We’ve created this guide to help you get closer to your Swedish customers. A web presence that is in tune with Sweden’s culture will make your customers feel well disposed to you, and give them the confidence to do business with you. By understanding these little yet important details, you'll be in a good position right from the start in your new market.
2 The main language
Swedish is the main spoken and written language in Sweden.
English is understood by the majority of the population, and is taught in all schools. It is used extensively in everyday business communications.
The country’s minority languages are:
Should you be formal or informal when addressing your Swedish customers?
In Sweden, a mainly informal approach is used throughout business and in communications.
Whatever a person’s age, social class and sex, Swedes use the informal form of you “du” when speaking or writing to an individual.
The more formal term “Ni” is used by elderly people, and is rarely used.
Swedes dislike exaggeration, so be careful not to make over-claims in your communications.
Communication is direct and open in Sweden, and it is normal to address people by their first name from an early stage in a business relationship.
If you have a financial product, a legal service, or are talking about money, you should adopt a more formal tone and style.
Ease of doing business in Sweden
The World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business 2019 report ranked Sweden as 109th out of 190 countries.
4 Numbering systems and formats
- This is a comma (,) e.g. 1,5 hours.
- The thousand separator is a space ( ) e.g. 1 524 people.
The country code is +45. The area codes are, including the leading 0, two, three or four digits long. Larger towns and cities have shorter area codes to allow a larger number of telephone numbers. Eight to ten digit subscriber numbers are used after the area codes (this includes the leading '0'). Only the capital, Stockholm, has an eight digit subscriber number, e.g. a Stockholm number with the prefix 08 has the format 08 xxx xxx xx
A Gothenburg number with 031 has the format 031 xxx xx xx,
Greater Stockholm has a two digit area code 08. Malmo has a three digit area code 040, and
the village of Bastuträsk has a four digit area code 0915.
Mobile prefixes are usually four digits. The usual sequence is 0xxx xx xx xx.
Good to know
In text, numbers 1-12 are written out, and numbers 13 and above are written as figures, e.g. two, ten, eleven, 13, 45, 100.
5 Currency format
Sweden’s currency is the Swedish krona. The plural format is kronor. This is represented by the lowercase kr. Its three letter trading code is SEK. The coins are called öre.
The kronor denominations are 500 kr, 200 kr,100 kr, 50 kr 20 kr. The coin öre denominations are 10 kr 5 kr 2 kr 1 kr .
6 Date format
In Sweden the date format is YYYY-MM-DD, e.g. 2017-03-24.
When dates are handwritten, the format is "18 februari 2017" or "18/2 2017", with the month written in lowercase.
7 Hour formats
The 24-hour clock and 12-hour clock are used in Sweden.
The 24-hour clock is used mainly in writing and also for timetables and in official documents. The hour is separated from the minutes by a full stop, e.g. 18.10.
When speaking, Swedes will used the 12-hour format, with minutes rounded off to the nearest five minutes, e.g. twenty to eleven.
The 24-hour format is favoured on digital devices like PCs, phones, tablets, etc. and is the standard format on Android where the separator is a colon, e.g. 14:24.
8 Working days
Standard working days are Monday to Friday.
The week starts on Monday.
9 Things to avoid in the Swedish market
Every culture has different superstitions and traditions which are always worth noting, especially when entering a new market. The Swedes consider the number 13 to be unlucky.
10 Important localisation tips
Here are the top translation tips that will make you sound like a local in no time:
Be sure to localise pricing, date formats, measurements, and currency
Stay clear of colloquialisms and expressions used in your language, as they may not translate in the Swedish market. For example, local slang
Avoid literal translations and guess work
Use words with latin roots with caution. These are often formal in Sweden
Use native translators whenever possible, preferably with a range of expertise as technical translators won’t understand the nuances in marketing copy, for example
Location and people’s names sometimes have a Swedish spelling and naming convention e.g. Björn Borg for Bjorn Borg
Help your translators as much as possible by giving them the context of the piece to be translated and its audience, and providing them with pictures and visuals whenever possible