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Sweden imageA recent request from a client:

Shelly - If you have any book (or film or Web site or other) suggestions re. “Optimizing presenting to non-American audiences, for Americans,” I’d welcome any tips.

I have gigs in Sweden in May (audience of lawyers from all over the world, but probably mainly mixed Europeans) and Finland in June (businesspeople and academics Finns).

I’ve spoken in Budapest and Prague, and am a futboler (soccer player), but always try (like any good musician) to “improve my chops.” Thanks.


  • The four major Scandinavian languages - Danish, Swedish, Norwegian and Icelandic - are closely related.
  • Finnish, on the other hand, is not a Germanic language, and is completely different from the others. While a Swede and a Dane often understand each other fairly well in a conversation, neither of them would understand Finnish.
  • Finnish belongs to the tiny Finno-Ugrian language family; outside Finland it is only understood (and to some extent spoken) in Estonia.
  • One of the minority languages, Sami, is spoken by Sweden’s oldest ethnic minority, the Sami. This ethnic group also exists in Finland.
  • There are fairly large minorities of Swedes and Finns in each other’s countries.
  • English is taught as a compulsory secondary language in Swedish schools. English is also learned to a large extent through TV, music, and films. It is also widely spoken in Finland.


  • Sweden - To generalize on a wider geographical scale, one could perhaps say that Scandinavians share a Lutheran past, a present state of religious indifference, as well as the idea that the church still has an important part to play in the major events of life. www.smorgasbord.
  • Finland - In spite of a thousand-year Christian tradition, thanks to which most Finns even today belong to the Lutheran church, many holidays maintain vestiges of old Finnish pagan traditions. Notable among these is the Finnish Midsummer festival, Juhannus, that involves burning a large bonfire and drunken revelry.

Swedish Food

  • Swedish Food imageSweden is one of the heaviest coffee drinking countries in the world, second only to Finland. Saying no to a cup of coffee is almost considered rude in Sweden.
  • Milk consumption in Sweden is the highest of any country in the world.
  • Breakfast usually consists of open sandwiches, possibly crisp bread (knäckebröd). The sandwich is most often buttered, with toppings such as hard cheese, cold cuts, caviar, or messmör. Filmjölk (fermented milk), or sometimes yogurt, is also traditional breakfast food, usually served in a bowl with cereals such as corn flakes, muesli, or knäckebröd, and sometimes with sugar, fruit, and/or jam.
  • Typical Swedish fast-food - hot-dog stand (korvkiosk). There you can choose between fried and boiled hot dogs, served with French fries or mashed potatoes together with mustard and/or ketchup (Senap eller ketchup? You will be asked). Lately, some new dishes have turned up in the stands, like baked potatoes.
  • Husmanskost, good old everyday food based on classic country cooking; Strömming = Baltic herring; Lingonberry jam is still popular.
  • For Swedish home fare you can try pea soup with pork and pancakes for dessert. This dish is usually served on Thursdays and if you want to go the whole hog you should order some Swedish punch for the pancakes, a yellow and very sweet alcoholic beverage, usually served ice-cold. Or try Pytt i panna, a hash of fried diced meat with onions and potatoes.
  • An average Smorgasbord may, for instance, contain a number of herring dishes (sweet-pickled herring, pickled herring with onions, mustard, dill, etc.), Swedish meatballs (köttbullar), salmon, pies, salads, "Jansson´s temptation" (sliced herring, potatoes and onions baked in cream), eggs, bread, boiled and fried potatoes and so on.
  • Swedish sweet imageSweetness is a prominent characteristic of Swedish bread, although unsweetened types are available in most stores. If you want to spread something typically Swedish on a slice of bread, try messmör, which is a soft whey-cheese from the north of Sweden. It is quite sweet, too!
  • In August, Swedes traditionally eat boiled crayfish at feasts known as kräftskivor.
  • Watch out for Surströmming (sour or pickled herring), a northern Swedish delicacy consisting of fermented Baltic herring. Surströmming is sold in cans, which when opened release a strong, foul smell. It is for this particular smell, which is similar to fish gone bad or garbage left out in the sun for a couple of days, that surströmming is infamous in popular culture.


