You’ve got your first invitation to a Swedish home. Congratulations! But what’s expected of you as a guest and are there any do’s and don’ts that you should be aware of? We’ve put together a list of the most important points to bear in mind. Whilst younger people are usually more relaxed about traditional Swedish etiquette, the following list should help you navigate any social invitation flawlessly.
1. Arrive on time
Punctuality for social invitations is not quite as critical as for business meetings but when you’re given a time, it’s not a suggestion with an hours leeway. Anything more than about 15 minutes is considered late, especially if you’re a first time guest and don’t know your hosts that well.
2. Bring a gift
Don’t come empty handed, especially if you’re invited for dinner. It’s fun to be creative but if uncertain, flowers, plants or chocolates are safe choices for any time of day and wine is perfectly acceptable for dinner invitations
3. Remove your shoes
Don’t forget to check your socks or tights for holes as you will be expected to take off your shoes when you enter your host’s home. If you feel undressed without shoes, bring a party pair. Just ensure they are clean and not stilettos – making stiletto heel prints on your host’s wooden floor will guarantee that you are never invited again – possibly anywhere – word will spread!
4. Compliment your host’s home
Expect to be offered a tour of your host’s home if you are visiting for the first time. Swedes are generally very house proud and will probably have spent hours cleaning and sorting their entire home in preparation for their guests’ arrival. Be generous with your compliments and don’t be surprised if you’re shown bedrooms, bathrooms and even cellars or garages.
5. Offer to help
Chances are everyone will gather in the kitchen. Offering to help is always appreciated, especially if your host is still preparing or needs help serving or clearing.
6. Wait for the welcome speech
Swedish dinner parties usually have elements of formality, even when it’s just a group of friends gathering. It’s pretty standard for the host to say a few words of welcome or offer a welcome toast. Wait for this before you eat or drink anything at the dinner table as this is the starting signal.
7. Toasting etiquette
When a toast (called “Skål” – pronounced “skoal”) is offered, raise your glass and make eye contact with everyone around the table, unless it’s an enormously long table, in which case it’s enough to make eye contact with those sitting closest to you. Sip the drink and then make eye contact with everyone around the table before putting down your glass. This rather formal ritual is also quite standard, even amongst groups of friends.
8. Thank you speech
If you’re at a dinner party, it’s customary for the person sitting nearest the host to say a few words of thanks and praise on behalf of all the guests. Be careful which seat you choose! The custom is for the man to the left of the hostess to give a speech. For a ladies or gentlemen only dinner, this duty falls on the guest to the right of the host. This practice is also common, not just at more formal dinner parties.
9. Declining food or drink
Accept the first offer of more food or wine if you would like more. If you decline, you may not be offered again as the ritual of politely declining the first offer and waiting for encouragement in the form of a second or third offer before accepting does not exist in Sweden.
10. Thank the host
Do remember to thank your host again after the event. Whilst thank you notes or phone calls are always appreciated, thanking the host by text, email or even Facebook has also become perfectly acceptable.
Relocate to Sweden provides expert advice and hands-on help for companies recruiting internationally or transferring staff to Sweden. We help your international recruits with the entire relocation process including work and residence visas, home finding, tax consultancy, registration with Swedish authorities, schools, health care, translations, language and intercultural training. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on +46 8 361011 if you would like help. You can also read more about our relocation services at www.relocatetosweden.com or follow us on social media for tips and advice.
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