Where the Days Might Never End And Fika Is a Must: Traveling to Sweden on Business
Getting around in Scandinavia is easy and exciting and you will probably be surprised by the standard of living people enjoy. Sweden is no exception to the rule, even though there are a few quirks to be considered, which I reveal in the next episode of our series for business travelers.
One thing that makes traveling to Sweden a breeze is the fact that almost everybody speaks — at least some — English. One reason for this, besides a good education system, is that British and American movies and TV shows are not dubbed but just subtitled. This helps folks to pick up some very nuanced and cool lines in the original language. So don’t be surprised if your business partners are well versed in the latest hit shows. Here is what else you should expect:
Be on Time, Be Informally Formal
While Sweden is less formal than, for example, Germany, being punctual and having good time keeping habits is still expected. Dress up, suits are the norm for business meetings, only in a media or internet startup environment you can expect your guests to be a little more casual. Swedes address each other with their first names, no matter how much power or which hierarchy they present — and so should you. But keep your small talk in check, Swedes tend to go straight to the point and you certainly won’t learn anything about their private lives in a business meeting. That might change after you’ve re-located to a restaurant or a bar for a social get-together. Once the, incredibly expensive, alcohol is served, tongues and behaviors tend to loosen.
Getting Around without Being Taken for a Ride
Sweden has a very well established public transport system, busses and trains will get you almost anywhere. They are clean, modern and on time. Be aware that you often need to buy a ticket or something like a Metrocard in advance. When taking a cab, make sure you chose a legitimate company. There are some black sheep in the market that try to take people for a ride and end up charging absurd amounts of money for the shortest of distances.
How to Not Wait in Line Forever
Sooner rather than later you will hit the end of a line to get something, maybe in a store or a bank. Swedes are obsessed with their queuing systems. Skipping a line is considered really rude, be it at the coffee machine, the bus or even the escalator. At most places you will have to get a ticket with a number marking your position in the line and you will have to wait until somebody calls your number. Foreigners often overlook this and end up waiting forever because no one will say anything — Swedes do not automatically tell other people what to do.
Speaking of etiquette: You will discover that Swedes tend to say “Excuse me” at the oddest of times many times a day. But they actually do not really mean “Excuse me”, it might just be a sign that they are listening or that they understood what you just said. Don’t get offended, on the other hand, if a Swede doesn’t apologize for bumping into you on the street or doesn’t hold the door for you. We are not really rude, just different.
There Is Never Enough Time for Fika
The “fika” is fundamental to Swedish culture. Used as a verb or a noun, it loosely means “coffee break”. And none of these breaks that seem to happen at least twice a day, are complete without pastries. A good fika café is always close by in Sweden, you just have to look carefully. The other big tradition that you should explore if you can: midsummer parties. They always take place on a Friday between June 19 and June 25 when people in big cities and small villages all over the country celebrate the longest day of the year. It traditionally is a rousing party and since it hardly gets dark in summer in Sweden, it can go on until very late in the night. Traditional Midsummer foods are pickled herring and new potatoes as well as fresh strawberries and cream.
We hope we teased your appetite for a business trip to Sweden. If you have translation or localization needs for Scandinavia or other places in the world, don’t hesitate to contact us today or request a free quote here.