  • Most Swedes have zero tolerance against drunkenness at work and in traffic. Drinking during lunchtime in workdays - even one beer - is taboo, and a public official sentenced for drunk driving is usually expected to resign. Most drinking takes place on weekends and during holidays.
  • Swedish beer is divided into classes according to its alcohol content. There are class I (lättöl), class II (folköl) and class III (starköl) beers with a class I beer being the weakest and a class III beer being the strongest beer. Class I and II beers are available in supermarkets, whereas class III is only on sale in licensed shops (Systembolaget) or pubs, bars and restaurants. One of the biggest beer breweries in Sweden is Pripps.
  • A snaps is usually brännvin (which may be vodka such as Absolut or Explorer, or akvavit), but can also be some other light-bodied spirit, as long as it isn't sweet. Major Scandinavian brands of snaps include: Swedish "O P Andersson," Norwegian "Linie Akvavit" and Danish "Aalborg."

Swedish Literature, Writers and The Nobel Prize

  • Swedish Literature imageSwedish people read a lot. Each year, about 65 million books are borrowed at public libraries.
  • Sweden ranks third in the list of countries with the most Nobel Prize laureates in literature.
  • Famous Swedish authors: Astrid Lindgren, Selma Lagerlöf, Harry Martinson, Ivar Lo-Johansson, August Strindberg, Vilhelm Moberg, Pär Lagerkvist and Astrid Lindgren.
  • The Nobel Prizes: first given in 1901, are presented to the Laureates at ceremonies on December 10 each year. Alfred Nobel (1833-1896) was the inventor of dynamite. The five prizes: Chemistry, Physics, Medicine, Physiology, Literature and the Peace Prize. In 1968, Sveriges Riksbank (The Swedish National Treasury) established a prize for economic science.

Swedish Music and Film

  • Music -
  • List of hip-hop artists:
  • Singing is popular in Sweden, and of its 9,000,000 inhabitants, 600,000 belong to various choirs.
  • They also boast one of the most prolific death metal scenes in the world. Gothenburg is famed in the scene for the "Swedish Death" sound. Many of these bands such as In Flames, Dark Tranquility, and Stockholm's Opeth have seen growing commercial success throughout Europe and the US.
  • Famous actresses and actors include Ingrid Bergman, Greta Garbo, Max von Sydow, Stellan Skarsgård, Ingrid Thulin, Lena Olin and Peter Stormare.
  • Ingmar Bergman, regarded as one of the most influential filmmakers of the 20th Century

Swedish Art, Design & Architecture

  • Swedish Art imageA characteristic feature of the Swedish arts scene is the large number of art associations (about 1800). Most of them are formed by art-loving employees at companies or institutions.
  • Sweden was one of the strongholds of the Functional movement. The ideas of the Functionalist movement can still be found in the profile of the IKEA company.
  • Its breakthrough can be dated back to the Stockholm Exhibition in 1930, which was conceived by architect Gunnar Asplund and "the ideologist" Gregor Paulsson.
  • About 1,500 of Sweden's 4,000 churches date to the Middle Ages.
  • Vasa (Wasa) castles - Gripsholm Castle, Kalmar Castle and Vadstena Castle - massive walls and with a fusion of medieval elements and Renaissance architecture. Built starting with the reign of Gustav Vasa, King of Sweden from 1523; labeled the founder of modern Sweden.
  • The production of tiled stoves in Sweden was resumed in 1980 at the Gustavsberg porcelain factory.
  • In the province of Dalarna the old tradition of woodcarving has become a tourist industry, the most famous product of which is the gaudily painted Dalecarlian horse.
  • The glassworks Kosta and Orrefors are famous for their crystal vases and glasses. They are situated in "The Glass Kingdom," an area in the southeast of the Småland province.
  • The most renowned Swedish painters from the 19th and 20th centuries are Anders Zorn, Carl Larsson and Bruno Liljefors; Carl Milles is Sweden's internationally best known sculptor.
  • Bruno Mattson, furniture designer and architect, became famous in world exhibitions in Paris in 1937 and in New York in 1939. Since 1978 the furniture factory DUX makes his classical furniture, for example the "relaxing-chair" Pernilla and the "working- chair" Eva.
  • IKEA is privately held, founded in Älmhult , Sweden by Ingvar Kamprad, in 1943 who was then 17. It is owned by a Dutch-registered foundation controlled by the Kamprad family. IKEA is an acronym comprising the initials of the founder's name, Ingvar Kamprad, and home village, Elmtaryd, Agunnaryd. It has 253 stores in 35 countries; IKEA is one of the few store chains to have locations both in Israel and in other Middle East nations. The company motto is: "Affordable Solutions for Better Living."


