• Sweden's news in English
 
app_header_v3

'Be cool! Remember that Swedes admire humility'

The Local · 25 Feb 2013, 14:12

Published: 25 Feb 2013 14:12 GMT+01:00

Topolovsky is a management consultant at Stinson Partners, which specializes in corporate renewals. As an American living in Sweden, she gave us her view on the differences in networking between the two countries.

Do Swedes have a solid culture of networking?

I get the sense that networking is somewhat new in Sweden. Possibly, people used to rely on being introduced by a mutual friend or colleague, instead of extending a hand at an event to meet someone.

JobTalk Sweden: Seven key facts about Swedish job insurance

In my experience, however, once you're talking, Swedes can easily chat about their work, and they do it in a very neutral and forthcoming way.

Americans, meanwhile, tend to tell you everything they've ever accomplished at their job – in the first five sentences – which is a bit embarrassing to us Americans who've lived abroad for a while.

So if you're fresh off the plane, what do you have to keep in mind?

My recommendations for an American who's just moved to Sweden are to keep it a bit low key compared to the US. Swedes need a bit more time to get to know you before opening up, whereas Americans tend to be very friendly in the first meeting. This puts Swedes off just a bit, so take it a bit slower.

Are you planning on moving to Sweden for a job but haven’t found a place to live yet? Check out the latest home listings in The Local’s Property Section

Also, be mindful of talking about money or status jobs when meeting someone here. It’s not politically correct to ask questions that might lead you to learn a person's earnings or how high up in an organization they are. Those types of inquiries are very rude.

You are supposed to view people as equals and find everyone as valuable to speak with, not just the top bosses.

Most importantly for Americans to remember is to not oversell yourself. Just have a normal conversation without finding openings to showcase all your achievements. Swedes will automatically think you have low self-esteem if you carry on like that, as if you have something to hide, so you need to boast about something.

SEE ALSO: Click here for the latest listings for jobs in Sweden

In the US, we're raised to sell ourselves, to define who we are by our accomplishments. It's just the opposite here. Be cool, and remember, humility is highly admired in Sweden.

A side tip for women: Don’t overdress, especially with the bling jewellery. That’s tacky here and again, actually sends the opposite message that you don't have a lot of self confidence.

What are things to keep in mind? Are there any absolute no-nos?

It is most important to understand your company's policies on proprietary information, and you must respect them above all. If in doubt when a potentially sensitive topic comes up, be vague or don’t say anything at all.

ALSO READ: Camilla Öngörur, co-founder of Swedish networking organization Give It Forward, shares her insight into how to network, formally and informally.

Secondly, I think it’s important not to speak negatively about anyone. It’s not good practice in general and only leaves a negative charge in the air.

What you must do? Exchange cards. Always, always, always have your cards with you, in your wallet, in your computer bag... everywhere.

And once you've met and exchanged business cards (visitkort)?

Only send emails afterwards if you've really made a connection and you see there might be some future business. Otherwise, those emails become insignificant and just become administrative work for both parties.

Story continues below…

Any final, general tips you'd like to share with us?

Network as much as you feel comfortable with, but push yourself a bit beyond your comfort zone. Ninety percent of jobs come from people you know or whom you've met, not from sitting in front of your computer.

Practice. Practice walking up to someone and extending your hand for a handshake. Practice a good introduction line – without being corny like "Do you come here often?".

Learn how to cut off conversations in a graceful way. It's so much nicer to pardon yourself to make a scheduled call, rather than be clumsy and just walk off.

Practice. Practice. Practice.

Ann Törnkvist

Follow Ann on Twitter here

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

14:42 February 25, 2013 by Ramie
very helpful artcle
16:53 February 25, 2013 by krattan
I agree. I think one of the most striking difference is how Americans rather bluntly try to find out how much you earn or what kind of position you have in society during the first conversation.
17:27 February 25, 2013 by skogsbo
interesting that she thinks you need to practice shaking hands and greeting someone, was it that strange a concept? I would just say learn to shake hands like a man, nobody likes to shake a hand that feels like a limp lettuce leaf.
19:36 February 25, 2013 by theobserver
Ann Törnkvist:

You are out of your mind! If you think that one needs

Practice. Practice. Practice.

in order to get people to talk to you, in order to shake hands with them, in order to approach them, then one does not live in a place where HUMAN BEINGS live. Rather, one lives in a place inhabited by machines.

Sweden is a country full of warm people who are willing to help and talk and engage in conversation and provide assistance and be friendly and smile and be jolly and discuss and be open. Such people you cannot find in any other place in Europe!

