Moving to a new country is always coupled with uncertainty, feeling foolish and making mistakes. These mistakes often happen in the area of unspoken etiquette that “everyone” knows and lives by. As a newcomer it certainly isn’t easy to know these underlying do’s and don’t’s. This is part of the preparation for living here and making mistakes while having the great fortune of someone telling you what to think of is golden. We all learn by mistakes and Swedes may not think of telling their new friends and colleagues the norms they live by.
A short list of the most common mistakes that are easy to make.
- Punctuality. Swedes are very punctual and many take it personally when someone doesn’t arrive on time for a meeting IRL or online. It can be taken as a sign of not being important enough for the person that is late. A small thing that can have big consequences.
- Winter and summer rules. Due to the climate the seasonality and how Swedes live vary across the year. In the winter, you will see a Swede carry a shoe bag, especially when invited to someone’s home in order to not make a mess on their floors. Even in the summer indoor shoes are brought as a courtesy. It’s a good idea to ask if the host wants you to take off your shoes or not.
- Summer is the social season for Swedes and hurried neighbors that have barely said hello will light up in the summer and outdoors get togethers are common.
- Equality. Swedish men and women have equal, or close to it, opportunities and work well together.
- Flat organizations. Many ex-pats are pleasantly surprised by the ease of managers and how accessible they are. It’s not hard to get to speak with a higher up and junior and new colleagues are often invited to meetings and encouraged to get involved. This makes upward mobility in the company easier than in many countries.
- Fika. The well known coffee break that is sacred in many workplaces. While it’s not as strict these days, it originates from the old times twice-daily get-togethers at 10:15 and 3 PM. With more common flex time not everyone will be there everyday, but it’s a good time to get to know your co-workers and learn a bit about the culture. The concept is one of the first things you will hear about in Sweden. You can see a widely spread YouTube Video Here
- Planning. Swedes plan ahead. Children are signed up for Tennis before they are three years old or they may never be able to get in. Everything goes in chronological order where you walk step by step and it’s hard to short circuit many things. Everyone will get a feel for how it works when moving to Sweden when getting started. 1. Register for residency. 2. Get personal Number 3. Order a national ID card. 4. Book an appointment at the bank. 3. Show your national ID card. 4. Get a bank account. 5. Get your salary paid. There are no shortcuts, one step at a time… There are many things you can do to stay ahead of the game. Apply early for your children’s schooling/day care, think of summer camp already in the fall, and sign up for your own classes as soon as they are released since they will get filled up quickly.
- Reservations. Right now restaurants and hotels are operating on limited capacity and if it was hard to be spontaneous before, those that are able to move around now are quite a few so restaurants are full in spite of the number of people staying at home.
- Mindset. The long dark winters are hard for people that are used to an even climate and sun almost everyday. Cozy up and enjoy the dark season. Think of the Swedish Mys (check out the article in New York Times in November 2020) or Danish hygge, light lots of candles, get a soft blanket, many books, make a playlist and enjoy the silence.
- Expenses. Swedes have high taxes and to live a comfortable life most people have to be thrifty. There’s not a coincidence that IKEA was founded in Sweden, low pricing with your own effort as part of the equation. There are great ways to save money on food for instance. Why not download the app KARMA that will allow you to “save” food and you can buy the leftover bread at the end of the day or “save” lunches that are half price and you can have it for dinner. Great idea and a good way to make your wages go further.
And between you and me, schhh…. When you order things to be delivered and have an option always, always choose Airmee or Budbee – thay are phenomenal to provide fast delivery and you never get a notification saying “We tried to deliver to your address, but now you can pick it up somewhere”.
A few years back we created an online program called “Professional Inspiration for Successful Expats” all our clients can sign up for free and it has been really helpful for many. Check out the 30+ short films with people that are already here, or will be your bosses or colleagues to see what they value in a colleague and friend.