  • Swedish weeks begin on Mondays.
  • Most retail stores, at least in cities, are open all week.
  • Most Swedish children are allowed to eat sweets only on Saturdays - lördagsgodis.
  • The minimum vacation each year is five weeks, and most Swedes take all of July off - the "industrial vacation."
  • The Swedish people are concerned about the environment and animal protection. Swedish farmers actively advertise their products as free from genetic engineering, cruelty against animals, un-organic chemicals and excessive transportation.
  • Rinkeby Swedish (Rinkebysvenska) is a common term for varieties of Swedish spoken mainly in suburbs with a high proportion of immigrants and immigrant descendants. It has a simplified version of the Swedish grammar and a richness of loanwords from the languages the speakers' parents or grandparents originated in: mainly Turkish, with traces of Kurdish, Arabic, Greek, Persian, Serbo-Croatian, Assyrian Neo-Aramaic, and to some extent Latin American Spanish. There is also an influx of English words and grammar due to a fairly common identification with African Americans and the appreciation of rap and hip hop music and culture.

Other Etiquette

  • In some restaurants or clubs, it is mandatory to deposit your coat. It costs 15Kn per piece.
  • You do not have to tip taxi drivers.
  • When visiting someone's house in Sweden (and other Scandinavian countries) you take off your shoes when entering their house.

Göteborg (Gothenburg), Sweden

  • Gothenburg Sweden imagePopulation - 490,000 in the actual city and 879,000 in the metropolitan area, making it the second largest city in Sweden, after Stockholm.
  • By 2005, there were 93,965 immigrants resident in Gothenburg, which is about 20% of the population, out of which 10% are from Iran and 9% from Finland.
  • Most important city for trade and industry with several well known international companies: Astra Zeneca, Ericsson Microwave Systems, Esab, SCA Moelnlycke, Nobel Biocare, Saab Ericsson Space, SKF, Stena Line, Hasselblad, and Volvo. More than 150 pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies are located in the Göteborg region.
  • There are two universities in Gothenburg: Gothenburg University and the Chalmers University of Technology. Today there are more than 60,000 students, which makes Gothenburg the largest university city in Scandinavia.
  • Gothenburg has hosted both the World Cup and European championships in football, as well as World and European championships in Athletics, World Championship in ice hockey and handball. The most famous club in the city, and in Sweden, is IFK Gothenburg. They have won the Swedish league 17 times, although the latest title came back in 1996. The Swedish season goes from April to the beginning of November. IFK Gothenburg colors are blue and white.
  • List of restaurants and things to do: Or try Saluhallen, the food hall at Kungstorget. It gets rave reviews for all the types of food you can get very inexpensively. Alexandra's is especially noted.
  • Sweden Liseberg Park imageThe biggest attraction in the city is the amusement park Liseberg.
  • The city is also noted for being the centre of the melodic death metal movement (sometimes even called "The Gothenburg sound"). Gothenburg metal is unique and distinct because of its very melodic and sometimes progressive guitar riffs and solos, and the clean singing that is incorporated (instead of just using the traditional death grunt vocals). Gothenburg's own At the Gates, Soilwork, In Flames, and Dark Tranquility are credited with pioneering this melodic style. The Gothenburg metal has influenced numerous significant metal scenes across Europe and the rest of the world, including Finland, the United States, and Canada.
  • Sister cities: Chicago, United States (since 1987), Kraków, Poland, Saint Petersburg, Russia, Tallinn, Estonia, Rostock, Germany
  • In Swedish “G” is pronounced as “ye," making Göteborg sound something like “yoe-te-bor."

