Sunday, June 15, 2014

How Swedish People Lie On The Phone - And How To Stop It.

Its been a while since Ive posted anything but this particular post is something that I think that many people whom have moved to Sweden from an english speaking country would really appreciate.

There is no doubt about it that swedes speak english very well.  A combination of exposure to english early on in school along with the fact that there is pretty much always something in english with swedish subtitles on television.  

English is everywhere in Sweden but its important to take into account that this is generally something that helps the current generation of Swedes.  I would say anyone born in the 80s or later have no problem conversing in english however for those older then this, speaking english may be uncomfortable or inconvenient for a Swede and as such you may run into problems when calling technical support or any services you access via your telephone.

Its important to remember to be polite when first coming into contact with someone on the line and ask them in clear english if its ok to speak in english.  Normally navigating the phone menus in swedish (if there is no option to hear them in english) will generally get you to someone faster but the chance you take there is that the person picking up at the other end is expecting to speak to you in Swedish.   When you start speaking english, it can startle the person on the other line and can also lead to the result that this whole article is about: 


In a world of mobile phones, its easy to fake a bad connection, even though the service in central Stockholm couldn't be better.  Typically what happens is that you will connect to someone, ask them if you can speak in english, and then they will start repeating the world 'Hello' or 'Hej' or 'Hör du mig' continually until they hang up on you.  

It is ridiculously frustrating when you realize whats going on.  Instead of just transferring you, they hang up on you.  As a customer you're polite enough to ask if its ok to speak english, they can be polite enough to politely say no and transfer you to someone that can.


firstly, whenever you call a technical support line the person at the other end should say hello and tell you whom your speaking with.  Of course in the repetitive monotony of the job, they might say this incredibly and unintelligibly  fast.  The key here is to get their name and then repeat their name back to them so that they understand that you know who they are.  

Now if they do say their name too fast for you to understand what they said, the key is to ask them again whom you are talking to but do this in Swedish.

'Ursäkta Vem Prata Jag Med?' or 'Vad heter du?'

Either phrase should trigger them to repeat their names and these are not that hard to remember or say.  

Then repeat back their name to them when you ask in english if its ok if you can speak in english or if you want to ask that in Swedish as well:

'Går det bra om jag prata engelska?' is one way to get them to Switch if you want to speak english.  

If your still hung up on after this, well at least at that point you have a name and can call back and ask to speak to a manager.  Swedes are always so horny to speak english with you if you show even the slightest hesitance in Swedish or perhaps make a simple grammar mistake but then they hang up on you when you politely ask to speak in english, talk about a double standard.

The Word of the day is: kundtjänst which means customer service, something severely lacking in this country.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Swedish Girls: Smile and Wave

Another weekend and out to the nightclubs.  Some people here are judicious in never going out to the nightclubs on a friday or saturday, referring to those that do as kiddies.  This is correct to a point as it is the majority of those whom are in school or nine to fivers that go out during this time as well.  Those that go out from Sunday to Thursday are likely to experience less waiting in lineups, less rude guards at the door and generally have a better time having fun out instead of waiting to have fun.  I learned about this first hand a few months ago when i uncharacteristically went out on a thursday.  One of my local hang outs with a friend and when i looked across the bar i saw an amazing female specimen.  

Without really thinking about it i proceeded to just smile and wave, what's the worst that could have happened? Well its been a while since i tried the smile and wave approach as normally the night clubs are packed to the brim by the time you get in and with the music loud enough to shake your brain you cant exactly have a conversation with anyone either.   A bit of confidence and a smile is all one really needs to approach any lady i would guess.  If you are ever here in Sweden, try going out when its not a weekend and try this simple approach, it will more then likely at least get a conversation started....or in my case get you making out with the girl within 10 min of meeting her...

What a refreshing change this was, i proceeded to go over to this girl, whom we shall call Mindy, struck up a conversation while my wing-man was talking with her friend.  What a refreshing change to the typical friday or saturday night routine.

The Swedish word of the day is Veckoslut which means Weekend (but noone uses this word).

