Stockholm, Sweden

The Swedish Culture

A typical Swede is characterized as punctual, brief, direct, informal, reserved, hard working, efficient, patient, honest, hospitable, serious, fair, and long-lived. To further exemplify these characteristics, applied to the culture is Kluckhohn’s Value-Orientation Model. The five values listed in the model are “basic human problems that [are] common to all peoples at all times and all places” (Zaharna, 2000, p. 1). These five values are:

1. Time

2. Human activity

3. Relationship to other people

4. Relationship to nature

5. Innate human nature



A culture emphasizes either a past, present or future orientation. A past oriented culture places importance on its history and traditions. A present oriented culture places importance on the here and now. A future oriented culture places importance on development and improvement.


The Swedes’ time orientation lies in the future. They are a forward-thinking, progressive people. An example of this progressive thinking can be found in Swedish industry. Sweden excels in the production of electronics, automobiles and aircraft. Top-of-their-industry companies from Sweden include SKF, the world’s leading manufacturer of ball bearings, Ericsson, leading the way in telecommunications, Saab and Volvo, both automobile companies. In relation to the environment, the Swedes are looking ahead into the future and trying to ensure a clean, non-toxic world for the next generations to enjoy.

Flowers in Sweden

Swedish Countryside


For Sweden with the times

För Sverige i tiden

Royal Motto of His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustav (1973-present)

This website was developed by Devon Hylander, graduate student, American University, for the final project of Dr. Zaharna’s International Public Relations class. 23 October 2004.

Human Activity

Human activity refers to whether a society is being, being-in-becoming or doing.  A being culture is one that defines the self through relationships. A being-in-becoming culture also defines the self through relationships but also has an aspect of self-development. A doing culture defines the self by what it does (Zaharna, 2002, p. 5).


The Swedish have moved from a being society to a doing society with the influence of Western and European culture. Up until 1901, Swedes used patronymic names, meaning children received as a last name a combination of their father’s first name and the ending of either -son or -dotter. However, in 1901 a law was passed to enforce the use of family names. To further exemplify the doing culture Svensson (1996) states that Swedes “often define themselves through their work” (p. 39). The Royal Family is perhaps the only ones who pride themselves on blood relations as opposed to career status. Furthermore, as the Swedes look forward in the environmental future, they are also creating an image of their culture as environmentally aware. This is something by which all Swedish citizens can define themselves.


Relationship to Others

A culture typically has three relationship patterns: lineal, collateral and individualistic. The American society is an example of an individualistic society. Nuclear families prevail. Collateral cultures have extended family ties to include grandparents, cousins, uncles and aunts. Lineal cultures have even further family bonds that extend out generations to include deceased ancestors.


The Swedish culture is largely individualistic. Children typically move out of the family house when they begin gymnasium (higher education) and rent an apartment in the city. Most couples live by themselves, except if they have children. The welfare system in Sweden is substantial enough so that most retirees need not move in with their children because of expenses. Mostly extended families only gather during the holidays (Svensson, 1996, pgs. 47-50).


Relationship to Nature

A culture’s relationship to nature can be viewed in one of three ways: respect for nature, harmony with nature or mastery over nature. One might assume that the Swedish culture assumes the harmony with nature characteristic, but in fact, the Swedes are more inclined to mastery over nature. Proof of this lies in their ever extending efforts to clean up and protect the environment. Mastery over nature does not mean that a culture does not respect nature, only that it tries to control it. The Swedes attempt to control nature in a positive way through environmentalism. To be fair, the Swedes to have some characteristics of being in harmony with nature. The main reason for their extensive environmental programs is to ensure that nature lasts for many future generations to enjoy. Just as the generations of Swedish farmers had harmony with the land, these farmers now want their children and grandchildren to be able to experience that same harmony.


Innate Human Nature

Innate human nature refers to the way a culture views the basic goodness , evil, or neutrality of man. Religion tends to be the most common way to determine a culture’s belief of innate human nature.


Sweden’s culture has a neutral view of innate human nature. The Swedes see each other on very even terms. Everyone is considered the same. Jantelage, or Jante Law, exemplifies this belief. This law “counsels people to not boast or try to lift themselves above others” (Svensson, 1996, p. 51-52). No one person is good or bad. They are just like everyone else. Furthermore, only a very small percentage of the population attends church regularly. Sweden is a secular society. Environmentalism could be considered the country’s religion. It is practiced everywhere and heavily believed in. Environmentalism, too, takes a neutral view on human nature. No one is born good or bad; it is how they treat nature that makes them so.


After reviewing these five value orientations, one can determine that Sweden is a progressive country with hardworking people who have small family circles, believe in keeping nature pure and have an innate sense of equality with one another.


All of these qualities are needed to maintain and move forward with environmentalism. McDonald’s tapped into this resource to create it own environmental agenda.