Building a social network in Sweden is critical to obtain a job. According to the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise’s survey conducted in 2017, 60 per cent of companies in Sweden recruits through their network. But how can someone, particularly a newcomer in Sweden, build their own network in a society where people are not social, or at least commonly perceived so by outsiders?
The truth is Swedes socialize through a systematized social structure. This should not come to your surprise if you have lived long enough in Sweden. Almost everything has a framework and structure in Sweden, including building relationships. Here are a few steps on how to start building your own network and understand how Swedes interact socially.
1. Have a clear purpose when talking to Swedes - Swedes may be suspicious of your intentions when you speak to them without a clear purpose. As a stranger, they might wonder what you are after. However, asking for directions, help, or information are examples of a good purpose to talk to Swedes. Also, sometimes unusual circumstances, like a train’s schedule is cancelled, creates an opportunity for you and Swedes to talk.
2. Be direct, simple and practical - Open and unstructured discussions are not common in Sweden. Unlike other cultures, purposeless or random conversations might not be easy when talking to Swedes. They are more comfortable with direct, simple and practical conversations.
3. Get involved in social activities - Swedes socially interact in a structured manner to avoid any awkwardness. Thus, they like to socialize while doing practical activities. They start their conversation with something relevant to the activity. This might take several months before their interaction with you becomes any deeper, so be patient and consistent with your social activity involvement.
4. Accept every fika invitation - Saying no to fika invitation is considered social suicide in Sweden unless you have a good reason to excuse yourself politely. But then you should immediately set another time for the fika. Being invited for it means your Swedish acquaintance is looking for the possibility to establish a deeper relationship with you. In the early stages of the relationship, Swedes do not invite acquaintances to their homes, and so neither should you. On the other hand, you should expect more fika and outdoor activities.
5. Form your first social circle - After a while, the conversations will become deeper, and you will be invited to other activities such as going to have a drink together or a dinner invitation. In many cultures, a dinner invitation could be a way of getting to know each other. However, in Sweden, being invited to dinner by Swedes is the outcome of an established relationship. Congratulations! Now you have formed your first social circle.
6. Take part in many social circles - Do not stop at one but be part of many social networks as possible. So, find more activities that interest you, and start forming your new network.
7. Do not mix your circles - Yes, it is a rule. You may not invite an outsider to join an activity organized by one of the networks. Even if the activity is not directly related to the network’s main purpose. As mentioned previously, the systematized social structure does not allow outsiders to be spontaneously part of it.
8. Utilize your social circles to obtain a job - Do not hesitate to make it clear and direct that you are looking for a job between your social circles. This how Swedes do it, and this is how you should do it. Swedes reach out to their different social circles and either let everyone know they are looking for a job or they are looking for a candidate for a job vacancy.
If you do not have work experience in Sweden, we recommend looking for an internship first. Read our blog “Do not look for a job - Shift your focus!” for more tips.
To learn more about the Swedish work culture, check out our online courses: https://peersbridge.thinkific.com/