In Scandinavia, exchanging business cards is a key part of meeting business partners for the first time. It creates trust and gives a positive first impression. In Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, business cards are seen as an essential networking tool, along with social networks. Digitizing those cards is a huge help.
Here’s what you need to know about how Scandinavia uses business cards in 2020.
Scandinavian business card culture
Scandinavian business card culture reflects the traditional code of conduct, Law of Jante, that influences all Scandinavian business relationships. Business card exchange is, accordingly, kept simple and to the point.
Unlike some countries where business cards have a symbolic value, in Scandinavia, there are no rituals involved in business card exchanges. You’re always expected to swap business cards, but the process is straightforward.
If you’re unsure about what to do, follow common sense. Make sure to have a supply of professional-looking cards. Always treat business cards and their recipients with respect.
Exchanging business cards in Scandinavia
Business cards in Scandinavia are usually exchanged at the start of the first meeting. However, sometimes they can be exchanged at the end of the meeting too.
Before you start the meeting, it’s customary to shake hands. Handshakes are firm and short. You should also maintain eye contact. Keep at least two arms’ lengths distance when talking to your Scandinavian business partner.
Scandinavian businesspeople don’t swap cards while standing. They pass them around the table seated when they’re ready to start the meeting. Scandinavian society is based on gender equality and lack of hierarchy. You are, therefore, free to distribute cards in any order.
Hand your business card to your contact face up. You need not comment on the card itself. This would be considered as small talk. As open and direct communication is the norm, small talk isn’t acceptable in a business setting.
During the meeting, keep the business cards facing you on the top of your documents.
The details of Scandinavian business cards
Name and title
Equality is the norm in Scandinavian countries. That’s why Scandinavians don’t use academic titles on their cards. Business cards still include corporate titles like “CEO”, “marketing manager,” for example.
You can address your Scandinavian business partner by their first name. You can do this already in the first meeting. Just make sure to get the pronunciation of the name right. Calling someone Mr. or Mrs. is considered old-fashioned. It’s not done even when talking to elders or professors.
Logo, photo, and QR code
Scandinavian business cards always include business logos. Some cards may have a photo in the upper corner, depending on the company’s preference. Cards with QR codes are on the increase. They allow you to easily save the information in electronic format. However, they’re not yet a standard in Scandinavia.
Each business in Scandinavia has two addresses. This may seem confusing to some foreign business partners. One address is the PO Box or the correspondence address. The second is the physical address. Business cards in Scandinavian countries usually include both addresses.
English is widely spoken in Scandinavia. Your business partners from Denmark, Norway, and Sweden are likely to speak excellent English. There’s no need to translate your cards into a Scandinavian language. You may keep the reverse of the card in your own language. It’s also perfectly acceptable to leave it empty.
Business card management in Scandinavia
Businesspeople in Scandinavia often store their business cards in special cases and holders. Binders and organizers with individual plastic pockets are also common. You might receive a business card holder as a gift from your business contact: it will have their business logo on the cover.
Today, staying connected through LinkedIn and other social media is common in Scandinavian countries. Still, business cards are often kept in a stack or in a holder on a desk for quick reference.
Business card apps are another alternative to organizing business contact information in Scandinavia. They’re used to automatically add new contacts to a business network. Apps such as Eight, for example, scan the cards and conveniently separates their text into appropriate fields.
Scandinavian business cards sizes
Scandinavian business cards are slightly larger than those of the other European countries. The standard size of business cards in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden is 90 mm x 55 mm. Finnish business cards have the same size. In Iceland, however, the cards are smaller—85 mm x 55 mm.
UK, France, Germany, Spain, Iceland
|85 mm × 55 mm|
United States, Canada
|88.9 mm × 50.8 mm|
|Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland||
90 mm × 55 mm
|China, Singapore, Malaysia||
90 mm × 54 mm
91 mm × 55 mm
A final word on business card exchange in Scandinavia
Business card exchange is an important means of building business relationships in Scandinavia. It’s essential to understand the local business card etiquette. It will ensure successful meetings with your Scandinavian business partners. Or perhaps you’re in Scandinavia and seeking a great business card scanning app? Check out what we have to offer (it’s free!)