Podcast
Working with the Swedish
Sweden
October 30, 2023
62 Min

Working with the Swedish with Christina Rundcrantz

"And for example, maybe this is joking aside, but we had middle beer, not too strong, not too light. We have middle milk, mellan milk, not too skinny, not too fat. So it's like a safe position or perceived like a safe position not sticking out."
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Working with the Swedish

In the fascinating realm of global work culture, Sweden stands out with its unique blend of egalitarianism and individualism.

Imagine a workplace where the concept of "Lagom"—not too little, not too much, just right—shapes every decision, where the Law of Jante subtly influences professional interactions.

You might have encountered these ideas in other cross-cultural discussions, but what makes this episode different?

I sit down with Christina Rundcrantz, an Intercultural Expert at BBICOMMUNICATION, who brings a wealth of experience and insights into Swedish work culture.

Our conversation dives deeper than you might anticipate, uncovering the often-unspoken norms and values that define the Swedish workplace.

This isn't just another talk; it's a revealing journey into the intricacies of working with Swedes, exploring the hows and whys that make their work culture so unique.

Show Notes

Welcome to another enlightening episode of the Working With Us podcast! This time, we're heading to Sweden with intercultural expert Christina Rundcrantz. We'll delve into the fascinating world of Swedish work culture, discussing everything from the balanced concept of 'Lagom' to the influence of the Law of Jante. Whether you're eyeing business ventures in Sweden or are just intrigued by its unique work environment, this episode is a must-listen. So, join us as we navigate through the world's diverse work cultures.

About the Guest

Today's guest is Christina Rundcrantz, an experienced intercultural trainer at BBICOMMUNICATION. Christina specializes in helping professionals navigate the complexities of Swedish work culture. With her deep expertise, she offers a nuanced understanding of the cultural dynamics that shape the Swedish workplace. Christina's insights have been invaluable to numerous organizations looking to bridge cultural gaps.

Connect with Christina:

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Key Episode Insights

Swedish Cultural Iceberg

  • The concept of culture as an "iceberg" is discussed, with visible norms and values only representing the surface. The true drivers of Swedish culture are deeply rooted in history, religion, and politics.

The Philosophy of "LAGOM"

  • The Swedish philosophy of "LAGOM"—meaning not too much, not too little—is explored. This balanced approach is linked to Sweden's historical and geographical positions.

Swedish Neutrality in World War II

  • Sweden's neutrality during World War II is cited as a potential influence on the nation's conformist attitudes and the wider philosophy of "LAGOM."

Addressing Cultural Misconceptions

  • Christina emphasizes the importance of identifying and addressing misconceptions about Swedish culture, particularly for those interacting with it for the first time.

Challenges of Relocating to Sweden

  • Sweden is acknowledged as a challenging country to move to, especially for expats coming from more socially-oriented cultures.

Femininity and Masculinity in Swedish Work Culture

  • Christina compares Swedish work culture to other Scandinavian cultures, noting Sweden's softer, more cooperative approach.

Process vs. Action in Scandinavian Work Cultures

  • The construction of the bridge between Denmark and Sweden serves as an anecdote to illustrate differences in work approaches even among Scandinavian countries.

Cultural Nuances in Food Habits

  • The podcast touches on how Swedish lunch habits differ not just within Scandinavia but also when compared to countries like Brazil, emphasizing the cultural nuances.

Swedish Communication Styles

  • Christina speaks about the Swedish preference for soft language, compromise, and consensus, highlighting the nation's unique communication style.
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Paul Arnesen
Paul Arnesen
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Full Transcript

Paul Arnesen
Hey, Christina. Welcome to the working with us Podcast. How are you today?

Christina Rundcrantz
Thank you very much, Paul. Happy to be here. Thanks for inviting me.

Paul Arnesen
Yeah, it was always a pleasure to talk to Swedes. Like, we know we have a good neighborly relationship up there in the north. So I will say looking forward to finally getting to know a little bit more in depth about the Swedish culture and the Swedish work culture and the people over there. So hopefully you can give us some insights.

Christina Rundcrantz
Yeah, thank you. I do think you might know more about Swedes than we know about Norwegians, but looking forward to this.

