Sweden which occupies the eastern part of the Scandinavian Peninsula is the third largest country in the European Union by area. Except the mountain chains on the North and West of the Norwegian border the country is relatively flat. Half of the land is blanketed by forest and only %10 is farmed. There are around 100.000 lakes and a long coast line. The land is 173,732 square miles. Population estimated 2010 9,074,055. The capital of Sweden is Stockholm.
The earliest historical mention of Sweden is in Tacitus’s Germania, where reference was made to the powerful king and strong fleet of the Sviones. In the 11th century Olaf Stottkonung became the first Swedish king to be baptized as a Christian. Many attempts were made to unite Sweden with Norway and Denmark into one kingdom; however this only resulted in a long and bitter strife between the Danish and the Swedish.
The Swedish Middle Ages was turbulent. Struggle for power amongst powerful families and great men caused politically unstable situations.
Sweden was a kingdom where the king was elected by members of a council of aristocrats. The throne was not inherited. In 1520 the Danish king Christian II conquered Sweden. Things got more complicated when in 1397, Sweden, Denmark and Norway formed the Kalmar Union, to try and compensate the increasing political and economic influence of the German Hanseatic League.
Around that time the three countries decided to elect a common king from Denmark. This decision has led to serious conflict between Sweden and Denmark initiated by struggle of power.
In 1520 Gustav Vasa became a king of Sweden, only then the country was consolidated.
The successful economy between the late 1940 and late 1960s attracted skilled workers from southern Europe. Those workers were allowed to immigrate freely and gain full citizenship. During that time some immigrants also came from Norway, Denmark and Finland.
In recent years Sweden probably was number one country allowing and accepting as many political refugees, people fleeing war and repression (Hungary, Vietnam, Chile and Kurdistan, former Yugoslavs). Foreigners in Sweden have full access to the welfare system, can vote in local elections and become citizens in five years.
In recent days it is common to hear distinguish between Swedes and immigrants. This distinction is made based upon outer appearance and whether the person speaks Swedish without a foreign accent. The legal system however does not make distinction!
Economy and Trade
During the 20th century occurred what is described as the “Swedish economic miracle”. In the space of a few decades, the poor agrarian country was transformed into one of the world’s most prosperous industrial nations. The Foundation for this amazing growth was Sweden’s wealth of forests, ore and hydroelectric power.
One of the many Swedish industries is a new one called the “experience industry”. In the past decade the country attracted worldwide attention and given itself a substantial new export income in the related creative sectors as design, music, fashion, art industry, gastronomy, media, advertising and tourism. However the country’s major industrial strengths is in engineering, and related high technology manufacturing. Major products include telecommunications equipment, cars and trucks, airplanes, household appliances, industrial machinery, electricity generation and transmission systems, steel and high-grade steel products, armaments, paper and pulp, furniture, chemicals and pharmaceuticals. Sweden is also the home to several giant corporations, which dominate foreign trade. Their economic and political might is counterbalanced by larger labour unions and strong sector.
Rights between men and women
Sweden is considered a leader in gender equality. The feminist movement is strong in Swedish country, and unparalleled percentage of women in government. Childcare is strongly supported!
Advancement in this area has distinguished Sweden from the other countries.
In 1995 Sweden granted fathers one month leave after the birth of a child. A couple receive 15 months of paid leave between them to look after their new born.
In 1999, Sweden became the first country to punish the buyer and not the seller of sexual services!
Women have the right for abortion, and marriage is a matter of choice and many Swedish couples live together without marriage however they have the same treatments entailed on them as married people.
Social and culture mannerism
Swedish people respect privacy of other people and expect the same. The converse in a low voice when in public places (e.g. bus etc.)
Their social etiquette is based on equality. Thanking occurs frequently, and it’s common when a person is thanked to thank again. They dislike boastfulness and rarely their conversations are interrupted by each other. They listen attentively and will show you that by nodding and murmuring.
When people disagree, they avoid open expression of conflict. They show modesty to other people. Academic and corporate titles are rarely used, arrogance is not appreciated.
Language and Religion
Swedish is spoken by everyone and is the official language of Sweden. English is also spoken widely and come as the second language.
Eighty five percent of the people in Sweden are members of the church of Sweden alongside Islam, Roman Catholics as well as adherents of other religions. Freedom of Religion is constitutional.
When doing a business in Sweden greet with a hand shake swiftly and firmly. With women your handshake has to be lighter. Men should wait for women to extend her hand first. If wearing a glove remove it before offering to shake a hand. Do not speak while your hands are in your pocket as this is considered rude. Swedish people appreciate their personal space and they usually stand further apart from each other than other countries.
Apart from hand shake do not attempt to make any physical touching!
Swedish people like to keep their personal and business life segregated. They establish relationships in an informal way; however do not take that as intimacy!!! Expect to address business people by their first name.
Swedish communication is direct and open. They take turn when conversing and insure you listen attentively when someone is speaking.
In business in Sweden dressing should be conservative. Men and women should consider wearing good quality suites with shirts. Men with silk ties and women can wear business dresses that are stylish yet conservative.
Do not attempt to dress to impress. In Sweden even senior Executives do not wear more elaborately than the other employees.
Punctuality is quite important and if you are going to be late, it is crucial to call and explain your position. Working hours in Sweden are between 08:00 and 16:00 with lunch hour from 12:00-13:00.
Be well prepared when attending a meeting with a Swedes, they are extremely organised business people and you need to show great knowledge and expertise in whatever you are talking about to impress them. Always maintain your cool and watch your body language and mannerism. Decisions are never made after the first meeting. Several meeting needs to take place before a deal or a decision are made. The Swedes like to agree as a group before giving an answer therefore keep in mind that top executives are not necessary the ones who are making the final call to your negotiations, and you need to impress and charm your way around everyone in the Swedish team!