So typically Swedish

When I moved to Sweden, the one thing that took a lot of getting used to was the informality and flat hierarchical structure at work.

Sweden doesn’t use titles – no Mr, Ms, Doctor, Professor. You just call people by their first name, no matter who they are. The exception could be the royal family, though when I have taught Swedish royalty, I have been asked to use their first name in the classroom. In public though, I would use the third person and a title for a royal person. That would be the only instance in which I would use a title.

Hierarchical structures are flat, management is done through co-determination, decision-making is done by consensus. The dress code is informal – Swedes dress down for work and up for parties. I come from a ‘dress up for work and down for parties’ country so I fell foul of that rule a few times in the beginning.

Sweden’s state epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, is probably the most famous (and controversial) person in Sweden at the moment. He is also frequently seen in international media. He is informing Sweden’s controversial and nowadays rather well-known COVID-19 strategy, where there is no lockdown, just social distancing.

Yet here he is on his way to work on an old rusty bicycle (not a gear in sight), in deck shoes and a backpack. No suit, no fancy car, no bodyguards. It is so typically Swedish.


Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

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