Paul Arnesen
Yeah, that's an interesting observation, I guess. And it's also very true when you look at it historically, they're saying that I'm from the part of Norway that is really close to the border of Sweden and we grew up with a lot of Swedish television and everything growing up, when I grew up. So a lot of inferences from Sweden, from cultural growing up. So, yeah, I think I know quite a lot about Swedish culture, I must say. But.

Christina Rundcrantz
You can correct me.

Paul Arnesen
Maybe I will have some questions or ask you to clarify if I have my own experience. But that could be interesting.

Christina Rundcrantz
Looking forward to that.

Paul Arnesen
Yeah. So I wanted to start with the prefix where we try to set the Swedish culture in some sort of historical context because I think it's important to maybe it's not important, but I think it's very interesting to try to understand a little bit where sort of how culture evolves within a country. A lot of the interviews I had on this podcast have been on culture that have very stereotypical characters. Like the Dutch is very direct and the Taiwanese, which I have an episode coming up, is more hierarchical and all this kind of structure they have inside of the system. So I wanted to hear your thoughts about this and sort of the concept of things in Sweden that we know about and why concepts like know the flat organizational hierarchy and everything, where that comes from originally. Do you know anything about that?

Christina Rundcrantz
Well, I do find that fascinating, that question why I see a culture like an iceberg, the norms and the values, the factors that drive your behavior. So although this is more anthropology, I find it really interesting. So in my trainings, we don't always have time to discuss this, but I find it fascinating. So you mentioned the word LAGOM, which means not too much, not too little. What is the factor that influenced that behavior? Is it history, religion, industrial history, politics, education, system, climate, whatever? So there is it maybe the history, maybe even industrial history. So Swedes were maybe also geographically in the center of Scandinavia, trying to take that middle stand. Not too much, not too little. And also like a safe spot in a way. We stayed neutral during the Second World War for example, which saved us from destruction that's different from the other Scandinavian countries. So therefore I see this conformists and maybe that's connected to LAGOM. And for example, maybe this is joking aside, but we had middle beer, not too strong, not too light. We have middle milk, melan milk, not too skinny, not too fat. So it's like a safe position or perceived like a safe position not sticking out.
So they sometimes say, jokingly that Brits know they stick out. French people want to stick out and Swedes don't want to stick out. So I can see this like having a strong opinion or taking sides. This is maybe connected to this LAGOMand maybe one factor could be history here.

Paul Arnesen
Yeah, obviously you mentioned that in between thing and I think so, obviously I have a lot of experience with Sweden and one thing that I always find interesting, not one thing and many things I find interesting. But if I go in Sweden to buy alcohol, you buy the strong alcohol at Systembolaget which is like the government operated liquor stores. But if you go to the normal supermarket, you can buy beer that is 3.5% strong, which is like little bit, it's not zero and it's not like strong, but it's just in between. And Sweden is the only country I know that that's common. And I have friends who buy that kind of beer and just to enjoy it's, not to get drunk, it's just good beer to drink.

Christina Rundcrantz
Yeah, maybe that's optimal for the Swedes. Yeah.

Paul Arnesen
So I think you're really right. That's fascinating. I never thought about that until you said it like this. And the other aspect you mentioned, obviously is the topic we have discussed quite a lot in the podcast with Norway and Denmark is the law of know they're not sticking out. And how prevalent is that in Sweden? I don't know if you know. I know for fact, being Norwegian, how it affects us. And I know from the discussion with the expert from Denmark how it affects them. And how is that in Sweden? The law of question.

Christina Rundcrantz
Good question. So it's interesting how that exists in Denmark, Norway and Sweden, I would say. And the Danish author also having the story in Norway and in Sweden it's about don't act superior, don't think that you're superior than anyone else. So it's interesting to compare. But it's definitely very dominant in Sweden. So you would think with the next generation that will disappear because we're boosting them, they can do anything. It's still there. It's always we it's not how many goals I scored, it's the team. So from the daycare center up to the boardroom, you see this jamte law. And since I do a lot of trainings with international talents coming into Sweden, they get confused and maybe they're even ready for the first interview. So how am I supposed to promote myself if I'm not allowed to be boastful or express my strengths. And then I tried to say that you can do it, but you have to do it with a Swedish tweak. You have to say why you're good at something and maybe use a little bit of downgraders. Maybe you said I'm really good at German. You would say the Swedish way would be like I believe I'm fairly good at German because I used to live in Germany for ten years.
So it's also this background, the factory orientation. So the Yantilo definitely exists. It's not a good start to be bragging in Sweden, whether that's at an early age or young or private life. It dominates, I think, and it's still there. Maybe cultures take a long time to change. Maybe it is changing, but I would say it's still there.