Göteborg History, Etc.

  • Named related to ancient tribe Geats (also Goths), made famous in Beowulf. In this heroic epic poem, a hero of a Germanic tribe from southern Sweden called the Geats travels to Denmark to help defeat a monster named Grendel.
  • Permanent settlement founded in 1621 by King Gustavus Adolphus (Gustaf II Adolf).
  • The town was planned according to Dutch concepts, with canals and fortifications.
  • Gothenburg, Nebraska was founded in 1882 by Olof Bergstrom and is named for Göteborg, Sweden.
  • Göteborg is situated on the western coast by Kattegatt, an arm of the North Sea, at the outlet of the river Göta älv and the Göta Canal (satellite view:

Finnish Food

  • #1 in coffee consumption. Short article on history of coffee in Finland:
  • Finnish dishes tend to be less sweet than Swedish ones, and Finns use less sour cream (smetana) in preparation than their Russian neighbors.
  • Breakfast usually consists of open sandwiches, often buttered (with margarine) and with toppings such as hard cheese or cold cuts. Finns usually do not have sweets on their breads; sour milk products such as Yogurt or viili are also common breakfast foods, usually served in a bowl with cereals such as corn flakes, muesli, and sometimes with sugar, fruit or jam. A third food that is commonly eaten at breakfast is porridge (puuro), often made of rolled oats, and eaten with a pat of butter (voisilmä, lit. "butter eye") and/or with milk, or fruit or jam, especially the sort made of lingonberries.
  • Karelian pasties - typically a thin rye crust with a filling of rice. Butter, often mixed with boiled egg (eggbutter or munavoi), is spread over the hot pasties before eating.
  • Cabbage rolls - filling usually includes meat, often beef, lamb or pork, seasoned with onion, tomato paste, salt, black pepper, and spices; normally baked in oven and brushed with dark syrup and traditionally served with bitter lingonberry jam or fresh lingonberries.
  • As in Sweden, there is a tradition of serving pea soup on Thursdays.


  • Koskenkorva Viina (also known simply as Koskenkorva, or Kossu) is the most common clear spirit drink (38%) in Finland. The grain (barley) alcohol is produced using a 200-step continuous distillation designed to produce high-purity industrial ethanol. The drink is produced by diluting this alcohol with spring water and a very small amount of sugar. It is not a true vodka, and is never called such in Finnish. Instead, it is viina, simply “hard liquor," often used contextually similarly to the word “booze." There are several flavored variants of Koskenkorva on the market.
  • Sahti is a traditional beer from Finland imageSahti is a traditional beer from Finland. Traditionally the beer is flavored with juniper berries in addition to, or instead of, hops; the mash is filtered through juniper twigs through a tun called a kuurna in Finnish. Sahti has a distinct banana flavor due to the carbohydrate contents.
  • Lakka or Lakkalikööri is a liqueur produced in Finland which derives its flavor from the cloudberry fruit. The beverage is produced by soaking the berries in alcohol anywhere between two to six months until sweetened. The liqueur can be drunk as it is, but is also often mixed with hot coffee.
  • In Finland, a sweet mead called Sima (cognate with zymurgy) is still an essential seasonal brew connected with the Finnish Vappu (May Day) festival. It is usually spiced by adding lemon. During secondary fermentation raisins are added; they rise to the top of the bottle when the drink is ready.

Finnish Literature, Writers

  • Aleksis Kivi statue imageWithout a long literary history, Elias Lönnrot collected Finnish and Karelian folk poetry and arranged and published them as Kalevala, the Finnish national epic. The era saw a rise of poets and novelists who wrote in Finnish, notably Aleksis Kivi.
  • Famous modernist writer - Mika Waltari; 1945 saw the publication of Waltari's first and most successful historical novel, The Egyptian. Its theme of the corruption of humanist values in a materialist world seemed curiously topical in the aftermath of World War II, and the book became an international bestseller, serving as the basis of the 1954 Hollywood movie of the same name.
  • Väinö Linna - his social realism had a profound influence in Finnish social, political and cultural life; more than 300,000 copies of Tuntematon Sotilas, a realistic war novel, have been sold in a country with a population of 4 million; the film by Edvin Laine is broadcast by the national television every Day of Independence (Dec. 6). For decades this novel has been mandatory reading in military academies.
  • Ranya El Ramly wrote a much praised, award-winning debut novel Auringon asema (2002; The Position of the Sun).
  • Detective stories are enjoying a particular boom of popularity.

