Last August, I celebrated my three years in Sweden and decided to start a blog ‘the social quirk’ to document my journey in Sweden. Yes, it has been a heck of an experience in many different ways (Mostly good). Today I am writing about one of the biggest challenges, which were settling up in my job. When I got a chance to experience office life in Sweden, it helped me understand how different the culture is from Pakistan. Despite having experience working in Pakistan for more than two years, I embarrassed myself a couple of times by not knowing the basic work norms. But we all learn from our mistakes and, getting the experience always worth it. Let me jot down a couple of work norms that I have learned so far in Sweden.
Wanna mingle? Speak Swedish!
It was never a heads up since everybody told me how important it is to know the Swedish language. But the fact is that almost everyone speaks English in Sweden, which assured me that I do not need to learn the language. My confidence was broken when everyone was speaking Swedish around me during lunch and coffee breaks. I experienced feelings of alienation. Then I realized that it is going to be a bumpy road. Not knowing the language can make this journey more challenging.
Life is dull without Fika:
Fika means – Having time to drink coffee with friends or colleagues. It is an essential part of Swedish culture. The only break we get in Pakistan is the lunch break for one hour (and you cannot exceed the time). In Sweden, employees get three breaks in a whole 8 hours working day.
Fika, lunch, and fika again. Even though there are assigned times for each break, but employees can sit as long as they want. No one can come to tell them to work. Without a doubt, swedes are punctual and respect deadlines, so spending extra time during fika doesn’t hurt their deliverance.
Unemployed? Union got you covered!
Sweden is one of the countries which gives power to the workers. As an employee, you got covered by the union. Union takes care of you when you are unemployed or mistreated by your employer. I was unaware of its importance initially because of which I never got covered in hard times since I was never a member. So if you think of starting a career in Sweden, find a union for yourself first!
Did anyone say feedback?
Even swedes accept it that they avoid conflict in conversations. So giving a critic to someone could be a challenge for them. Swedes are also very honest and straight-forward in their statements. But they use words in a way that it should never sound harsh to someone.
‘Oh, I found your idea valuable, BUT… ‘
So, be careful when you are giving feedback to somebody.
The boss makes his own coffee:
Lunch or Fika time, you will see the CEO joining you in the room and fixing his/her coffee. Whether it’s your boss or high-ranked professional, they are easily approachable because they sit in the same place where employees are working. There are no peons who run for a photocopy or fix coffee for the boss. Everyone goes to the kitchen and fix their coffee and clean their dishes. In small offices, employees (From bosses to assistants) have weekly duties to keep up with the cleanliness.
Work-life balance is not a utopia
After work, gym or playing tennis or partying out with friends is a must for Swedes. They do their best to give time to their life after office hours. Swedes are active people who can balance work and life efficiently.
Stressed? go on sick leave!
The perks of working in Sweden also involve 3 to 4 weeks of summer vacations, work-free weekends, and extra holidays like Christmas and Easter. Also, you get paid sick leaves!
Let’s call a meeting:
Hej Johan, I was thinking about adding a banner on our website about the summer sale.
Okej, let’s have a meeting about it so we can all agree on that!
Yes, there is going to be a meeting on the smallest details because everyone should agree on the idea. In Swedish work culture, meetings over coffee are also an essential part. Everyone must agree and come on common ground to execute a plan. At times, it can delay tasks, but no one cares about it.
Dress to impress:
I see well-dressed people, they are everywhere, in Sweden. Casual to professional, everyone looks great and feels like hard to compete when it comes to dressing in Sweden. When it comes to weather, it’s a must to check it every morning because you might need a jacket according to the weather. Summer jacket, rain jacket, windbreakers, or winter jacket, you better be ready! Smart clothing does not stop Swedes to come out of the house.
Integrating is the hardest part since we do things the way we have learned. But it does open your perspective when you work in a different society. It’s not just about taking out of it but, also about giving something to them what good you have brought in with you.