World Values Survey - How Swedes see themselves

culture and values Jun 20, 2022

You have an opinion on how Swedes are in common. 

It might be based on your own experience, what other people say or a book about Sweden. In this blogpost I will give you an extract from the World Values Survey as referred to in a popular Linkedin post by Lucie Mandaus Stephansen.

Well, is the World Values Survey Graph relevant to people entering a new market with their companies?

Yes, it is. Very much so especially if you have a Go To Market Sweden Strategy.

  • If you are a Swede, you might be quite surprised.
  • If you are a foreigner working in Sweden, or with Sweden. You might be surprised too.

After reading the extract you will probably get an eye-opener and explanations to situations that have been frustrating and/or confusing.

Self image and actual differences between countries and cultures

The World Culture Survey graph has, as you can see,  values on two axes:

  • Traditional <=>Secular Rational
  • Survival  <=> Self Expression   

Visualizing differences

The graph is interesting when you look at your country and the country you would like to business in (i.e. Sweden) and measure the differences on the value scales.

When looking at the red marker Ex-communist and Catholic Europe is compared to Sweden at top right position.

Are you ready for a reality check? 

Quote from Lucies post: Just finished reading Mustafa Pahshiris* book on how to become "a reasonably good Swede in the world's most extreme country".

In it he writes the following:
“There is a perception among Swedes that all people on earth are really like themselves. Or that deep down they want to be like people in Sweden, a notion that there is a little Swede living in everyone and that that Swede longs to get out. ”

I read the passage several times. Thinking that he is there putting his finger on something important.

  • Which means that most Swedish workplaces do not actually succeed very well with diversity work.
  • That the Swedish self-image does not at all match the rest of the world's image of Sweden and Swedes.

We (Swedes) ourselves believe that we are fit and average.

  • And that most others are therefore, or at least want to be, like us.

When we actually stand out quite a bit.

  • Differentiates us from most other cultures. In fact, very much from quite a few.

Which is why most of all are quite amazed by the Swedish, which they experience as different. Difficult to understand

And thus also does not automatically have Swedes as an ideal.

I wish the value map from the World Value Survey was up in all coffee rooms at all workplaces.

End of quote.

*) Mustafa Panshiri, born July 27, 1986 in Kabul, Afghanistan, is a Swedish lecturer in integration, debater, author and former police officer.

How do you get insights and remain objective to the information presented?

One of the things that has been very much appreciated  both in the Swedish society and business is the high level of trust. Trust is important.  

If you would like to read on there are quite a few research, scientific and political articles on the the topic.

From my personal experience I learned how to do business internationally by 

  • Intercultural difference seminars and surveys on opinions
  • Relating to people as individuals, rather than part of a religion or country
  • Shift focus from business tasks to relations, as a reality check.  

Listening, listening and listening to where people are coming from and where they are heading.     


Business intelligence is essential when preparing for a Go To Market Strategy.

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