Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Work mentally, or is it mentality in Sweden

Things are looking up, depending on your viewpoint of the situation. It seems my experience and background have qualified me for a position here in this great land full of Scandinavians. This got me to thinking about the Swedish Work Ethic.

You see, as several swedes have pointed out to me during my stay here, Sweden is not a very big (based on populous) country. There are roughly 9 million people here and they are spread out in a Country the size of Alberta. There are many companies here, and quite a diversity of companies however due to the nature of how the population is spread out you wont find multiple huge multinationals all co-located in the same area. This occurred to me after having to find another job in my field. In Calgary, if i needed to go somewhere else, there is literally dozens of companies I could apply to, here in Stockholm however, there were 4. One was down and the others were not hiring.

This lead me to a stark realization. Having to find work could quite possibly mean a move. It would be a rare event for me to have to move from one city to another (without of course wanting to do so) in Canada however in talking with Swedes it didnt seem to be anything out of the ordinary. Most were of the opinion that they are 'LUCKY' to even find work and so jump at the opportunity. Quite strange.

On top of all of this, a Swede moving to another city possibly hundreds of KM's away and having to relocate their lives have to go through a probationary period for 6 months. Strange again.

On talking with an early 20-something, another thing made me wonder...people here truly believe that they should be paid on age and while this makes some sense (to coincide with experience) what about ability and function? In Swedish one might say 'Det Spelar ingen Roll' which basically means it doesnt matter. If your young, dont expect to make much, no matter how competent you are or how much you can perform.

Another thing that was somewhat surprising for such a peaceful country that likes to avoid confrontation is the word that backstabbing at the work place to try to get ahead is rampant here in this country. Its almost childish.

Not that its all bad, there are many good things about being here, about being part of this well functioning machine, but that will be left for another post.

Work mentality in Sweden

For a small population Sweden has a very high density of international companies. There are many advantages to locating an international company in Sweden or scandinavia in gernal:
  • Everyone speaks english
  • the standard of living is very high
  • you are very close to the rest of Europe
  • Sweden is viewed positively throughout the world
  • Child care, medical benefits, sick pay, all entice potential employees
Another thing that I have noticed in my year or so working here is that the stress level at the workplace here in Sweden is almost non-existant. (at least compared to Canada where i used to work)

Swedes like to take fika breaks throughout the day. At all hours spontanious fika breaks will break out in any part of the office. In my current office environment they have chosen to use the 'open office' concept so this does make things a little louder during these times but it also makes it so that others can participate when a fika break is happening near them.

With all these fika breaks you would logically assume that the productivity here in Sweden is lower or sub par to what you would find in other countries but to the contrary, having worked here myself i find myself able to get more accomplished with the clear head and lack of stress that results from these meetings. Also, these informal fika meetings are also a good time to share what is happening in ones' projects and therefore removing the need to have so many formalized meetings to share information.

At least where i work: they dont block facebook or youtube. Your welcome to browse the web during the day and studies have shown this actually boosts productivity -if not satiating our perpetual lack of long term concentration developed over years of television and nintendo.

There is also a great freedom of where work is performed here in Sweden, need to work from home on the third wednesday of the month becuase childcare is not available, no problem. Need to leave a bit early on fridays to catch that plane to Stockholm, not an issue. Need to show up a bit late on Mondays as your still a little bakis from the weekend, sure!

The swedish word of the day is: 'arbetsnarkoman' which means workaholic (havent seen one of those here yet by the way)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Jultid i Sverige! Spännande, Underbart, Vackert

Välkomna till i riktig god jul....the holidays here in Stockholm are a time where the entire city is transformed into a holiday themed zone which Christmas Trees decorated and located throughout the city. Also set up are several Holiday markets that sell holiday themed goods such as handy-crafts, Christmas goodies, etc.

I also love how the city sets up little fireplaces such as the one you see picture here, where you can go to warm your hands and experience the fragrant lumber as it crackles and burns, makes me wish i had some marshmellows!

Personally, I have never seen a Santa (Tomten) as realistic as the one that they have here at the Major Fashion Mall - Nordiska Kompaniet (NK).

I personally love this time of year, the whole atmosphere seems somewhat surreal and you have the feeling that anything magical could happen. I recommend you watch the movie 'Serendipity' circa 2001 if you have the time! Its one move that will definitely get you into the spirit of the season.

