Sweden - Country Commercial Guide
Business Travel

Includes information on business customs, travel advisory, visa requirements, acceptable business etiquette, dress, business cards, gifts, etc.

Last published date: 2021-09-14

Business Customs

In general, social, and business protocol is similar between Sweden and the U.S. In Sweden, scheduling and planning are a way of life and punctuality is extremely important, both professionally and socially.  Meetings are scheduled well in advance and begin and finish on time. Any delays must be promptly communicated.  Providing ample 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.  There is a high degree of gender equality in Sweden, evidenced by many women holding advanced positions. A firm handshake and direct eye contact with all present upon arrival and departure is expected.

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.  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.

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 commonly used and distributed with no special ritual, but it is not uncommon that younger Swedes refer to LinkedIn.  Gifts are appropriate when closing transactions but not at the beginning of a business relationship. At social events, small gifts are expected.

Travel Advisory

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 thru mid-December and mid-January thru mid-June.  One-week school holidays such as winter break (February), Easter (March/April) and fall break (October-November) during these months should be avoided.  Many Swedes take extended vacation during the period beginning around June 20 through August and some small businesses close.  A list of Swedish bank holidays can be found here.

Up-to-date travel information on Sweden and all other countries is available on the Department of State’s website, see Department of State (open link in Google Chrome).  On this page, see “Travel Advisory” for current information, including the Crime and Safety Report. All American visitors to Sweden are encouraged to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program STEP (open link in Google Chrome).

Visa Requirements

When there are no pandemic-related travel restrictions, 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 in excess of 90 days and more information, see link to the Embassy of Sweden in Washington D.C: Embassy of Sweden.

Currency

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.  Sweden is rapidly moving towards becoming a cashless society.  There are some places of business, including bank branches, that do not accept local currency cash any longer.  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 or 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.

Checks are extremely rare in Sweden, and travelers’ checks are no longer accepted. Depositing a U.S. /foreign check into a Swedish bank account comes with a hefty fee.  If the bank accepts the check, there will most likely also be a long delay before the check clears. Wire transfers are preferred but require a Swedish bank account to receive the funds in.

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 the major cities. Sweden mainly uses 3G and 4G cell phone technology, however 5G is in the process of being rolled out by local internet providers.  There are essentially no pay-phones available in Sweden any longer. 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 will work with 230 V, only an adapter to change the shape of the power plug to fit into an outlet is needed in Sweden.  Swedish power sockets use the Europlug (type C and F).

Transportation

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.  Prior to the pandemic, there were a few airlines that offered non-stop U.S.- Sweden flights from cities such as Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago, but this has ceased during the pandemic.  Flights from the U.S. arrive at Stockholm Arlanda Airport, 40 minutes north of the city 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 bus service from Arlanda Airport to Stockholm’s downtown Central Station.  In cities, public transportation is mainly used including subways, trains, trams, and buses.  These are generally very reliable with extensive routes and connections.

Sweden has right hand traffic and when driving in Sweden, seatbelts must be used, and headlights must be on, regardless of time of day or time of year.  Snow tires are mandatory Dec 1-March 31.  Car rentals are readily available but at prices that exceed U.S. averages.

Language

Swedish is the principal language of Sweden, but an advanced level of English is generally spoken by the majority of Swedes, and often used in business.  There are also five national minority languages in Sweden: Finnish, Yiddish, Meänkieli (Tornedal Finnish), Romany Chib and Sami.

Health

The Swedish state-run health care system is often considered a model for other countries to take after and is comparable to care found in the U.S. Emergency care is widely available. There are no mandatory vaccines for traveling to Sweden, but this may change due to the pandemic.  The Center for Disease Control lists a few vaccines worth considering when traveling to Sweden, see CDC website. The emergency telephone number is ‘112’.

Sweden has had a less restrictive approach to Covid than many other countries and has avoided a full lock-down. See the CDC’s “Covid-19 in Sweden” information.

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.  A list of Swedish bank holidays can be found here.

Temporary Entry of Materials and Personal Belongings

Both Sweden and the USA 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.  More information about the temporary admission of goods and information regarding bringing personal belongings, including medicines can be found on the Swedish Customs’ website.