Monday, October 8, 2012

Less Sexy side of Sweden - Bigotry and Racism

On living here for many years now, i have 95% of the time been impressed by how accommodating the general swedish population is in making one comfortable.  For example, when first moving here, I didnt know what to expect, would i be understood? Would i be lost or isolated due to my lack of Swedish skills? Not only was this not the case, but in general Swedes in general go out of their way to make foreigners as comfortable as possible.  On arriving here, I noticed that all signage at the airport was at a minimum in English as well as Swedish.  Everyone i spoke with when arriving seemed to speak excellent English, and in short its not been at all difficult initially to get along here as a Canadian in Sweden. 

Just to give a bit of contrast to those whom have never visited the Nordics, when traveling to Norway for example, the atmosphere is quite a contrast to Sweden.  The Norwegian history is full of conquest (that would be the Norwegians being taken over) and their cultural identity developed as a result of such and now when you travel to Norway the economic climate has changed due to the large oil and gas reserves off the Norwegian cost and their proudness as a peoples is also reflected in the population.  During my visits there, i found the Norwegians to be must more distant, hesitant to interact with foreigners and generally less accommodating then the Swedes.  This is also the case with signage and such....for example the fairly international hotel i stayed at had no English in their rooms, elevators, or anywhere in the hotel.  To my relief yes the receptionist did speak English.

 Yes, on first impressions Sweden seems like gumdrops and sugar blossoms and the average English speaker probably would not have any problems here but if you are one to live and work here for any length of time and work to follow the rules such as for taxation, calling about your phone bill, requesting service for your kitchen appliances you will quickly experience another side of Sweden that is far less welcoming.  Of course being here for so long you do pick up the language and for the most part although I am fluent in Swedish, i prefer to speak my mother tongue of English for the simple fact that im just more comfortable doing so.  When calling help lines for local or non-international companies here in Sweden it is rather rare to have the option to request English assistance so I would simply navigate through the Swedish menus until i reached a person.  However, in more instances that I can count now, upon getting to someone who politely says their name and how they can help you in Swedish, as soon as I open my mouth and ask weather I can speak in English, the line mysteriously disconnects. 

There have been cases where the person on the line speaks in Swedish and I reply in english, that is the best of both words as we are both more comfortable speaking our native languages and i have no problem at all with this however hanging up on someone becuase they ask if they can speak english is about the most impolite thing i have ever experienced.  Initially you want to call back, speak to a supervisor and ensure that this never happens again but the other side of me knows that this type of behaviour will never change.  As welcoming as Swedish people are to foreigners, we will always be just that: Foreign, and a contributor to the dilution and depreciation of the Swedish culture and heritage. 

The government here is hell bent on making Sweden multiclutural, however more and more I am noticing that a growing majority of people have had enough.  Perhaps this is why the Swedish Democrats are increasing in the poles every year.

The Swedish Word of the day is: ohövligt which means Rude

A racist is someone who believes in the superiority of one race over another, or who acts differently (usually negatively) towards a person or a group of people because of their race. An example would be a member of the Ku Klux Klan, who espouse the superiority of the white race.

A bigot is a blinkered, narrow-minded person, usually also very intolerant and unable to see anyone else's point of view. People can be bigoted about things that have nothing to do with race, for example, religion or sexual orientation. A prime example would be Archie Bunker from the old television sitcom "All in the Family."

All racists are bigots, but by no means are all bigots racist. That is, a racist is a bigot against a particular race or every race except for his/hers. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

How to 'Hook Up' With Swedish Girls - Speak English

This one thinks of herself as Nasty according to her tatoo
The title says it all folks! This is one thing that i have learned after several years here in 'The Capital of Scandinavia'.  

But a little background before i make the sweeping statement in the title.

If there is one thing that Swedish people are exposed to more then anything else it's the English language.  You see it everywhere from advertising, to television, to everyday conversation with one another.  I have spoken to many swedes who simply insert English words into their daily conversation as there is no Swedish word that fits as well and no one complains or is even remotely surprised about this.  Try to do the same thing in France, Germany, or Russia and not only will heads turn but people generally will not know what your talking about.  

English is one of the most important subjects that are enforced and reinforced in school for Swedish students.  I have met children that are only 5 or 6 years old who speak English seemingly fluently or at least well enough to understand me and be understood.  