This time of year does definitely make one think about the past year, friends, family, reflect on decisions made in the past and try to formulate some semblance of a plan for the future. I have to admit, that being in a foreign country away from all your family and friends back home does bring about some feelings of isolation and longing for those back home.

Something that definitely effects everyones mood here in Sweden is the amount of light they receive in the Winter season. Due to its high latitude, you have the sun rising around 8am and setting at 3pm at the worst of times. You basically live in the dark.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Feel like Starbucks prices everywhere you go? Come to Sweden!

So you have a hankering for a nice cup of freshly brewed coffee or tea? In Canada we have the fortunate luck of being the home of Tim Hortons Coffee. A very reasonably price (about 8 SEK or 1.50 Cad) cup of freshly brewed coffee avaiable at almost every intersection. People literally cue in their vehicles through the drive throughs just to purchase a coffee and the occational donut.

Here, though no shortage of places to purchase a cup of coffee, there is a serious shortage of a reasonably priced, good cup of coffee. The typical price for a Brygg Kaffe (brewed cup of coffee) is 25 SEK which is about 4 dollars. The prices for lattés, capuccinno, espressos, go up from there. Even more ridiculous is that a typical cup of Tea (or Te i svenska) is the same price as a brewed coffee and consists of a cup of hot water and a tea bag.

Its no wonder that Starbucks decided not to locate in the Nordics where they have already learned how to overcharge for a cup of coffee before being able to establish here. I guess its somewhat like the prices of a beer at the bar, you eventually get used to it and dont even realize whats happening.


Tillbaka på Darlana Hästen (Back on the Dala Horse)

Well its been a few months since my last post. Finally got around to correcting the grammar and spelling in my previous post, my I must have been in a hizzy when i wrote it originally.

What I've said in my previous post regarding the Swedish employment process holds true, I continue on my quest to find employment however something worth noting is that I am fortunate in that I am a Canadian through and through even if my name might suggest otherwise, I have found that following up with a CV submission with a phone call to inform the employer about this fact has had some limited success. At this point, I'm still not where I want to be in terms of City of employment however I do have some possibilities in finding employment.

Right at this time there is also a global financial crisis and several companies in Sweden are cutting back on their expansion plans making a job hunt for anyone harder. I'm about to make a bold statement about working in Sweden:

Surely, this sounds insane, shouldn't this be the other way around? Employees are afraid of their employer? Its the employer that controls if they keep their employees or? Well not in Sweden. This country has developed a very powerful social infrasture and along with that Unions have always been looked favorably on. Unions have grown very powerful, in fact if you are working in a professional field here your employer is more then likely to be in partnership with their respective Union and their corresponding rules and regulations.

On the surface this surely sounds like a good thing, more protection for employees, more job security, better collective negotiating power. If one digs a little deeper however, you will find something smelling afoul underneath this bed of roses.

You see, because the Unions have so much power here, employers fight an uphill battle:
Sure if they hire an employee and the employee is good, works well with others, etc, all is good. However if the employee is found to not fit within the company, the organisation now has a problem. Unless the employee does something drastic in terms of stealing from the company, or killing someone then there is no way to remove this employee. Worker has a bad attitude? Doesn't get along with others? Low quality of work? Sick all the time? Alcoholic or Drug user? Too bad, as the employer you are responsible to train that employee, and to help them to fit in, remember, when you employed them for their position you should have been psychic and been able to predict exactly how well this employee would work out in the organization, or did the psychic on your staff call in sick that day as well?

Most employers here work on a 'prova anställning' principle which gives the employer a 6 month probationary period where they can see if the employee works out, however this is ridiculous as most professional positions require months just to get integrated within the company. What ends up happening is most employers will cycle through employees, never offering fast anställning (permanent employment contract), because at that point the company is now liable for you.

Its ironic that if you are not a citizen of Sweden or a member of the EU and require a residence permit here in Sweden, the employer would have to offer you a tillvidare anställning (till future employment) right off the bat. This is the only way that a Non-EU resident can get a permit to stay. Of course, with that the employer also has to generally show to Arbetsformedling that they were not able to find someone with your qualifications first within Sweden, and then within the EU. That doesn't at all sound ridiculous does it now? How fair is this for the Swedes that are forced to work on a temporary basis hoping that they are able to get a permanent position?