Sweden is a small Scandinavian country of about only 9 million people, but it may have one of the most unique cultures in the world. Several unwritten rules govern Swedish cultural life to help create a balanced society. The most distinct aspects of Swedish life are the work culture, promotion of healthy lifestyles, and the desire for moderation.
Swedish companies often make management decisions based on equality and independence. Foreigners who conduct business in Sweden are often startled by a management style that rarely issues top-down directives. More commonly, Swedish managers attempt to build consensus within a team before making a decision that may impact its members. This style of management may slow down the decision-making process and implementation of new policy. Nevertheless, it also ensures that workers will respect and comply with new rules or processes in the workplace. The key to making this system work is the use of open discussions with all partners. Information is also freely exchanged among all concerned parties.
The Swedish government is known for creating programs that contribute to the well-being of its citizens. For example, local and federal governments either subsidize or fully cover medical visits and treatment. Absences from work for medical or maternity leave are also paid for by Swedish companies or government entities. New parents are offered 16 months from work and paid 80 per cent of their normal pay. Usually the mother will choose to take most of the 16 months total leave while the father will take a smaller portion of it. Employees are usually offered generous vacation time per year and Sweden has one of the highest numbers of paid holidays in the world, with an average of around 41 days annually. Swedes hope that a healthy work-life balance will promote the well-being of people and increase productivity at work.
Finally, the Swedish idea of “lagom” or “just enough” influences much of Swedish social and cultural life. Lagom can be thought of as a desire for moderation in everything. In conversation, Swedes can often be considered by outsiders as cold and distant when in fact they are attempting to moderate their use of words to allow others to speak. This approach is in contrast to the often competitive nature of talk, with countless interruptions, that can be experienced in other countries.