A swede would tell you that as their country is rather small and the language rather unique, English is a necessity to succeed on the global market.  Tell this to the Creator of Ikea: every product in their mega stores is named something in Swedish, and they seem to be doing just fine.  

However conversely, Swedes can also be extra impolite in the English language.

A few days ago i had a rather unpleasant conversation with a co worker who was trying to express to me his thoughts in English on a report that was created out of my department.  As the conversation ceased being productive and bordered on unpleasant i suggested we involve my superior in the conversation to which he agreed.  The shock to me came at that next meeting.  It was held in both Swedish & English as i wanted to be sure there was no miscommunication, however understanding Swedish fluently, i had no problem if they spoke their native language.  So what happened? When the conversation switched to Swedish, the language, and tone was decidedly more respectful and pleasant.  However when the conversation switched back to English it was again bordering on rude.  Did he think that speaking in a foreign language gave him the permission to express himself bluntly, more so then he would have in Swedish ?  

But now back to the reason that many of you are probably here, the 'hooking up' that was mentioned earlier.  It turns out that most Swedish girls find 'the pickup' less committal if you speak in English and after some thought, i tend to agree with this perception.  

To a Swede, the English speaker is one that is here temporarily, because if they were here for a longer period or permanently settled here they would speak Swedish.  With this temporary status that someone has and the truth that intimate relations in Sweden generally mean nothing in terms of a relationship lasting more then a few hours and are more of a way to keep warm during the long winters and high heating costs.  

Several months ago on a trip to Malmö (AKA Sweden's Toilet), i was out at a nightclub after my Irish friend who we will call Patrick had gotten somewhat wasted after too many shots and left for home leaving me on my own.  I went in and it being a very small club found the dance floor and started talking with the first Blonde that looked to be about my height.  Through the music we started striking up a conversation and i fibbed a little bit and said i was just in Sweden for a few days for work training.  To my surprise she then offered to buy me a drink and we continued dancing and talking.  A few drinks later we headed out for an after party which involved more alcohol and a shisha pipe.  Although i understood the conversation i didn't let on and eventually convinced her to follow me back to my friends place (the one who had gone home earlier) for a night cap.  I almost blew my cover at one point as the cab driver had arrived to the street we wanted to get off at and asked in Swedish which number to which i replied in Swedish.  She immediately questioned me about this miraculous knowledge of Swedish i seemed to now have but after indicating that i had learned the numbers from 1 to 10 as well as assuming the question as we were so close i was in the clear.  The story does get a bit more complicated that night as i was unsure of exactly what was going to happen with me and this girl as i was staying on the soffa with my friend using the room and his ginormous bed.  I figured whatever happened would happen and that improvisation was the name of the game.  However it turns out someone in the heavens was looking out for me that night as when i opened the door there was my friend passed out on the soffa with his head cocked to one side in a sitting position.  

Anyhow i digress. 

There have been cases of Swedes that work as bar tenders that look of foreign origin and will only speak English no matter who the clientele are that he is serving.  Swedes tip better (or actually tip at all) to those are not Swedish.  Its a common fact that Swedish people don't tip, but that's not the case when you leave Sweden.  

However it's not all roses and butterflies to the English speaker in Sweden.  There have been several cases where I have been on phone support and request (for expediency's sake) to be served in English when they introduce themselves to me on the other end at which point i hear a click! Some swedes are so abhorrently against speaking English that they will have nothing to do with it.  

The swedish word of the day is: Information (yes its the same in both languages)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Getting a Job in Stockholm, Sweden for a foreigner

So you want to move to Sweden to work! Beautiful fit Nordic women, the pleasant sounding sing-songy language and a high standard of living tend to bring lots of people to Sweden.  However in fact so does the old love refugee story where a partner of non Swedish origin follows the Swedish partner back to his/her home country temporarily or permanently to live. 

The good news is that the Swedish economy and currency, although technically part of the Euro has held up well against all the problems associated with the rest of Euro and the 'Euro-Crisis' that has effected mainly the southern parts of the union.  Another advantage to working in Sweden is that unlike the Danish krona, the Swedish Krona is not linked to a standard exchange to the Euro meaning that it has not lost its value like the Euro has and is generally more stable then the Euro.

