The truth about Swedes!

Swedes have bestowed many blessings upon our society; where would we be without, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo? Max Martin? IKEA? H&M? Volvo? Not to forget who designed the “zipper” on your jeans you put on this morning? And the seatbelt in your car to keep you safe while listening to your favourite tune on Spotify? The myths surrounding Swedes are many. You’re bound to have heard a few. We will clear out the 12 most common sayings about Swedes at work.

1. MEETINGS
Swedes are obsessed with meetings, they spend their entire working lives in different meetings. It’s like a national sport. Most Swedes actually dislike meetings, but they are annoyed not to be invited because that can be a sign they aren’t important enough. Seldom does any meetings end with a decision, that’s why they often invite for another meeting just to clear out what was supposed to be clear in the first one. Hang on, it doesn’t stop there, Swedes have even given their meetings different names, just to be sure they have covered them all.
Meetings swedes love to attend:

  • Måndagsmöte: A Monday morning meeting. Why have a meeting? Well people, its Monday, you better start the week in a true Swedish manner!

  • Planeringsmöte: A meeting to plan a bunch of other meetings

  • Informationsmöte: A meeting to inform people why they are at the meeting

  • Uppföljningsmöte: A meeting to follow up the previous meeting

  • Beslutsmöte: A meeting for decisions. Really? Decisions? Well at least that’s what the meeting is called.

  • Ett inställt möte: Means there is no meeting, puuh finally some gap in the schedule. 

Well… Don’t get too exited, because it’s time for…

  • Ett extrainsatt möte: A meeting to fill the time gap caused by “ett inställt möte”.

The big meeting finale is…

  • En dubbelbokning: Which means two meetings at the same time. Where if not in Sweden.

2. WHERE’S THE CEO? HE’S ON DISHWATER DUTY THIS WEEK
To find a less hierarchical structure than in Sweden the world needs to come up with a new country. Don’t be shocked if you see the CEO on the list for dishwater duties. Also it’s recommended to call all your colleagues, including managers at all levels, by their first names. This should not, however, be confused with being well acquainted with them, the relationship is still formal and topics of conversation should be limited accordingly.

3. KEEP CONVERSATION SIMPLE
“Jahaaa.. ja precis.. nej..oj!..Fy!… Jahaaa… Äsch… Nej men!” It can go on for minutes like this. Even normal conversations are quite simple as swedes try to avoid small talks. Just get straight to the point. A word of advice: Many Swedes think it’s rude to ask personal questions, so don’t be offended if your new Swedish colleague doesn’t ask for your life history. Swedes even have a saying that states: “Tala är silver – Tiga är guld” which means listen more than you speak. So people, zip it.

4. LAGOM AND ITS COUSIN LAW OF JANTE
There is a societal code of conduct in Sweden called “lagom”.  Loosely translated, the word lagom means: ”Not too much nor too little,” just right enough to go around. When used in reference to societal behavior, it means blending in appropriately without extreme displays of emotion. Swedes seldom does the unexpected. They have policies and processes for everything, they even give courses in “processhantering” which is a course to learn how to deal with all the processes. In discussions the word “lagom” tend to be the answer to just about everything, “How is your workload? – Lagom. “How was the weather while being on commissioning in China? Lagom”.

Lagom also have an ugly cousin of sorts: Jante. The Law of Jante, jantelagen in Swedish, it’s the DNA part of Swedes saying: “Don’t think you’re anyone special”. This Jante is why you are as likely to find the CEO doing some recycling in the staff kitchen as well as in the boardroom holding one of those famous meetings.

5. FIKA IS RELIGION
Swedes don’t pray to God they have faith in their coffee, anytime of the day is coffee time, it’s almost an accessory having a cup in your hand on the go. Sweden is the third biggest coffee consuming country in the world, imagine that with a population of only 9 million. If the Bible had been written by a Swede they would have turned water into coffee. Coffee breaks at work aren’t just coffee breaks, they are known as the Swedish phenomenon, FIKA. This is pretty serious business! Even during company crisis, swedes make room for fika. It would be considered a treason to walk into a Swedish company, regardless of industry and remove fika. Employees that for some unclear reason don’t do FIKAs will have this as feedback in the yearly appraisal with the angle: “How are you dealing with your workload? I notice you seldom go to fika”…..so you better attend those FIKA sessions or…

6. VABruari
VABruari is the Swedish name for the month february – it’s the season for different type of flus, it’s the month where employees often must stay at home and:
VABBA = Home taking care of sick kids
VOBBA = Home with sick kids but still answers e-mails
VOFFA = Home with a sick dog, or two.

7. THE SWEDISH NEED TO AVOID CONFLICTS
Swedes avoid arguing at work and in general. If a discussion appears to be turning into an argument, do not be offended if a Swede abruptly changes the subject, to talk about perhaps, hm, the weather?

8. I HAVE TO WORK LATE SO I WONT BE HOME UNTIL 6 PM
Work-life balance is second-nature to Swedes. Even those not picking up children regularly leave the office at 4pm. You won’t get promoted for staying later, your colleagues will just think you’re heading towards a burn-out or you just have no social life.

9. PUNCTUALITY
If the meeting starts at 2pm make sure you are there at 2pm, otherwise they will start without you. Punctuality is key. Regardless of what, always make sure you are on time, preferably a few minutes before. But hey, don’t feel the pressure to fill the gap with talks, just ensure you always have your phone with you so you can appear busy and avoid possible awkwardness.

10. I’M OFF ON PATERNITY LEAVE FOR A YEAR
Sweden has one of the most generous parental leave systems in the world. Parents of whichever gender are entitled to stay at home with their child for a total of 480 days while receiving 80% of their salary. Yeah I know, with this benefit why is the population still so low.

11. TOPICS FOR DISCUSSIONS
What are swedes talking about during these endless counts of fikas you might think, especially when it’s rude to ask personal questions. Swedes love to talk about WEEKENDS. During Monday -Wednesday, the talk about what they did the previous weekend and Thursday – Friday they focus on what they will do the coming weekend. Somewhere in between the weather is always handled.

12. PATIENCE PAYS OFF
Swedes are master planners and love to plan ahead, which means that any new initiative has to be scheduled for discussion and execution and will therefore take time. Swedish business culture also embraces the democratic decision process. Compromise and consensus rule, which usually makes for a drawn out process. Don’t try to rush things, your patience will eventually pay off. If not this year…….

FUN FACT: Swedes have special days celebrating food, make sure you know what days these are so you can take lead in the next fika discussion!

Gotta love them Swedes!

Maria Ergül
 

Maria Ergül
Maria Ergül
Maria är en debattör som inte räds för att sticka ut hakan. Hon har jobbat med HR inom globala industrier sedan 2009. Med en bakgrund inom idrotten anammar Maria ofta idrottens metodik i sitt arbetssätt. Hon har stort intresse för ledarskap- och organisationsfrågor och ser hållbar utveckling som nyckeln till framgång. I sin roll som HR Manager bidrog Maria till att Bombardier år 2015 utsågs till Årets innovatör inom Employer Branding.

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