Finnish Music, Theater

  • Modern Finnish popular music has received attention also in foreign countries, especially on the rock and metal scenes, with such bands as The Rasmus, HIM, Nightwish and Stratovarius gaining international acclaim.
  • The Jyväskylä Arts Festival, which is the oldest on-going summer festival in Scandinavia, concentrates on non-verbal theater.
  • Jean Sibelius was one of Finland's greatest composers. It is no wonder that Sibelius' compositions are full of the natural vigor of the forests; once he even took a grand piano with him in the midst of forests and hills of Koli.
  • The Kantele - Finland's national instrument:

Finnish Art, Design & Architecture

  • Jyväskylä's favorite son, the architect Alvar Aalto, is widely regarded as one of the great innovators in western architecture. The Alvar Aalto Museum and the numerous buildings designed by Aalto constantly bring to Jyväskylä professionals and amateurs in the field of architecture from all over the world.
  • Artists who inspired a sense of national identity: Akseli Gallen-Kallela with his paintings, Pekka Halonen, who became renowned for his paintings depicting the forest in winter, and Eero Järnefelt, whose paintings made Koli into the epitome of the Finnish heritage landscape; I.K. Inha with his photographs, and Eliel Saarinen with his architecture and banknote illustrations.
  • The reputation of Finnish design has also helped young designers with their internationalization. The rise of the University of Art and Design to become one of Europe's leading colleges of its kind has greatly supported this trend.
  • The three strong sectors of Finnish industry - forest products, metal and electronics - have rapidly expanded the role of industrial design and increased its share of the field of design.

Other Etiquette

  • Tips are not expected - service is always included. If you feel you have received excellent service or someone really has gone out of their way to help you in a taxi or in a restaurant, feel free to tip - the recipient is normally pleased. But if your tip is declined, don't push it...


  • Became EU member in 1995, uses the Euro, neither Sweden or Finland are members of NATO.
  • Finland's foreign community, only 2% of the population, is very small in comparison with other European countries but it is growing. They are mostly from the former Soviet Union.
  • Families with children are especially well taken care of by society, and their lives are made easier by the many types of support and benefits available.
  • The world's most renowned travel publisher, Lonely Planet, has listed Finland as one of the 10 countries to visit in 2007:
  • Finnish summer 2007 brochure:
  • Santa Claus Village is situated 8 km north of Rovaniemi. Santa Claus' Office is right near the Arctic Circle in Finnish Lapland.
  • For most of its history, Finland was ruled by another country. For about 500 years, Finland's neighbor to the west, Sweden, ruled it. And for another hundred years, Finland's neighbor to the west, Russia, ruled it.

Jyväskylä, Finland

  • Jyväskylä, Finland imageLocated in the lake district of Central Finland, it is celebrating its 170th birthday on the 22nd of March 2007 - for one whole week.
  • 80,000 inhabitants. The Jyväskylä region - comprising of the city of Jyväskylä and 9 municipalities - has over 160,000 inhabitants.
  • It is a school and university town with 39 000 students.
  • The landscape of Jyväskylä is varied with lakes, forests and hills within walking distance of the city center.
  • An important incubator for new business and companies is the Jyväskylä Science Park, combining newest research and development to the needs of business life. The Human Technologies Centre Agora focuses on developing human-centered information technology and creates new kind of interaction between high-level research, education, enterprises, and the local community.

References used

Business in Sweden:

Swedish Etiquette:

Business in Finland:

Finnish Etiquette:

More info:

Finnish sauna etiquette:

Useful info:

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