Paul Arnesen
And it's actually an interesting when you think about foreigners, maybe thinking about Swedish personalities, you have one person who is very famous, who is probably the most anti aunt in law, that is and that's Slaton Ibrahimovich, the famous football player, which is Swedish and obviously not naturally born into Sweden. His family emigrated there when he was young. But he is very bragging and know out there. But obviously, knowing him when he is being interviewed as a Swede or as a Norwegian, I think you see the little bit of it's there, but he still can brag about it.

Christina Rundcrantz
I think it's interesting and it's a good example because you see some of the Balkan countries are much more competitive, of course, maybe this is historical reasons too. So Sweden having this welfare system and know, sharing resources and in the countries, maybe you had to compete, you had to promote yourself. And I want to say that I also believe in the power of diversity. I think we can influence Swedes to be a little bit more promoting. I've heard comments that Swedes should be a little bit more proud of, for example, corporate culture or the companies instead of downgrading, we could maybe promote the company, for example, a little bit more. And talking about Slatan Ibrahimovic, of course he's very much admired because he's said to be one of the or maybe the best world football player, one of the best football players in the world. And some people might admire his courage too, to promote himself. But as you say, some people might think it's bragging.

Paul Arnesen
Well, it is in some sense, but it's a bragging with what's the word for that? Like with a twist. It's nice. It's like a fun bragging. We have also a character in Norway, a skier, which is very famous, peter Nordrigue. I don't know if anyone knows who it is, but if you're into cross country skiing, you might know.

Christina Rundcrantz
You do have some cross country skiers, don't you?

Paul Arnesen
Yeah, a few. Some of some. But also Sweden has a lot of them. That's a healthy competition. They have some good swan. Anyways, we're not going to go that direction today. I want to focus a little bit more back on. We mentioned a lot of things about the Swedish personality now with the concept of largom and lovient and everything. And if you can sort of try to now, in your words, describe a typical Swedish professional to the listener, what would you say?

Christina Rundcrantz
So before I do that, I've learned maybe the hard way to when I generalize, it's a starting point before you get to know the individual. So here I'm going to describe as a typical Swedish professional and of course there are exceptions, but as we know with research it's the average tendency of a group and culture is collective. So I allow myself to generalize, but I still want consensus on the fact that I will do that. So I will generalize as a starting point to say that a typical Swedish professional would be very fact oriented. If you want to convince a Swede about an idea, control your emotions, speak slowly, lower your voice and present facts, be on time, those are the main things. And I think also focus on the team. It's for the benefit of the team. It's not about me standing the and also the engineering skills after all that built Sweden. So I think maybe that's why we're extremely fact oriented. So that's how I would generalize. When I describe a typical any in.

Paul Arnesen
Your training with maybe foreign companies coming into work in Sweden, are there any misconceptions that usually comes up that you sort of have to talk about and try to change and maybe somebody's misconception even can be a little bit frustrating because they're so far from the reality.

