Social and business protocols are similar in Sweden and the U.S. In Sweden, planning and scheduling is a way of life, with punctuality being important and highly valued both professionally and socially. Meetings are scheduled well in advance and begin and finish on time. Participants should be informed of any delays as promptly as possible. Providing enough time to prepare for a meeting is very important, as well as sticking to the agenda. Important decisions and deadlines are expected to be adhered to, even when verbal. Sweden is known for its’ high levels of gender equality, and many women hold executive positions. Greeting everyone present with a firm handshake and direct eye contact is expected upon arrival and departure.
Swedes are generally respectful, and in accordance with “jantelagen”, they do not boast or brag about their accomplishments. Swedes tend to avoid confrontation and superficiality, they are business-like, analytical, detail-oriented and can be considered somewhat reserved. However, this is a generalization, and you will find that Swedes are also open and happy to small talk. Swedish companies are generally less hierarchical than in other countries and decisions are consensus-based. Mostly everyone in Sweden is on a first name basis, and colleagues address each other casually, regardless of title.
Conservative dress is appropriate for business appointments. Business entertaining in Sweden is usually done at lunch and not dinner, and upscale restaurants expect guests to dress well. Restaurant bills include service charges, but after an evening meal, a small gratuity (5-10%) is appreciated. Smoking is not allowed in places of business, including restaurants and airports. Business cards are still commonly used and distributed with no special ritual, while younger Swedes usually prefer LinkedIn. Gifts are appropriate when closing transactions but not at the beginning of a business relationship. At social events, small gifts are expected.
Swedes enjoy a general work life balance and treasure their leisure time. Due to the relatively generous leave that employees are entitled to (minimum 25 days/year), it is advantageous to plan business travel to Sweden during September through mid-December and mid-January through mid-June. Business travel should be avoided during one-week school holidays such as winter break (February), Easter (March/April) and fall break (October-November). Many Swedes take extended vacation during the period beginning around June 20 through August and some small businesses close. See a list of Swedish bank holidays.
Up-to-date travel information on Sweden and all other countries is available on the Department of State’s website, see Department of State. On this page, see “Travel Advisory” for current information, including the Country Security Report. All American visitors to Sweden are encouraged to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.
U.S. citizens may enter Sweden for up to 90 days for tourist or business purposes with a valid U.S. passport (at least six months longer than your planned period of stay) without obtaining a visa. Travelers must have sufficient funds and a return airline ticket. For visits that exceed 90 days and more information, see link to the Embassy of Sweden in Washington D.C: Embassy of Sweden
U.S. companies that require travel of foreign businesspersons to the United States are advised that security evaluations are handled via an interagency process. Swedish applicants for visas to the United States should go to the State Department Visa Website.
The currency of Sweden is the krona (crown), which is subdivided into 100 ore. All ore coins have been discontinued as of 2010, but goods can still be priced in ore. When paying with cash, all sums are rounded up to the nearest krona. However, Sweden is rapidly becoming a cashless society. Many places of business, including banks, do not accept cash. Other currencies can be exchanged at banks and financial institutions; however steep fees and/or unfavorable exchange rates are the price for this service.
Credit and debit cards are widely accepted both in Swedish stores and ATM’s. Major credit cards such as Visa and MasterCard are accepted in most places. Diner’s Club and American Express may be less acceptable due to the high service charges associated with them. ATM’s – most with the English language option - are available throughout Sweden but require a chip and PIN card for withdrawal of cash. Prior to departing from the U.S. travelers should ensure that their ATM/credit/debit cards allow use abroad and inquire about frequency, withdrawal limits, and related fees. Neither personal nor traveler’s checks are accepted anywhere in Sweden.&
Telecommunications/Electronics Sweden (country code +46) is one of the world’s most connected countries. Wi-Fi is always available in business hotels and often in public spaces, especially in major cities. Sweden mainly uses 4G and 5G cell phone technology. There are essentially no pay-phones available in Sweden. U.S. cell phones can be used in Sweden as long as the U.S. provider (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, etc.) activates the roaming function. However, using a U.S. cellphone abroad will result in a much higher cost to the user.
Sweden (country code +46) is one of the world’s most connected countries. Wi-Fi is always available in business hotels and often in public spaces, especially in major cities. Sweden mainly uses 4G and 5G cell phone technology. There are essentially no pay-phones available in Sweden. U.S. cell phones can be used in Sweden as long as the U.S. provider (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, etc.) activates the roaming function. However, using a U.S. cellphone abroad will result in a much higher cost to the user.
Voltage in Sweden is 230 with 50 cycles (Hz), and converters are sold in many electrical/office supply stores. If an American device works with 230 V, only an adapter to change the shape of the power plug to fit into a Swedish outlet is needed. Swedish power sockets use the Europlug (type C and F).
Sweden enjoys a modern infrastructure, and all modes of transportation are very reliable, efficient, and generally timely. Sweden can be reached by air, ferry, car, and rail. Delta Airlines and United Airlines have seasonal non-stop flights to Sweden. Other airlines such as SAS offer direct flights to Stockholm from New York, Chicago, and Miami. SAS also offers a direct flight between Goteborg and New York. Flights to Stockholm arrive at Arlanda Airport, 40 minutes north of Stockholm. When taking a cab from the airport, the price should be confirmed prior to departure. There is also a high-speed train as well as a bus service from Arlanda Airport to Stockholm’s downtown Central Station. Flights to Gothenburg arrive at Landvetter Airport, 20 minutes from Gothenburg center. When traveling into the city, one can take a cab or a bus service.
In cities, public transportation is most popular. It consists of subways, trains, trams, and buses. These are generally very reliable with extensive routes and connections. Sweden has right hand traffic and when driving, seatbelts must be worn by all, and headlights must be on, regardless of time of day or time of year. Drivers must be 18 or older and hold a valid driver’s license. Snow tires are mandatory Dec 1-March 31. Car rentals are readily available but at prices that exceed U.S. averages.
Swedish is the principal language of Sweden, but an advanced level of English is generally spoken by most Swedes, and often used in business. There are also five national minority languages in Sweden: Finnish, Yiddish, Meänkieli (Tornedal Finnish), Romani Chib and Sami.
The Swedish state-run health care system is often considered a model for other countries to take after and is comparable to care provided by the U.S. Emergency care. There are no mandatory vaccines for traveling to Sweden. The emergency telephone number is ‘112’. The Center for Disease Control lists a few vaccines worth considering when traveling to Sweden, see CDC website.
Local Time, Business Hours and Holidays
The 24-hour clock is recommended to avoid confusion. Sweden is +1GMT but observes winter- and summertime changes (+2GMT) from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October. Business office hours are generally 8 am through 5 pm and are closed on weekends, while retail stores are often open 10 am to 8 pm, five days per week and slightly shorter on weekends.
Temporary Entry of Materials and Personal Belongings
Both Sweden and the U.S. are in the ATA-carnet system, the documentation that replaces the need to apply for temporary import authorization. Goods that will be temporarily imported to the EU/Sweden and re-exported in unchanged condition (such as certain professional equipment, show materials or samples), can be temporarily admitted. See more information about the temporary admission of goods can be found on the Swedish Customs’ website, and information regarding bringing personal belongings, including medicines.