After all, (other than appearing disarmingly healthy) the Swedes look remarkably like the rest of us. And thanks to Swedish clothing giant H&M, much of the known world can now dress almost identically. The language too, while tough to master, isn’t vastly dissimilar from other Germanic tongues.
But in the workplace, it becomes most apparent that Swedes’ (perhaps not so) little cultural nuances rule. And unless you want to risk a serious fadäs (Swedish for faux-pas) — like being audacious enough to take the last slice of cake when you fika with colleagues — you should really get clued up on their workplace quirks and perks they sometimes keep to themselves.
1. Suits you, sir
Much to the delight of people who prefer sneakers to suits, the Swedish professional dress code is fairly casual. After all, this is a country where it’s basically winter six months of the year and smart office wear offers little protection against the elements!
2. Let’s meet on week 48
“Shall we meet on Wednesday the 27th?”
“Actually, week 48 is better for me.”
Dates are far too straightforward. Who wants to agree to a time that everyone can quickly mark in their calendars when you could lump several days together and confuse everyone who doesn’t know week 8 from 30? Not the Swedes, no siree.
3. Time to fika about
While extended coffee breaks may bring stern looks or straight up reprimands in some countries, in Sweden they’re actively encouraged. In fact, the more coffee, the merrier!
Fika, or grabbing a coffee and cake with colleagues, is even mandatory in some workplaces with designated fika time scheduled during the day. It’s been proven to increase productivity and happiness at work, so they must be onto something.
You wouldn’t go on vacation without taking out travel insurance, or drive your car without vehicle insurance — so why would you work without protecting your income? It seems so obvious, yet you probably hadn’t thought about it until you moved to Sweden.
That’s the rationale behind arbetslöshetskassa, or a-kassa for short. It’s an unemployment insurance fund that pays up to 80 percent of your salary if you find yourself out of work.
5. School’s out for summer
Outside of Sweden, an employer might frown upon workers taking longer than two weeks leave.
In Sweden, the whole country more or less shuts down between from late June through July when practically everyone takes around four to five weeks off in a row.
Heck, some Swedes will tell you a vacation isn’t really a vacation if it’s not at least three weeks. That’s more than enough time to unwind while you kick back with an ice-cold öl at your summer house in the archipelago….
6. Extra vacation pay
Speaking of vacation, for each day of paid holiday leave you get your normal monthly salary plus a 0.8 percent supplement per day. The idea is that you spend a little more moolah while on holiday, so when you crash back to reality there’s some extra in your pay packet at the end of the month.
How can you not love working in a country where you get paid more to take vacation?
In Sverige, you don’t head out for a quick beer at the end of the working day. Rather you go for an “AV”, which not so obviously stands for an “afterwork” drink — you just have to bear in mind that V and W are practically interchangeable in Swedish. Because vhy vouldn’t they be?
Sure, it might be your pitch that won the company’s new top client, or perhaps it’s down to you that your team met its annual sales quota. But if there’s one rule in the Swedish workplace, it’s that no-one is better than anyone else.
Swedes follow the rule of Jantelagen which means not bragging about your victories, even if you really, really want to. So when you feel extra proud of a professional achievement…keep it to yourself.
9. Work/Life Balance
Sweden frequently tops the lists of countries with the best “work-life balance”, and while Sweden’s experiments with a six-hour working day didn’t quite take off, free time is still taken very seriously.
It’s rare to see anyone burning the midnight oil, and those that do are more likely to be accused of poorly handling their workload than being dedicated to their job.
10. “God morgon, Ann-Sofie!”
Swedish workplaces are famously egalitarian with flat hierarchies and no need for airs and graces. That means calling your boss by his or her first name, even if it feels strange at first.
You also might be surprised to find your boss often asks for what seems like everyone’s opinion before taking action. And this consensus-based decision making does wonders for making everyone feel valued in the workplace. It also means that even simple decisions can get dragged out just a little longer than might seem necessary.
It’s just one of the many things you learn to love about working in Sweden.
This article was produced by The Local Client Studio and sponsored by Akademikernas a-kassa.