Christina Rundcrantz
Definitely Paul. And that's why I have this fun job and BBI, we are called in when sometimes there is a conflict already at the workplace and we see it's not nobody's stupid or right or wrong, it's cultural differences. So I'm really passionate about identifying these gaps or misconceptions, as you say, miscommunication so that we can bridge the gaps and benefit from the cultural diversity. So yes, I see a lot of this and it starts with self awareness and the sweets should be aware how we are perceived sometimes. So I can give you plenty of examples. Of course, failure stories are also good to take. So there's this vagueness, as I already mentioned, Swedes tend to have low key and use downgraders while Americans use more upgraders, which means that we use perhaps, maybe, et cetera, and Americans use more, we would call them exaggerations but more tougher speech. Okay, so there's this small technical company in southern Sweden and the Americans have bought it, but they're a bit hesitant about this purchase because all they hear from the Swedes are problems. They constantly when they contact the new Swedish company, they hear problems. So they come over to Sweden and they're going to see what the problems are and are really going to keep this very technical company.
And luckily we got to see the Swedish company before the Americans came. And we said we saw clearly the cultural misconception here. It was the fact that the Swedes don't want to be bragging about the 95% that's good in the company. So they talked about the 5% that had problems. So that's what the Americans heard. And maybe Swedes also tend to be a little bit more like focused on we want to see the worst case scenario. It's just not just the best case scenario. And maybe we are perceived as a bit of skeptical view and also more pessimistic. So joking aside, but you know, the 150 years ago, 1 million people emigrated from Sweden to America and maybe they were the optimists and here are we the pessimists. Maybe it could be the power of diversity here too. But let's be aware, americans tend to be a little bit more risk oriented and the Swedes see themselves as more realistic. So we told the Swedish company that now promote the company. It's not about bragging. Present the facts because we both want to talk about fact and present visions and skip the 5%. That's bad.
Talk about visions and success stories and say yes, I can, instead of I will try. So they did. They didn't go outside the comfort zone, but they widened the comfort zone. And the Americans were happy. We went back home, kept the company and it was a success.

Paul Arnesen
That's a great story.

Christina Rundcrantz
One of the misconceptions that I see and I would love to identify these gaps as early as possible of is.

Paul Arnesen
It'S interesting when you think about when you talk about companies and the way of promoting themselves and you think about some of the big Swedish companies like Ikea, Volvo, Scania. Like these companies I don't really remember. Every day doing a lot of heavy marketing. And they're good at branding. But being out there and saying we are the best furniture company, it's just they are the biggest player in it. They don't never really see it sort of like organically just grew into being a big company. The same, I guess, with Volvo through the years. Right. So I don't know if this is probably because if you had a kitana, I don't know if anyone have done that in Sweden. Probably they have looked at how Ikea evolved from being someone sitting in a garage making furniture to being this multi with still the Swedish roots very deeply intact. Right. Which is yes.

Christina Rundcrantz
And it's good that you bring out industrial history. I think that can explain also the differences between the Nordic countries because we have the raw material, iron ore and timber, steel and wood pulp and paper industry. And that created, as you say, these huge companies for a small population and maybe you didn't have to promote yourself and also you became proud of the engineering skills. But I listened to a presentation from one of the former directors at Volvo. I should mention his name because hopefully I convey quote correctly and convey his message. He said Swedes have a tendency of it's not really possible to translate it, but I try complacent shyness in Swedish hulgud blig samit. And he said, it's good to be proud of the engineering skills, but we mustn't be arrogant thinking the Swedish way is the best way. There's a balance there. So when we sell our products in China, for example, maybe they don't think that Volvo is the best. So let's not be complacent thinking that we are the best anyway. We don't need to make an effort. And then he said Modesty or shyness? He said maybe that's nice.
Also in Asia you're supposed to be modest, but maybe we have to promote ourselves a little bit more. Maybe China has never heard about Volvo. So he actually said we we work a lot with these big technical companies, of course, in Sweden, and we see that there's exactly what you're saying, this tendency of we are big and we are dominant and maybe we don't have to promote ourselves as much as you say.

Paul Arnesen
Yeah, and I think it's one of the big case studies in cross cultural management. The leadership is it's not about Sweden, but I was just thinking about a comparison about how Ikea is practically anywhere in the world. But you have something like Walmart, the story about Walmart going into Germany and it failed completely because they took a culture very American and wanted to implement in a German like in Germany, and it failed miserably. But the Ikea way of running business universally seems to work really well anywhere you go. And that's kind of interesting. If I go to Ikea, I'm in Italy. Go to Ikea. I see the people are sort of trained to be the same everywhere you go. I've been to Portugal, Ikea, I've been to many Ikea and it seems to be a culture that is easy to not a culture that's the wrong word, but like a way of running a business that is easy to adopt in some sense and train people into. Is that something that makes sense?

