Swedish Customs: Punctuality

As outlined in the larger post, Customs In Sweden, I found this list interesting, and wanted to know what folks thought about it.  Some very kind Swedes were willing to respond to these.

Be on time!
Swedes are neurotic about punctuality, agendas and time tables. Notably, we use a number of stock phrases that are significant for this way of thinking e.g. “Time is money” or “Don’t waste time”. It is considered very disrespectful to be late both professionally and privately. If you are late, do call and let the waiting person(s) know and you will be easily forgiven. Always apologize if you are late.

Gynther: yes, also true. though I’ve never heard those phrases in any serious matter. But arriving on time or at least informing of being late is considering polite

Josef: I would agree that the sayings are common, it does differ how fast people get pissed off though, depending if your in the big town or not. But as long as you’re considerate and respectful, you’ll get away with much, on the other hand being on time every time ( or even five minutes before ), is very appreciated.

Hugo: Maybe not every swede is neurotic about punctuality, but it’s a norm to be on time. As the statement says: Call if you’re gonna be late.

Björn: Personally I have never ever heard any single one any of the expressions above but it is true that punctuality is valued, and being late is generally not okay, if not for a social occasion. That being said, the time I spent in the US gave me pretty much the same impression. No big differences there.

There is something called the “academic quarter of an hour”. That means if you are going to someone’s home you may be fifteen minutes late – at the very most. If a plane or bus is supposed to leave at a set time, Swedes get very frustrated if kept waiting. There are however, situations when we expect to be kept waiting, such as doctor’s or dentist’s appointments.

Gynther: the ‘academic quarter’ is quite prevalent in the well…academic world. Otherwise its quite up to the situation at hand. arriving 15min late for a party is considered early by most standards. arriving 15min late for a film showing at a friends house might miss me the first 5min of the film.. but usually its the latecomers problem. People do whine alot whenever a bus decides to be late: “ITS SNOWED AND NOW THE BUSES ARE ALL LATE AND I HAAAATE SWEDEN EVERYTHING HERE SUCKS!!!!”…

Josef: Sometimes the academic quarter is announced, and sometimes it’s implicit. There’s places where the academic quarter works, and places it doesn’t. Restaurants and cinemas, you could easily get by (as you just miss the commercial), restaurants and dinners it’s totally acceptable.

Björn: Since we’re quantifying things here I’d say that it’s very okay to arrive 30 min – 1h late. It would be kinda nerdy to arrive exactly 9 PM at someone’s house, if that is what you had agreed.


I’ve definitely found that here in the Northeastern US, people are fairly “in a hurry” as their normal tempo of life, so punctuality is valued among my personal and professional peers in the region.  In my travels, I’ve seen that different areas move at very different speeds.  For example, when relatives visit from some parts of the Northwest or the South, they’ve often expressed feeling that everyone around here is rushing around all the time.

Good to know, in this element of living, we’ll find things match pretty well.  We’ll have to work on our Swedish small-talk complaining about the weather and transit.

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