Aim. To identify the core components of cultural competence from a Swedish perspective.Background. The cultural diversity of Swedish society raises challenges for nursing practice. Nurses need to be culturally competent, i.e. demonstrate the effective application of knowledge, skills and attitudes to practice safely and effectively in a multicultural society. Existing frameworks of cultural competence reflect the socio-cultural, historical and political context they were developed in. To date, there has been no research examining cultural competence within a Swedish context.Design. A Delphi survey.Methods. A purposeful sample of 24 experts (eight nurses, eight researchers and eight lecturers) knowledgeable in multicultural issues was recruited. Interviews were undertaken to identify the knowledge, skills and attitudes that formed the components of cultural competence. Content analysis yielded statements which were developed into a questionnaire. Respondents scored questionnaire items in terms of perceived importance. Statements which reached consensus were removed from questionnaires used in subsequent rounds. Three rounds of questionnaires were distributed during 2006.Results. A total of 118 out of 137 components reached a consensus level of 75%. The components were categorised into five areas, cultural sensitivity, cultural understanding, cultural encounters, understanding of health, ill-health and healthcare and social and cultural contexts with 17 associated subcategories.Conclusions. There are some similarities between the issues raised in the current study and existing frameworks of cultural competence from the USA and the UK. However, Swedish experts placed less emphasis on ethnohistory and on developing skills to challenge discrimination and racism.Relevance to clinical practice. This study identified the core components of cultural competence important to nurses practising within a multicultural society such as Sweden. Acquisition of the knowledge, skills and attitudes identified should enable nurses to meet the needs of patients from different cultural backgrounds. The components of cultural competence can form the basis of nursing curricula.