Sweden is a Scandinavian country with a history largely influenced by Viking traditions. A place characterized by beautiful landscapes and people that are humble in nature, and rarely take hospitality and kindness for granted. The country is an egalitarian society which promotes harmony among its people. It is also one of the least corrupt nations in the world so bribery is strongly discouraged. Gifts are usually expected for social events but not in business transactions. For more information regarding the Swedish gift giving practices, here are some tips:
Personal Gift Giving Etiquette
- If you are invited to a Swede’s home, it is customary to bring chocolates or flowers, liquor, wine, or a cake for your host/hostess.
- Swedish are child-centered people so remember to bring small gifts for your host’s children. Candies and toys are acceptable gifts.
- Gifts are opened immediately upon receipt. Show interest and enthusiasm while opening the gift. This will please the receiver.
- If you are giving flowers, unwrap them before presenting them to your hostess. Do not give white lilies or chrysanthemums as they are associated with funerals. Also do not give red roses or orchids for they symbolize romantic intentions.
- Never give an even number of flowers. Europeans have an age-old tradition of giving flowers in odd numbers.
- If you are staying with a family, fine quality products that represents your country and is difficult to obtain in Sweden will be the most appropriate thank you gift.
- Avoid giving things that are easily found in Sweden.
Business Gift Giving Customs in Sweden
- Gifts are not usually exchanged between business associates, even on holidays. It is recommended that you don’t bring gifts for those you are doing business with unless you received one first.
- Business gifts are acceptable when you are closing a deal. Practical items like books about your country or office accessories are appropriate gifts.
- Liquor is extremely expensive in Sweden so a bottle of fine liquor from your country will be an ideal business gift.
- If you receive a gift from a business associate, you should reciprocate by giving something of equal value. Never give something more expensive or your friend will be embarrassed.
- Sending greeting cards to a business associate, especially to thank him is also acceptable.
Gift Giving Occasions
- Hostess Gift – if you are invited to a Swedish home, bring chocolates and flowers for your hostess as a gesture of respect. Also bring small gifts for the children of the household like candies and toys.
- Birthday – children celebrating their birthdays wake up with breakfast in bed as they are served by their family while singing the Happy Birthday Song. The National Flag of Sweden will be hung outside the home of the birthday celebrant. Swedish birthday cakes are traditionally served and the celebrant is showered with gifts.
- Baptism/Confirmation – following baptism and confirmation ceremonies, friends and relatives gather together to attend a reception at home and present the child with lavish gifts
- Easter – children dressed up as witches go door-to-door in the neighborhood asking for treats. The house owners will give candies, cookies, toys, and other small gifts for the kids.
- Graduation – always a big celebration in Sweden. Parents of the graduates prepare a party in their homes where close friends and relatives are invited. The graduates are presented with gifts and more often, money gifts.
- Bridal Shower – the bride-to-be will celebrate with her girlfriends before her wedding day. There will be a dinner with drinking, socializing, and gift giving. Wedding gifts are usually given on this day than on the wedding day itself.
- Wedding – traditionally, the mother of the bride gives her a gold coin to put in her right shoe while the father of the bride gives her a silver coin to put in her left shoe. The coins are the parents’ assurance that the bride will never go without. Wedding gifts are almost always given beforehand. Friends and relatives give items the couple will need in building their new home. Cash gifts are also accepted
- Christmas – the main celebration of Christmas takes place on December 24. It is when people exchange gifts and have dinner together in their homes. Lottery tickets are the most common Christmas gifts as well as chocolate boxes called “Paradis” or “Alladin”.
- All Saints Day – this occasion is a day when gifts are offered to the dead. It is celebrated at the end of October or at the beginning of November. Standard gifts are wreaths and chrysanthemums to decorate grave sites.
- Thank You – thank you gifts are given within a week of receiving a gift. It can be a present or a card that states your appreciation for the gift received.
- Housewarming – for housewarming parties, things needed for the home, desserts, and wine are the most common gifts.
- Baby Gifts – the Swedish don’t have baby showers but they sure love giving gifts after the baby is born.
- Valentine’s Day – it was only in the 1960’s when the Swedes started celebrating Valentine’s Day. It gained popularity over the years and chocolates, flowers, and jewelry are exchanged among couples and friends.
- Saint Lucia Day – every 13th of December, girls dress up like St. Lucia and wear candle-filled wreaths on their heads. They will then give coffee and St’ Lucia buns to their family members.
- Boxing Day – a public holiday that takes place every 26th of December. Boxes of gifts are given to charities and poor families all over the country. These boxes are usually filled with items of necessity like food and clothing.
- Midsummer’s Day – this is one of the most important occasions in Sweden and is a celebration of the summer solstice. People believe that the day is magical so they dance around a May pole wearing wreaths and clothes decorated with flowers. Gifts of food are usually exchanged among friends.