not only do they have ‘red days’ as the Swedes call their official holidays, but they may be given half the day off before, just to get them into the holiday mood. If they’ve planned it well they can take out a klämdag or two, which are odd days between a holiday and the weekend.  Come May, June, July the weekends and public holidays more or less combine into one long vacation with the occasional day at the office.

However, fair’s fair - when they’re at work they’re very effective. But not before 8.30 as they have flexi-time, and not after 4 pm, thank you, as they have to pick up the kids from play school, and not after 2 pm on Fridays, if you don’t mind, and preferably not between 1 May and 10 August.

So, there you are Swedes. A short, sharp lesson in how to realise that you are not quite as normal as you think you are.

And thank goodness for that.

14 kommentarer
2017-01-17 09:10
Still awesome, and very accurate! (From a Swede) 🙂
2011-12-22 11:38
Really funny article, and Im swedish. I agree swedes "fikar" alot in work. Though I still don't think we are not normal

2011-11-05 02:15
Hej igen! Om det finns något typiskt svenskt så är det att vi svenska (inte jag, dock) älskar att snacka skit om oss själva. Och det verkar som om vi älskar lika mycket när en utlänning snackar skit om oss. Det är synd. Och särskilt synd är det när det som sägs är så fyllt av felaktigheter.
2011-11-05 02:09
Tröttsam läsning. Och full av felaktigheter. Gäsp.
Fredde a
2011-10-25 05:49
Haha! Yes this is very funny but as a swede i am also very proud about things like this. Its going well for sweden right now. I am not living in sweden at the moment and that i guess makes me even more proud and makes me miss my home country 🙂

We still have alot to learn, from other contries and cultures, but without looking down on our own culture, as i see happens more and more often. That is sad 🙁
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2011-08-31 17:08
Men tack vare att vi inte hetsar upp oss och försöker göra det så rättvist för alla så har vi hamna före vår tid.^^
Starta Eget
2010-07-19 16:56
Rolig artikel. Har läst en hel del om olika kulturer men lik förbannat så utgår man automatiskt och felaktigt att alla andra är konstiga. Det normala ska man nog kasta ut ur fönstret. Lite lustigt att jag inte sett artikeln förrän 2 år efter att den publicerades.
2010-05-05 14:27
Totally agree with the above, the meetings drive me crazy, as does the lack of actual work time (not all though).
There is one small point i feel missed. Swedes love managers, there are more managers in my company than people that work. You can't earn more money than your manager so we need to make you a manager.
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2010-04-29 15:35
Friday = P O E T'S day Piss Off Early, Tomorrow's Saturday
2008-04-28 15:20
What can I say. We are the fukin peak of human civilazation. (But wait; that was a very "unswed" thing of me to say. I meant to say; we are fairly good of course.)
2008-04-28 14:40
Och det är på grund av just detta som det går så "BRA" för Sverige idag.... 😃 Hahaha. Jag hatar alla dessa meningslösa möten som tar på effektiv arbetstid och då är jag född och uppvuxen i Sverige (nåväl, Skåne i alla fall). Tycker svensk arbetsmoral över lag är lite lagom lustig, speciellt inom våra kommuner och andra offentliga instanser där folk med 100% tjänster egentligen inte jobbar mer än 25-50% och sedan får en chock när de faktisk måste jobba 40h per vecka pga "nedskärningar". Kul att läsa att jag inte är den enda i det här landet som tycker att vi har för många märkliga möten, men visst, kafferep är ju trevligt! 😃
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2008-04-18 16:26
That's soooo funny and soooo true! I am German and moved to Sweden a couple of years ago. I'm still astonished about all this! 🙂
2008-04-17 13:58
Now THAT was funny, and spot on. I've lived here for 12 years and can confirm it all. Nevertheless, I couldn't imagine changing a thing. There's only one Sweden and you find yourself falling in love with it. Warts and all. ;)
2008-04-12 22:38
Han skriver i en av hans första böcker något om att vi har flest skillsmässor i världen. Men det kanske inte är så konstigt när att vara gift uttalas och stavas samma som "gift" (poison) 😃
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