Here is a "first approximation" guide for you, because you will certainly be confronted with fewer surprises if you know some of the small differences in how Swedish people behave.
Both at work and in social life, one is expected to be punctual. A major exception is the "akademisk kvart" (15 minutes during the day and "dubbel kvart", 30 minutes in the evenings), which is the practice in the academic world.
Whenever you are waiting for something: in a cinema queue, to pay in a shop etc., you are expected to wait in a proper queue. Almost no excuse is good enough to get in front of the people who arrived before you. Many institutions, e.g. banks, post offices, shops etc. use a system of "queuing tickets". When your number shows on the screen, or the shop assistant calls your number, it is your turn.
Some foreigners complain that it is difficult to meet Swedes socially. Swedes often take longer before inviting people home or going out with them in the evening. Since you will probably be here for a relatively short period of time, if you are anxious to make Swedish contacts, you might consider taking the initiative.
...but listen too
When talking, Swedes usually do not interrupt. When you speak, people are normally interested in what you have to say and listen, so do not forget to listen to them!
What do you say when you pick up the receiver? Just "Hello"? Try to remember that in Sweden that is considered impolite. You might answer directly with your name or phone number or "Hello, this is... (your name)". To call a local area you do not need to use the first three (in some cases four) first digits. If you are in Lund you do not need to dial 046 before calling anyone in Lund. For someone abroad to call you in Lund, they dial the number for calls abroad, the country code for Sweden and 46 followed by your local number.
Smoking is not allowed in public buildings and, as in many other countries, regulations against smoking are getting stricter. Therefore remember to always check if there is a sign saying "Rökning Förbjuden" (No smoking) before you light up a cigarette. It is also considered an act of courtesy not to smoke in the house of someone who does not smoke - or at least ask if it is alright to smoke indoors. When dining, it is a courtesy to wait until everyone has finished their meal before smoking.
In written Swedish language, noon or mid day would be written 12.00. One hour later (1 pm) would be written 13.00. Five o'clock in the afternoon would be written 17.00. However, in spoken language one often say "one" for 13.00 or "three" for 15.00.
Take off your shoes?
In winter, it is not usual (and it gets pretty hot) to wear heavy, outdoor shoes indoors. Remember this when you visit a Swedish home you will find it convenient to follow the Swedish habit and bring a pair of light shoes with you to wear indoors.
When invited it is customary to have a small present for the hostess and also to say thank you for the evening when you leave and also on the next occasion you meet the host/hostess (Tack för senast).
Room 253A and 249, Byrålogen, Paradisgatan 5C, Lund.
IRSO, Box 117
221 00 Lund.
IRSO Office (map - new window)
Human Resources Advisor
Phone: 046-222 71 51
Phone: 046-222 01 75