For me, Sweden had always been a place that I wanted to visit. That was because of three reasons: Firstly, I had seen so many pictures of Sweden, and this country looked so beautiful. Secondly, I had heard so many good things about the people there. It was said that Swedes were a very open minded and friendly people. And last but not least, Scandinavia is famous for its Metal music which happens to be my favorite music.
The first contact I had with my former Swedish boss, who prepared me for the fact that many things would be different in Sweden from the way they are here in Austria. I sent him an email to clarify some details about my flat in Sweden, and the first thing he answered was, that I should call him by his first name, not his last name. Here in Austria of course I wouldn’t call my Managing Director by his first name. That was my first insight into the very flat hierarchy in Sweden. Of course it is easy to keep such a flat hierarchy in a small company (TGW Scandinavia counted five people in Gothenburg (Sweden), and two in Hobro (Denmark) at that time), but I was told, that much bigger companies also work in that way.
When I arrived up there, my boss’s wife picked me up at the airport, as he was at a meeting in Stockholm. She showed me around the city and taught me some basic Swedish words. I was very impressed by the landscape and the city itself. The airport is located a little outside the city, so I had a chance to get a glimpse of the beautiful Swedish countryside. Gothenburg itself is a beautiful city with a nice harbor area.
The work in Sweden was similar to my work here in Austria. The biggest change had less to do with the change of country than with the change from the Partner to the Intercompany Business (Business between TGW Mechanics and the Units). In Sweden I started to work at much earlier stages of projects than I was used to in Wels. In Partner Business the layouts were almost fixed by the customer, and I basically just had to draw them with our blocks, make some technical clarifications, and put everything into budget.
In Sweden, I came into the whole layout was still in a pretty “fluid” state. There were still so many optimizations to make, and sometimes the whole system changed. This was a very interesting experience, and that is one thing that kept me in IC business.
It was also interesting to work in two offices, as I was working mainly in Sweden, but also often took the ferry to Denmark to drive to the office in Hobro, to work with the colleagues there.
My first weekend in Sweden was very interesting. I went out on a Saturday evening and left the house at something around 10 and the sun was still shining (this was in August). Of course I didn’t know anybody there, so I just entered the first pub I saw, and after I had ordered my drink, I started to talk to the person standing next to me. And the things I had heard about the people there turned out to be true. He was very friendly, and showed me the Gothenburg nightlife.
The following year was a very interesting one. Sweden is not very densely populated, so even if you live in a big city like Gothenburg, you don’t have to travel far to get somewhere where you can go hiking, camping and so on. I really loved to get to know the coast areas and the forests around Gothenburg. Because of the “allemansrätt” (translated word by word: everyone’s right) you can camp almost everywhere in the woods. Of course you should clean up after yourself, but I think that’s clear anyway.
One funny thing I saw in Sweden was that many people there like to have their personal space. This becomes very obvious in public transport when you are in a full tram, and many people are standing, despite of a lot of free seats. But it seems to be some kind of unwritten law, that you don’t sit down next to a stranger in public transport. This might make the Swedes look like a unfriendly bunch of people, but I can assure you, they are not unfriendly at all.
Another thing that I liked in Sweden was that they don’t dub their movies and TV programs. Everything, except children’s programs of course, is broadcasted with the original audio, just with Swedish subtitles. I think that is one of the reasons everyone there speaks English very well.
I think especially in a culture that is very similar to our own, all the little differences sand out much more, and I could go on and on, about all the little details about Sweden which make it a very pleasant country to be in, but I think it is better for everyone who is interested, to go there and experience it yourself.
There would be so many more things to talk about, like the short days in Winter, the different kinds of Christmas markets, and so on, but all in all I can say, that it was a very enjoyable and interesting year.