If you are thinking of moving to Sweden to work and are from outside the EU, be aware that before you arrive here, you will need to have already applied for and been granted a work permit in your home country.  Unless you have special circumstances, it does not work to move to Sweden first and then apply for a work permit.  The process is made much easier for those that are within the EU as you are technically allowed to reside in Sweden and work immediately but if you are from outside the EU the rules are quite a bit different and should be investigated at Migrationsverket's Homepage.  My circumstances were such that, i came to sweden to study as an international exchange student (from Canada) and people part of this program are allowed to work here on that study permit.  Also to convert a study permit to a work permit, you simply have to show that you have completed 35 credits of schooling before your permit expires thereby allowing you to work here permanently.

Thats the good news, now the bad news.

If you have anything foreign sounding about your name, think twice about coming here.  

Although it is not really talked about here in Sweden, the general attitude for short listing candidates for job positions in the country generally starts with a look at the persons name.  Anything with Mohammed or foreign sounding will get binned first and from there they follow the regular sorting process based on qualifications.  This has been tested several times by the news agencies by performing undercover tests to local companies and Sven Svensson was always chosen over Akbar Ahmed although the CV's were identical   

The other opportunity you have is to be overly qualified for the position you are applying for and willing to accept much less then you were earning back home (with my frame of reference being Canada).  I am making approximately half of what i took home monthly when compared to the level i was at back in 2007 when i moved to Sweden from Canada.  In fact it would surely be higher today if i were still in Canada, how much higher, i can only guess. 

The benefits here are many such as great child care, if you have children, a pleasant working environment, job security, and generally a more relaxed attitude towards work.  I can confirm first hand that given the choice to do what i was doing in Canada (Project manager) and working here in a similar position, i would pick Sweden hands down.  Life is too short to be pulling your hair out on the commute to work, stressful working environment, and stressful commute home.  As Sweden's public transport system is so well developed, you never need to be cut off by that rusty jalopy again.  You never have to stress at work about your assignment as you will generally get help from your co workers and the fikas are-a-plenty throughout the day.

One of the things you must get used to when working here is not to expect to save too much money every month.  The average Swedish Salary is around 20,000 SEK per month which works out to about 14,000 after taxes and remember you still have to pay your rent, food, electric, etc.....Foreigners generally earn more money because they are used to earning more money in their home countries.  Im not making a fortune but its over double the average and im happy with that.

Questions? Comments? Please post, i will help where i can!

The Swedish word of the day is: samarbeta which means to cooperate

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Taxi's in Sweden: The Perfect Crime

Generally thought of as one of the least dishonest professions in the world, Taxi's have always bugged me.  Its fairly rare that i find a taxi driver that is not out to squeeze ever last öre out of your wallet and this is exceptionally true here in Stockholm. 

There are several taxi companies in the market and every so often the newspaper does a story on which is the cheapest taxi company out there with a few driving tests just to make the population feel better about how much they are getting screwed.

I have found that there are few if any 'Swedish' taxi drivers left out there, most of the drivers are immigrants to Sweden and couldn't care less about getting you to your destination on time or saving you any money.

For example: its normal here in Sweden to have a 'framkörs avgif't which basically is an extra cost on them having to come out to pick you up if your not living a hair away from the central station.  There is also 'vänta tids avgift' which replaces the framkörs avigft with one where the second that they start waiting outside of your door for you they start billing you.  This particular fee averages out to about 1 euro per minute, so about 60 euros per hour.  Even doctors don't make that kinda dough, figuring in that the 'time' of these members of society is worth about 10 euros per hour (a typical MacDonald's job) this fee is grossly unreasonable. 

Then comes the actual drive where the majority of the cost adds up.  This varies greatly with some dishonest taxis that peg the meter to the number of seconds in a minute meaning that the meter counts 60 SEK / 6 Euros no matter how far or fast your driving.  Your generally safer with Taxi Stockholm or Taxi 020 or Sverige Taxi but you can have bad experiences with these guys as well depending on who is behind the wheel.