If you think that one needs

Practice. Practice. Practice.

in order to be with Swedes, then, most likely, that's because you're not a real Swede!
21:20 February 25, 2013 by salalah
Remember this: It is OK for the Swedish people to be rude, just don't be rude back
22:15 February 25, 2013 by theobserver
salalah

This is not true. Swedish people are never rude. Just a bit shy, mostly those who have not come in contact with other nationalities.
22:52 February 25, 2013 by AfroSwede
@Salalah, exactly especially Swedish ladies when you are rude back they report you police as a rapist.
08:18 February 26, 2013 by procrustes
Nonsense--all of it! Be yourself because you cannot be other than yourself. If you follow this woman's advice you'll find yourself with the impossible social task of trying to walk on social eggshells without breaking them, as it were.

The low self esteem issue is Swedish, not American. Rather than change yourself, understand that Swedes are encultured with preternatural low self esteem and deal with them on that basis. Think of how you would deal with an overly-sensitive child.

Swedes are ever alert to any sign that fits their paradigm of what an American is and will immediately judge you at the first hint, with a bit of glee. They fancy themselves as morally superior and like a water on the hull of a boat ever, unceasingly searching for a leak, they will watch you for signs of what they so desperately need to see.

You cannot win at this. Just be yourself and those Swedes who can rise above this peculiar social quirk will eventually accept you. Sweden is not America. A Dutch man warned me upon hearing of my imminent departure for Swedish shores to be careful, "Swedes are an eccentric people, they believe themselves morally superior." David Frost characterized Sweden as "the mother-in.law to the world."
09:28 February 26, 2013 by EP
@theobserver

You're joking right? Swedes never rude? Just go out any Friday or Saturday and see how they behave. Pushing in pubs and bars, never saying excuse me. Invading your personal space when they want to order a pint. There is a huge lack of etiquette in Sweden, rather than the popular notion that Swedes are shy.
09:59 February 26, 2013 by soultraveler3
"Also, be mindful of talking about money or status jobs when meeting someone here. It's not politically correct to ask questions that might lead you to learn a person's earnings or how high up in an organization they are. Those types of inquiries are very rude. "

This just isn't true. I've lived here in Sweden for almost 5 years now and Swedes talk WAY more about this stuff than I ever heard back in the states.

It's not uncommon at all, when you're with a group of Swedish friends, for salaries to be stated outright for comparison. Work benefits, days off, amount of retirement savings, what someone paid for their house, car, etc. are also very common things discussed and compared. It's shocking to hear and witness the first few times, but it happens at almost every get together.

Most of that personal information is also available to the public online here and people can and do, look it up, all the time. In fact, I always figured that was the main reason Swedes don't seem to be bothered by discussing and comparing personal stuff like that. I no clue how the author could possibly think that it's considered rude by Swedes.

Also, things like that are almost never discussed in the US, even among close friends and relatives. It's considered horribly crass.

If that is normal to the author, she must've been raised with no class.
10:46 February 26, 2013 by oddsock
" think one of the most striking difference is how Americans rather bluntly try to find out how much you earn or what kind of position you have in society during the first conversation."

Hehe, whereas Swedes pretend not to be interested and then go home and check on ratsit.se.
11:50 February 26, 2013 by Max Reaver
@oddsock

LOL ratsit.se! So true!
20:29 February 26, 2013 by skogsbo
EP, if you think getting a drink here is tough, go to the UK, bars usually 3 people deep and resembling a rugby scrum
18:33 February 27, 2013 by cogito
At long last I now know what management consultants do:

Charge companies huge sums of money in exchange for spouting ciiche-ridden national caricatures.

@oddsock (#11). #1
19:40 February 27, 2013 by krattan
I recognize the different perceptions of Swedish behaviour displayed in the comments as experiences with different regional or social adherence within Sweden.
09:40 February 28, 2013 by flyintiger
But the swedes admire stupidity more, it's writen on their foreheads.
10:24 February 28, 2013 by Twiceshy
"Ninety percent of jobs come from people you know or whom you've met, not from sitting in front of your computer."

90% ? That seems quite exaggerated, is there any actual data proving this?
16:57 February 28, 2013 by cogito
"In the US, we're raised to sell ourselves, to define who we are by our accomplishments," she says.

Sounds like quite a good way to define oneself.

Accomplishments could be anything from having earned a Ph.D. to having started a successful business, to being a great cook.

Certainly it is preferable to define yourself by what you have accomplished than to define yourself by your social class, your title or who your father/grandfather was, as Swedes commonly do.
23:37 March 1, 2013 by theobserver
EP:

Noooo... I am NOT joking. Swedes are the most polite people on this planet.
Today's headlines
Sweden advised to bring conscription back in 2018
Bringing back the draft could help a stretched military, a government inquiry says. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Young men and women could be made to fill in questionnaires for recruitment to the Armed Forces as early as next year, according to a new proposal.

