What’s for lunch?
Food is an important part of Swedish work life. Most Swedes take a substantial break for lunch. Lunch is mostly a cooked meal (that Swedes call “real food”), or a salad, and rarely a sandwich. Most Swedes would start their lunch break between 11.00 and 12.30 pm. You can either go to a restaurant (many do lunch offers) for a quick but substantial meal, or bring in a lunch box. There is probably a kitchen in your workplace, where there is a fridge where you can put your lunch box, and a microwave where you can heat your lunch.
A moment to connect
Swedes tend to see lunch as a moment for social interaction, and you are expected to sit down and have lunch with your colleagues whenever possible. Even if you are stressed out about a deadline coming up, you shouldn’t bring your lunch to your desk; this would be seen as antisocial and unhygienic.
Already time to eat
A typical lunch break lasts for 30 to 60 minutes, and most Swedes start their lunch break at some point between 10:30 am and 12:30 pm.
Don’t forget about fika
Coffee breaks is as important. Depending on where you work and the habits there, you can expect anything from a weekly to a bi-daily fika break, where colleagues sit down together for ten or fifteen minutes to have some coffee, If you don’t like coffee, you don’t need to force yourself; it is the social part that counts. You may as well have a cup of tea, a glass of water, or a piece of fruit for your fika break. On special occasions, cookies or buns will be served, but most Swedes try to avoid this on an everyday basis due to health reasons. Although this is nowhere communicated as being part of your job, joining fika breaks is one of the most effective investments you can do for your career.
The Swenglish term AW stands for After work and refers to drinks with colleagues, organized several weeks in advance. Don’t try to initiate a spontaneous AW; your Swedish colleagues will already have something booked for this evening.
Most Swedes have breakfast at home, before heading to work. It is also good to know that colleagues rarely, if ever, meet outside the workplace, so don’t expect to have dinner with someone. This means that your best moments to connect and build professional relationships are when there is time for lunch and fika.
If you are looking for more personal relationships with your colleagues, there is no shortcut. In fact, getting to know someone in the context of lunch or fika will make them more willing to meet you in other contexts.
Don’t miss out
I often meet international professionals who have decided not to take on the Swedish habit of sitting down together. They are afraid of appearing lazy or are just not coffee drinkers. But I cannot stress enough on how much these people are missing out. This is your best pportunity to connect to others at the moments they are used to it. You will not be considered lazy if you take proper breaks, but rather someone who is taking care of their health, and therefore maximizing productivity, and someone who wants to be part of the team, which is considered of utmost importance at most Swedish workplaces. Make that investment.