The majority of people use taxis over the weekend when they are out partying with their friends to either get to or from the party.  And this is normally after a pre-party at home and here is where Taxi drivers take advantage of Swedes general nature not to cause conflict.  They will drive around in circles and take the most indirect route possible to a location just to run up the meter and when questioned will claim ignorance and state they have been driving for years yadda yadda yadda......

Not only that but with all the inebriated scantily clad swedish girls that are on their way home from the nightclub, its not entirely uncommon for sexual assaults by Taxi drivers which unfortunately happened to a friend of mine a year ago.  Its become such a culture of mistrust that the guards at nightclubs will even take down the liscense plate information about a taxi they put a girl in to ensure that nothing happens to her on her way home (which is how that particular taxi driver was caught and charged).

This culture of overpriced taxis have opened up an underground taxi industry which is unfortunately hundreds of times more dangerous then licensed taxi drivers.  It will always be non-swedish immigrants standing outside the closest food joint (McDonalds, etc) whispering out taxi, taxi.... hoping to get a bite and once you are in one of these 'Svart Taxi's' (quite literally black taxi's), who knows what will happen to you.  I have had a friend that was robbed at knifepoint for his bank card and pin number, i have had other friends sexually abused, the list goes on and on.

Tips and Tricks with Taxis in Stockholm (and Sweden for that matter):
  • Speak swedish to the driver if possible, english speakers normally get a 'special rate' or route.
  • Travel only with the above mentioned taxi companies (be careful, a lot of companies try to trick you with logos, names or cab coloring to make their vehicles look like one of the above companies
  • Travel in small groups is possible, dont travel alone
  • Know the route you want to take and the fastest way to get there before getting into a cab, google maps works great for this and with the advent of the smart phone you can access this information anywhere
  • ALWAYS use the meter, some will try to convince you to use a 'fast pris' or fixed price rate
And if your open to it, USE THE DAMN PUBLIC TRANSPORT SYSTEM!  It runs 24 hours during the weekend and its quite fast and costs you next to nothing if you compare it with taxis!

The word of the day is 'Fuskar' which means cheat in Swedish

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Swedish banking system: wins & fails

One of the more evolved aspects of Sweden and Europe as a whole is the banking system here.  Gone are the days of cheques (or checks if your american).  As most people here bank over the internet, transferring payments between accounts and/or paying invoices is a piece of cake. 

In fact, once micro payments become more common place I see this system of electronic transfers a possible replacement for cash entirely.  Unsurprisingly, this was discussed in sweden a few years ago where the thought was that the entire country should switch entirely to a cashless (read: paper currency) based economy.  Such a move would be a boon to Skatteverket (the tax authority) here as a lot of transactions do occur 'black' otherwise known as untaxed here in the country.  Such a move would also reduce money laundering as funds could be tracked as they flowed through the system.

But what happens when electronic transfers go wrong? This was the case for me a few weeks ago as I had deregistered my vehicle and was expecting my road tax from the traffic authority back.  Now this should not be such a difficult thing to accomplish, one would think, however getting my funds back were more challenging then i could have imagined.

When i first moved here i opened up an account with SwedBank.  After picking up the language, i decided that i would switch to an internet based bank such as the one i use in CanadaSkandiabanken was my choice and i went down to a local SwedBank branch and requested to close off my account.  Foolishly i figured that when I closed my account with SwedBank that my account would actually be closed.  Traffikverket uses Swedbank as the company to handle refunds of payments made to their organization.  I dont understand how it is so hard for them to type a few numbers in a form on the computer in order to refund people but whatever, so they use SwedBank.  When they received the funds, they saw that i had an account (which has laid dorment for almost 3 years) and thought great we can put the money in there and promptly sent me a letter that they had done this.

The frustration started when i tried to even contact Swedbank!, i have no account with them, no pin code no way to actually talk to a live person using their customer support line which asks you to key in your customer number and passcode and hangs up on you when you dont put in this information. 

After months of asking why they had put the money into an account that was obviously dormant,  i had to physically go to a branch and fill out paperwork to close my closed account again. 

The swedish word of the day is: Jobbigt which means annoying in english.