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 The official language of Sweden is Swedish and it is spoken by the majority of
individuals living in Sweden. One of two key minority languages is Saami, which is
spoken in the Northern regions of Sweden and finally Finnish. There are also a
number of Romanies in Sweden who speak in Romani.
 Swedish is not only the official language of Sweden. It is also one of the official
languages of Finland.
 Influences on the Swedish language have come primarily from Latin, German and

The Culture of Sweden

 One of the key characteristics of Swedish culture is that Swedes are egalitarian in
nature, humble and find boasting absolutely unacceptable. In many ways, Swedes
prefer to listen to others as opposed to ensuring that their own voice is heard.
 When speaking, Swedes speak softly and calmly. It is rare that you were witness a
Swede demonstrating anger or strong emotion in public.
 Swedes rarely take hospitality or kindness for granted and as such, they will give
often give thanks. Failing to say thank you for something is perceived negatively in

The Family
 The family in Sweden is extremely important and as such, the rights of children are
well protected.
 The rights afforded to Swedish families to ensure that they are able to adquately
care for their children are some of the best rights in the world. An overview of these
rights is as follows:
- Either the mother or father is entitled to be absent from work until their child
reaches 18 months old.
- Either parent has the right to reduce their workload by 25% until their child
reaches 8 years old (and is formally ready for school).
- A parental allowance is paid for 480 days, which is intended for both parents.
Sixty of these days must be used by the ‘minority’ parents. For this reason, this
element of the allowance is often known as ‘Daddy’s months’.
- You have the right to up to 60 days off per year to care for a sick child.

The Role of Hospitality

 Although Sweden is a largely egalitarian and relaxed environment, hospitality and

eating arrangements are often a formal affair.
 It is more common for guests to be invited to a Swede’s home for coffee and cake as
opposed to a meal, but, if you are invited for a meal then ensure that you:

- Are punctual as it is considered extremely impolite if you are rude. In the same essence,
do not arrive too early. It is not an uncommon event in Sweden for guests to sit in the car
until the last minute or walk around the block until the expected time of arrival has
- Dress smartly as to otherwise would be considered disrespectful to the hosts.
- Do not ask to see the rest of the house as Swedes are general very private and it is likely
that the only room (other than the dining / sitting room) that they would expect you to
go to would be the bathroom.
- When eating, keep your hands in full view, with your wrists on top of the table.
- The European eating etiquette should be adhered to in respect to knife in the right hand
and fork in the left.
- Do not start eating until the hostess has started.
- Do not take the last helping from a plate.
- Finish everything on your plate as it is considered rude to leave any food uneaten.
- Do not offer a toast to anyone more senior to you in age. When offering a toast then lift
your glass and nod at everyone present looking from those seated on your right to those
seated on your left before taking a sip. You should then nod again before replacing your
glass on the table.
- It is important that you do not discuss business at the table as Swedes try to distinguish
between home and work.
- During formal events, the guest seated on the left of the hostess typically stands to make
a speech during the sweet, to thank her on behalf of the whole group.
- Always write or call to thank the host / hostess within a few days of attending the dinner.

Gender Roles
 Sweden has the highest proportion of women in the labour force worldwide. This is
attributed to both job opportunities in the public sector and the support the
government provides to women in the private sector. Moreover, Sweden has the
highest proportion of women as parliamentarians and cabinet ministers. According
to the OECD (2009), 55.9% of the central government workforce is female.
 Over time, the patriarchal family structure has declined as the traditional patterns of
male authority and female economic dependency on their husbands have been
replaced by a reliance on communal institutions. Within a household, the male and
female often share the responsibilities of tending to the house and the children as
well as earning money. It is quite uncommon to find a woman that stays in the home
with the children and does not participate in the labour force.
 Government assistance towards parents with young children has made a significant
contribution to gender equality in the country. Sweden offers a large amount of
maternity and paternity leave. Thus, it is common for the father to take paternity
leave to allow for the mother to return to the workforce. Once the
maternity/paternity leave is finished, public childcare institutions will step in at a low
price. This allows for both the male and female to return to work.
 The most common greeting in Sweden is a handshake. It is usually firm and
accompanied with direct eye contact.
 Most adults will shake hands with each person present when entering or leaving a
social setting.
 In rural areas, the custom of handshaking is not as common on a casual basis.
Rather, it is associated with sealing agreements, resolving disagreements or greeting
in more formal circumstances.
 If people are far from one another, they may nod their head or raise their hand to
greet another person.
 Friends and family will often hug when greeting one another.
 Between men who are close to one another and have not seen each other for a long
time, a half-hug with a light backslap is common.
 People typically address one another by their first name. Titles are reserved for very
formal situations.
 The most common verbal greeting is a casual ‘Hej’ (‘Hi’).
 People will usually say goodbye with the phrase ‘Hej då’.

