Category Archives: Culture

Hollister Co. and “Hey, what’s up?”

Did you know that we have a Hollister store in Stockholm now (in the Gallerian mall)?  If you’ve never been to one, Hollister is a brand owned by Abercrombie & Fitch and is a clothing retailer focused on an immersive concept.  Hollister’s style of clothing can best be described as “surfer town casual” or “SoCal style.” On a side note, I hope that means that Abercrombie will come soon; I rather like their button-up -shirts!

In any case, I went to Gallerian with a buddy of mine on Sunday. (He’s also American)  We first went to Rizzo since I needed to pick up a pair of boots.  I asked the checkout girl (who looked like their target customer) if she’d been to the Hollister store and what she thought of it.

Ja, det har jag.  Jag tycker att det är för trendig. Continue reading

Business meetings

Okay, I am a slacker. I have been meaning to write this article for a long time now.  But I had a birthday come and go, friends come and go, and a life to live (now that the summer is here). So, apologies, but I’ve had other things to think about… anyway, here we go.

When I first moved here, I was given a 3 hour introductory course on Swedish business culture. One of the handouts we received was very helpful – it was a list of different countries and a comparison of how people behave in business meetings.

I found out during that meeting that a common stereotype (but also often true) is that Swedish business meetings often result in more meetings because no clear decision is reached, and that most of the time is spent discussing the issues to ensure that everyone’s opinion is heard.

The meetings I am in are often the opposite of this, but I think that’s just due to the nature of my industry and the type of colleagues I work with.  However, I was recently in a meeting when I saw this in action and was blown away by how uncertain I felt after I left the meeting.  I was more confused leaving the meeting than before the meeting!

It had to do with a large and lengthy presentation that we were preparing for a client.  The slide deck was made of about 10 different sections, and each person was responsible for at least one of those sections.  One of those sections was tricky, so during the meeting the person responsible for writing the section asked our boss for some guidance.  The conversation went something like this (I’ve kept it very very generic):

Person 1: This section is very difficult because if the client thinks this way, then we have to present it in this manner.  However, if the client decides to switch their assumptions model and go the other direction, we have to do it this way. Our teams around the world need guidance now, but we won’t know what the client wants to do until another few months.  How should we present this in the presentation?

Boss: Hmm, yes.  That is a tricky situation.



Boss: Okay, so let’s move on to the schedule of speakers.

Wait, what?  The first person was obviously looking for some pointers, but the person expected to have the answer didn’t really give any guidance but instead just moved onto the next question.  If it were me, I would have tried to explore some ideas with the team and come up with a mutually-agreeable solution, or at least a suitable compromise that everyone could live with.  But this was so indecisive that I was sure it would result in another meeting.

Have you been in a Swedish business meeting where you left the meeting feeling more confused than when you started?

Trash, Recycling, and Maintaining Order

Swedes are very proud of the fact that they are one of the most environmentally-friendly countries in the world.  Generally, I agree – and this is coming from someone who has lived in the California Bay Area.  Bay Area residents have been recycling for decades, and those of us who live in the San Francisco and Berkeley areas know that the local City Councils are extremely supportive of recycling and other environmental issues.  Did you know, for example, that grocery stores in San Francisco do not allow the use of plastic bags?  They only give out paper bags or sell the reusable grocery bags.  The picture featured on this blog are of two containers that are provided to every family: a recycling container and a compost container.

In Sweden, we have recycling centers, everyone promotes lower electrical use, taxi companies have a large fleet of environmentally-friendly cars, we get to use a fantastic public transportation system (at least in Stockholm), and most important of all, everyone understands the importance of doing their part for the environment.

But this comes at a price. Continue reading

Do Americans Dream of Swedish Sheep?

I recently posted an entry about how Swedes speak amazing English. I thought I’d post a follow-up on learning Swedish and how it’s impacted me.

First of all, I’ve been here 3,5 years now. I took lessons sporadically for about 2 of those years – my work paid for a private tutor who’d come to the office and teach me for an hour and a half roughly every week. Of course, the nature of my work meant that sometimes I’d have unavoidable client meetings or I’d be travelling somewhere, so I’d have to schedule for when it was convenient.

I am finally at a level where I can understand most conversations if I’m paying attention – at least the context of the conversation. I can speak reasonably well too (at least I think so) and I’m doing my best to write it also. Continue reading

Battle of the Sexes

Gender Equality?A Swedish girl I dated very briefly was quite into the feminist movement.  Everything was to be perfectly equal between the sexes.  There should be no chauvinism, and men should treat women as complete equals, and should not treat them as a weaker gender.  If you took a girl out to dinner one night, then she should reciprocate by buying the movie tickets.  And if the movie tickets were worth less than the dinner, well, she should buy dessert too.

Excuse me, what?

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Hot lunches and food stamps

Today we had a visitor from our Amsterdam office.  He is planning to transfer to the Stockholm office in August 2011 so he wanted to come and check out the city, the office, his future colleagues, etc.

Kenneth in Amsterdam 2008

Kenneth in Amsterdam

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you see it), Mother Nature decided to unleash a snowstorm on Stockholm today.

We took him to lunch and he asked a few questions about how the work culture was like in Stockholm.  It’s always nice to get new people in the office because it reminds me how I’ve become Truly Swedish – things that foreigners find interesting or curious don’t even faze me anymore.  The topic at lunch?  Hot lunches and rikskuponger, which I fondly call “food stamps.”

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Lönhelg – Pay weekend

If you have a job in Sweden, you get paid on the 25th of every month (or the weekday closest to the 25th if it falls on a weekend/holiday).  Just once a month.  None of this weekly paycheck thing or the 15th and 30th of the month that we’re used to in the US.

This means that people are usually pretty poor by the weekend leading up to the 25th of the month.  Including this blogger.  In fact, being poor on the days leading up to the 25th of the month is truly Swedish. 🙂 Continue reading

Why is it so easy to get out of prison, but so hard to get in?

Welcome back, readers!

It’s a new year and time for some new thoughts on what it means to be Truly Swedish.  I visited the US during Christmas and the differences between our two cultures stood out even more while I was there.  I love seeing these differences and analyzing them.  The trick is learning what those differences are, how to adjust to them, and when to just “let it be” so you can stay sane. 🙂

I went to lunch with a bunch of colleagues yesterday and while we were walking there, we started talking about criminals and the criminal justice system in Sweden.  I don’t remember how the topic came up, but it was certainly an inspiring walk to lunch.

Continue reading