Social gatherings in Sweden do not happen spontaneously. Everything is categorized and scheduled, often well in advance. Many things happen on a regular basis, say, at 10 o’clock every morning, each Friday afternoon, or the first Tuesday each month.
AW (“after work”) | Drinks with colleagues
The Swenglish term After Work, often shortened to AW, means drinks with colleagues. Such events are announced several weeks in advance and are not mandatory, but still, a great opportunity as you will find yourself in a twilight zone between the public and the private, and hence an opportunity to get closer to your colleagues.
Möte | Meeting
Anything that has a concrete work-related issue to resolve is a meeting. These are scheduled in advance and follow an agenda. It is absolutely crucial that you show up on time.
Fika | Coffee break
A fika is an informal meeting where you can chat about work-related issues or more personal questions. Many internationals refrain from taking part in communal fika breaks as they consider them waste or time or a sign of laziness, but showing up for the chit chat is probably one of the wisest investments you can do in your Swedish career.
Medarbetarsamtal/Utvecklingssamtal | Performance review
It is difficult to translate medarbetarsamtal (‘co-worker conversation’) but it does share some similarities with a performance review. This conversation typically occurs yearly with your closest manager. Your medarbetarsamtal is not the moment to discuss your salary, or what you have achieved (that is for your lönesamtal) but rather what your goals are for the coming year. Don’t waste this opportunity! This is a way of growing as a professional and moving forward in your career.
Lönesamtal | Salary review
Your salary review, lönesamtal, is a separate event from the medarbetarsamtal, although there is some sort of connection between the two. Bear in mind that substantial salary increases are not possible in Sweden, as there is a collective negotiation prior to your individual review. The employer and the union have already agreed on a budget for everyone’s raises, as well as an interval (typically between one and four percent) in which raises will fall. However well you have performed, it is impossible to override this system, so the only possible way to get a significant raise is to change jobs.
When negotiating within the given interval, you justify your arguments with work-related questions, such as your performance or contribution to the company. Your personal financial situation is not a valid argument, and if this is brought up, there will be an awkward moment. Hence, you can’t ask for a raise because you have moved to a city where the cost of living is higher or because you recently had a baby.
Swedes are rarely spontaneous. It is, arguably, a matter of lifestyle as well as a way of dealing with the Nordic climate. On a cold November evening, you are not very likely to leave the house unless it has been scheduled. Swedes use the power of routine to keep themselves afloat during the dark months. If you are struggling with winter blues, joining an organised activity may be part of the solution.