Elderly couple eating hot dogs on a bench in Kungstaedgaarden, Stockholm, Sweden.

Etiquette in Sweden

Swedes are considered humble and boasting is not indulged in. Generally Swedes view people who boast as disdainful. In some cultures it is acceptable to demonstrate strong expressions of emotion in public;this is not the case in Sweden. It is especially noticeable that Swedes are reserved in body language;public displays of affection, hugging and touching are not the general trend.

As women are becoming a major constituent of the work force, it is acceptable for female business colleagues to pay the dinner bill or other bill at social gatherings. It is customary to give gifts at Christmas time to work colleagues.

Respect is maintained, and to this day males usually tip their hat to women or remove it when talking to women. When talking to each other it is respectful to maintain eye contact in Swedish culture.
Swedes are known to take their time in making decisions, yet once a decision is made they are quick in enforcing it or bringing it to existence.

It is impolite to criticize Sweden, its culture or any other Swedish aspect of life. It is admired when a foreigner has some knowledge of Sweden and offers this in conversation;such as about the language, history or culture.
Punctuality, being to the point and clear in communication is the way of communicating. People shake hands in Sweden, when greeting and when leaving. This applies for all adults and children. Yet young adults may not shake hands when greeting and departing from friends.

Business entertainment tends to centre on lunch time or dinner time and rarely breakfast time.
Being well mannered is especially relevant when socialising. After being hosted for a dinner or being given a gift, it is important to express sincere gratitude. When invited to someone’s home, it is customarily to bring a gift. The gift is usually sweets or candy, if the host has children;otherwise flowers, chocolate or liquor is the trend. The receiver of the guest opens the present on presentation as this is customarily as well.

When out for dinner or entertainment it is common to have toasts, toasts are formal affairs. Until the host has given a toast it is not at all polite to take a drink. It is respectful to look into the eyes of the person being toasted and to say, ‘skohl’. It is respectful for all females to quickly bring their glasses back to the table after a toast as males are expected to only bring their glasses down after the females.

When eating at someone’s home it is polite to try everything served. When a person has finished their meal, it is etiquette to place the knife and fork side by side at 5:25 position, on the plate.
After the meal has ended the male guest of honour taps his glass with a spoon or knife and thanks the hostess on behalf of all the guests. The female guest of honour will then also thank the host.
If you are invited to a home or social gathering, it is expected for the guest to write or phone the next day to express thanks.