Nationalists suspend aide after Russia propaganda claim
The suspended aide is a political secretary to SD member of parliament Kent Ekeroth. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

His suspension comes only days after another of the party's political secretaries resigned amid controversy over a property deal in Russia.

Presented by Lernia
Top 7 tips to help you learn Swedish
Photo: Lernia

Struggling to learn Swedish? There are a few ways to make it easier. Here are seven tips from the experts.

Here's how much Sweden's highest-earning authors make
It was a good year for the likes of Jonas Jonasson (left) and Camilla Läckberg (right). Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT & Henrik Montgomery/TT

From Nordic Noir to a hundred-year-old man (and one called Ove), Sweden's authors had a good year in 2015.

Sweden named world's sixth most competitive country
The good news also came with some caveats. Photo: Izabelle Nordfjell/TT

The country moved up three places in the top ten of the latest edition of the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Index.

The Swedish celebs you really should not google
'Oh no, don't tell me I just clicked on THAT link.' Photo: Björn Larsson Rosvall/TT

These are the world's most dangerous viral Swedish celebrities, according to a new report.

Furious elk mum attacks Swede, breaks his arm
You talkin' to me? Photo: Mikael Fritzon/TT

It came back and attacked him not once, but twice.

Report: Stockholm is at risk of a housing bubble
Apartments in Stockholm. Photo: Tomas Oneborg/SvD/TT

Stockholmers are the third most likely to experience a housing bubble in their city, according to an international ranking.

The Local List
Reverse culture shock: the troubles of leaving Sweden
Does it get more Swedish than this? Photo: Emelie Asplund/imagebank.sweden.se

Why is that stranger talking to me in the elevator?!

Police close Facebook thread after call for help derails
A file photo of police cars on Gotland not related to the article. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

The Gotland Police Facebook post asking the public for information about an unprovoked attack on two boys had to be closed because the comments section spiraled out of control.

Sponsored Article
Expat finances in Sweden: the Common Reporting Standard
National
Aliens' sex lives? Why Swedes want Nasa to send a condom into space
Sponsored Article
Let's Talk: a personal Swedish language tutor in your pocket
Analysis & Opinion
'If Sweden really wants startups, drop the red tape on migration'
Gallery
Property of the week: Gotland
Blog updates

27 September

Cutting your nose …. (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"Last week, Jeremy Browne, the Special Representative for the City of London, visited Sweden. Jeremy was…" READ »

 

7 September

Svensk or svenska? (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hejsan! My inbox is full of questions :-). Here’s one about when to use “svensk” and…" READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
‘I view the world in a different way now’
National
Trump an 'embarrassment' Springsteen tells Sweden
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
Gallery
People-watching: September 23rd-25th
Politics
Russian Sweden Democrat aide resigns over suspect deal
National
Muslim teacher leaves job after not shaking male colleague's hand
Sponsored Article
'Creating a sense of home': Collective living in Stockholm
Travel
Why we adore autumn in Sweden
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Gallery
People-watching: September 21st
National
Stockholmers hunt killer badger after attack on neighbourhood hipster cat
Sponsored Article
Gran Canaria: 'So much more than beaches'
The Local Voices
Why this Russian developer is committed to helping refugees - with tech
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
National
Six key points in Sweden's budget plan
The Local Voices
How a Swedish name finally made recruiters notice this Iranian's CV
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Gallery
Property of the week: Luleå
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Gallery
People-watching: September 16th-18th
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
Culture
Why Swedish TV has given these kids' trucks a sex swap
Sponsored Article
'There was no future for me in Turkey'
National
TIMELINE: Everything you need to know about the Julian Assange case
Sponsored Article
7 reasons you should join Sweden’s ’a-kassa’
Gallery
People-watching: September 14th
Sponsored Article
‘Extremism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone’
Politics
Why Sweden is putting troops on holiday dream island Gotland
The Local Voices
'What I mean when I say: I came here to blow myself up'
Society
VIDEO: Are Swedes that unfriendly?
Features
INTERVIEW: How Arthur the jungle dog opened hearts and minds
Gallery
Property of the week: Smögen, Västra Götaland
Society
Sweden's ancient forest tongue Elfdalian fights for survival
National
Where Sweden's foreigners are from
The Local Voices
'Whenever I apply for jobs I’m treated like an unwanted stranger'
The Local Voices
Is Swedish bosses' ignorance keeping refugees out of jobs?
2,976
jobs available