Category Archives: Colleagues

Characteristics of Swedish business culture

I’ve lived in Sweden for almost 8 years now and fortunately, I’ve been gainfully employed this entire time (crossing fingers). These years have given me a lot of insight into how different it is to work at a Swedish company when compared to an American company.

Here’s a few of my observations over the years…  Treat this as a cheat sheet to understanding Swedish business culture just a bit better! Continue reading

Glögg season and new friends

It’s glögg season again, and it’s time for another post!

Stockholm got its first “real” snow this past week!  Real snow is when it actually sticks to the ground and stays around, and boy was it needed.  It had been raining a lot and was dark and miserable, as it tends to be during this time of year.  But as soon as the snow came, everything brightened up.  Yes, it was still cold but I prefer cold and dry to cold and wet.  Even has snow on its front page!

(Side note: Californians, you have no idea how good you have it!) Continue reading

A broken nose and 350 SEK poorer

Remember how I was raving about innebandy?  I still love the sport, and I’m finally getting a bit better at it.  What’s so difficult about running around a gym with a plastic club and a wiffle ball, right?

The last time I played – about a week ago – I broke my nose.  Or rather, my friend Josh did. I ran up behind him to get the ball, and he swung around and his elbow met my nose.  It wasn’t his fault – he didn’t know I was there.  But “crunch,” “pop,” and *boom* I was down on the floor.  It was a pretty solid hit.  As I lay on the ground, I felt like the insides of my nose were running out.

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Business meetings

Okay, I am a slacker. I have been meaning to write this article for a long time now.  But I had a birthday come and go, friends come and go, and a life to live (now that the summer is here). So, apologies, but I’ve had other things to think about… anyway, here we go.

When I first moved here, I was given a 3 hour introductory course on Swedish business culture. One of the handouts we received was very helpful – it was a list of different countries and a comparison of how people behave in business meetings.

I found out during that meeting that a common stereotype (but also often true) is that Swedish business meetings often result in more meetings because no clear decision is reached, and that most of the time is spent discussing the issues to ensure that everyone’s opinion is heard.

The meetings I am in are often the opposite of this, but I think that’s just due to the nature of my industry and the type of colleagues I work with.  However, I was recently in a meeting when I saw this in action and was blown away by how uncertain I felt after I left the meeting.  I was more confused leaving the meeting than before the meeting!

It had to do with a large and lengthy presentation that we were preparing for a client.  The slide deck was made of about 10 different sections, and each person was responsible for at least one of those sections.  One of those sections was tricky, so during the meeting the person responsible for writing the section asked our boss for some guidance.  The conversation went something like this (I’ve kept it very very generic):

Person 1: This section is very difficult because if the client thinks this way, then we have to present it in this manner.  However, if the client decides to switch their assumptions model and go the other direction, we have to do it this way. Our teams around the world need guidance now, but we won’t know what the client wants to do until another few months.  How should we present this in the presentation?

Boss: Hmm, yes.  That is a tricky situation.



Boss: Okay, so let’s move on to the schedule of speakers.

Wait, what?  The first person was obviously looking for some pointers, but the person expected to have the answer didn’t really give any guidance but instead just moved onto the next question.  If it were me, I would have tried to explore some ideas with the team and come up with a mutually-agreeable solution, or at least a suitable compromise that everyone could live with.  But this was so indecisive that I was sure it would result in another meeting.

Have you been in a Swedish business meeting where you left the meeting feeling more confused than when you started?

Hot lunches and food stamps

Today we had a visitor from our Amsterdam office.  He is planning to transfer to the Stockholm office in August 2011 so he wanted to come and check out the city, the office, his future colleagues, etc.

Kenneth in Amsterdam 2008

Kenneth in Amsterdam

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you see it), Mother Nature decided to unleash a snowstorm on Stockholm today.

We took him to lunch and he asked a few questions about how the work culture was like in Stockholm.  It’s always nice to get new people in the office because it reminds me how I’ve become Truly Swedish – things that foreigners find interesting or curious don’t even faze me anymore.  The topic at lunch?  Hot lunches and rikskuponger, which I fondly call “food stamps.”

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Why Swedes leave the last piece of fikabröd…

Everyone does it.  You’re enjoying a great fika with your friends or colleagues and you keep eyeing that last piece of fikabröd.  You look at your friends, and they’re all busy in conversation but really, they’re thinking the same thing as you.  They all want it, but no one wants to reach for it.

Guest writer Karin Leman (@le_karin) discusses why it is #TrulySwedish to leave the last piece of fikabröd, but more interestingly, why we should all stop doing it!

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Thursday sounds good, but let me check my calendar

Swedes are ever loyal to their pocket calendars. These little brown things that they throw in their purses or their laptop bags with the week numbers clearly labeled.  Some calendars even have little perforated tear-sheets where you can dog-ear which week you’re in, making it easy to simply flip right back to it.  I have seen people go into a mad panic when they lose their calendars.
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