Sweden is, in quite a few aspects actually, quite German. Portugal, on the other hand, is not. At all. Whatsoever. Especially when considering bureaucracy and the good old ‘Ordnung muss sein’, this is obvious.
In Sweden, you know that the authorities are well organised. Not to say meticulously organised. You know that if you yourself have lost a specific official document, it is always retrievable at some department of state or part of the municipality, and you don’t really yourself have to get into trying to solve exactly where. You just call, or otherwise submit your request, and in one way or the other you’ll have an answer, most likely with exactly where to turn, if not even with the actual document you were looking for.
And while waiting for your request to be answered you don’t really have to ponder too much on when that will be, because you will already in your initial contact have gotten a clear time line, which you know you can rely on. On the very rare occasion of this time line not being held, you know for sure that something is wrong.
When you get what you request, or answer to your official inquiry or otherwise official decisions, you can be near 100% sure it is not going to be reversible or changeable. Unless your case of complaint with or potential exemption from any of the answers is super clear or even already named in your official answer, it will not go through.
So, orderliness, timeliness and reliability are the basics of the way things are organised. Pretty much the quintessence of the German stereotype. Things have a specific order and you adhere to that order in order for it to make sense.
In Portugal, this is not really the case. Any official process can last pretty much forever, and even if it doesn’t there is no way you can know on beforehand how long it might take. But you can be pretty sure the time line is going to be different depending on who asks.
And when a response is actually given, it is difficult to rely on, you will have to check and double check and read every word through to make sure the received document actually covers what you aimed for it to cover. I have received official tax documents with the wrong birthdates in them, even though the original request was made with all required identification including the validation of third party lawyer to state the truth of the documents. When pointing the mistake out in search for correction, the answer was ‘ok thanks, yeah well, that’s ok, you don’t need an updated version’. Although having official stamps and explicably being needed to keep in its original. How is that for reinforcing authority and reliability?
On the other hand, if the answer you were given in an official process is not what you wanted, you can always question it. You can call, you can write, you can talk to a different official, you can refer to your own situation as in why you cannot really be expected to do what is requested in official requirements. And you know what, the likelihood of getting it your way instead is not negligible, not at all.
So, really we’re talking about two different systems here, one that is the same for all and thus can be inflexible and square, and on the other hand one that is clearly more allowing depending on who asks.
No matter which you prefer they are clear cultural indicators, like systems like people.