Basic Etiquette

 Much etiquette in Sweden is based on maintaining equality throughout interactions.

For example, thanking people for their efforts and reciprocating actions that occur
 Everyone is expected to form an orderly queue when waiting to be served. Almost
no reason is accepted to get in front of the people who arrived before you. In fact,
many places use a “queuing ticket” system, whereby you take a number from a
machine when you first enter the store. When your number is announced, it is your
turn to be served.
 When one answers the phone, they will say ‘Hallå’ (‘Hello') and identify who they
 Punctuality is essential in Sweden. Avoid arriving too early or too late for an
appointment or an engagement. It is not uncommon for guests to sit in their car or
walk around the block if they are early until the scheduled start time has arrived.


 It is common for people to get together for ‘fika'. Similar to morning or afternoon
tea, fika consists of coffee, tea or soft drinks often accompanied with a light snack
(such as a sandwich or pastry). People may meet for fika at cafes or their home.
 Arrangements are usually made when visiting one another. Unannounced visits are
 Guests are expected to arrive at the designated time.
 People will typically remove their shoes before entering someone’s home,
particularly in winter.
 Many Swedes will give their guests a full tour of the house if it is their first time
 Hosts will usually offer their guests a beverage, often black coffee.
 It is impolite to leave straight after finishing eating. Guests are expected to stay for
coffee and some conversation.
 It is important for guests to thank the hosts for their hospitality the next time they
meet. This is done by using the phrase, “Tack för senast” (Thank you for last time).


 A person places the utensils side by side on the plate once they’ve finished eating.
 Leaving any food on the plate is impolite.
 Guests usually wait for the host to offer second helpings. It is not impolite to decline,
and guests may take more if they desire.
 Each guest will personally thank the host directly after the meal.
 People look directly in the eye of someone when they are toasting one another.
 Some Swedes may offer guests seven different types of cookies for each guest to
sample. It is important to only take one of each flavour if you and fellow guests are
offered a variety of cookies.


 Swedes open gifts upon receiving them.

 It is common for people to bring gifts for any children who may be a part of the
family they are visiting.


 Direct Communication: Swedes tend to communicate in a direct manner, speaking

quite frankly in a straightforward manner. Conversation is functionally focused. They
will often address conflict or confrontation directly, yet diplomatically. Although they
may speak in more pointed terms, Swedes generally seek to maintain a polite tone.
 Communication Style: Communication in Sweden is participative, with everyone
encouraged to share their perspective. There is a tendency for Swedes to avoid
conflict or confrontation and refrain from raising their voice or showing anger.
Rather, one may show anger by looking away or stopping talking. Modesty is
important to many. Thus, Swedes will avoid boasting or embellishing a conversation.
In turn, if a Swedish person says they are good at something, it usually means they
are an expert or at a professional level.
 Interruption: It is considered rude to interrupt someone during a conversation. It is
thought to indicate that one does not have a genuine interest in what the other is
 Turns: Swedes usually take turns while speaking. This means that each person in the
conversation will speak without interruption until they have finished what they are
expressing. The conclusion of one's turn is usually signalled by silence.
 Silence: Moments of silence are rarely seen as awkward in Sweden. In turn, Swedes
don’t tend to rush to fill periods of silence in conversation. However, if the silence is
particularly long, it may be seen as a sign that people have little interest in speaking
with one another.
 Pronouns: In 2015, the official dictionary of the Swedish language was updated to
include a third, gender-neutral pronoun. The new pronoun (‘hen’) was added
alongside ‘han’ (‘he’) and ‘hon' (‘she'). Hen is used to refer to someone without
revealing their gender identity – either because it is not known, the writer/speaker
deems gender to be irrelevant information or because the person is transgender.


 Personal Space: Many Swedes value their personal space and do not appreciate it
being invaded by others. For example, in elevators, a Swedish person will tend to
stand as far apart from another person as they can. A little over an arm’s length of
space is common during conversations. Individual space is also maintained amongst
family and friends.
 Physical Contact: Traditionally, Swedes seldom embraced in public or put their arm
around another. However, this is changing, and people are becoming more casual.
Displays of friendship are more common, with light touching during conversations –
such as a hand on the arm or elbow – is not uncommon among friends and family.
 Eye Contact: Eye contact is an important element of conversation. Many Swedes feel
that avoiding eye contact is a sign that someone is not interested in the
 Gestures: Swedes tend not to use excessive hand gestures when speaking.