Christina Rundcrantz
And I would say, yeah, definitely. And that's the intention, I think. Now, Ikea is not here to explain, but I can say that that's the intention to promote the corporate culture of Ikea. But once again, don't underestimate the national cultural influence on Swedish companies. If you think about it, the business idea of Ikea, it's furniture. Everybody should be able to furnish their homes. We need to furnish our homes. We have big homes, but the climate is different. We meet in our homes. And wooden furniture, maybe from the beginning, lots of timber and then again, not too expensive, not too cheap, so affordable for everyone. And also efficient packing. So it really relates to all these Swedish values of modesty, equality, efficiency. So it's fine promote it as Ikea culture, but it's definitely very much of a Swedish culture. And even if you ask for a job at Were, I don't know, no HR is here, but if you walk in with your gold necklace and your Gucci bag and be bragging, maybe they might tell you that it's not the corporate culture of Ikea. But I would say it's very much of a Swedish culture too.

Paul Arnesen
Yeah, no, it will be a fascinating case study. Maybe I will look into that because I think or I will look for someone who's done that research because I'm pretty sure there exists something out there about this. Just the last fact you mentioned there with the gold saying I will see the stereotypical know that you said that will go into a corporate job in Ikea. Just for context, just so I can generalize a little bit about the Italians, there's an episode of Italy, so you can listen to it, where she explains that they have this concept of bella figura, which means that you dress up nice, you show off a little bit and that's accepted. And that's very opposite of a Swedish country.

Christina Rundcrantz
And it's necessary in a competitive country like Italy to stand out. But in a homogeneous small country like Sweden, it wasn't necessary. But maybe, as I said, maybe we can influence each other to enrich and create a new culture. I mean, the role model, the founder of Ikea, Ingvar Kamprad, the IK, of course was a symbol of that modesty. The way the old Volvo he drove and the clothes and he said no business class flying and all that. So that is dominating the culture still, I guess.

Paul Arnesen
And this kind of talked a little bit about this modesty and the way of the Swedish professional. And let's change to thinking about someone who now is coming to Sweden and maybe wants to settle down with their family or they go for an expat mission. How is it to socialize with the Swedish, make friends with them and just be around them? How do they see? How is a social life for someone in Sweden in general?

Christina Rundcrantz
So Sweden is a lot of surveys on this, on expert life. And Sweden is a tough country to move to. I mean, I say to my Indian talents moving to Sweden, I say you don't move to Sweden because of the food or the climate. You move to Sweden in spite of the food and the climate. And maybe the work life balance, for example. That's an attraction, even if it's confusing sometimes. But I do think when we talk about social life in Sweden, it is difficult and it would help. I try to give certain pieces of advice. Of course, if you visualize Swedes like not only the engineer that we talked about, the obsessed engineer with the perfect product, but also the coconut. Now, in cultural discussions, people know about this metaphor of a peach and the coconut so sweets are very much the coconut culture like the hard shell. So like you said, the Walmart implementing the Peach culture, where you say, hello, how are you? What can I do for you? Didn't work in Germany and they still haven't opened in Sweden or Finland either. So this is a bit intrusive. So we have privacy, we have the shell.
So why do you smile at me? I don't know you and it is hard to get beyond that hard shell. But once you are there, we are friends, while of course the peach culture, we have to be fair here, there's a hard bit in the middle. So there's miscommunication here as well. And yes, I do say to people moving to Sweden, you need patience. We do have feelings, even if we do have feeling, empathy, even if we are supposed to control our feelings, they are there. And one way of opening that door or that shell would be to ask for help. So even if I do full day trainings, maybe this is the best piece of advice, whether it's privately or at the workplace. Because if you ask for help in Sweden, not only is it necessary, because nobody will help you unless you ask for help, because it's self reliance. If I run up to you and say, oh, I see you look a little bit helpless, then I'm insinuating that you cannot cope on our own and that's how we educate our kids. You cope on your own, you have this independent mind and you choose religion, political party, university, yourself.
Very confusing for others. So therefore I will advise them to ask for help, because that could and then it's universal. I think even sweets would help you, but only if you ask for help. And then another win win with the fact this situation, if you ask for help, is that if you ask for help, whether it's in the food store, ask for the best cheese, or at the workplace, you need help. Then you're humble because you admit that you don't know. Vulnerability is actually perceived as something positive. So you're humble and you're honest. You may say honesty is important in all cultures. Yeah, but the opposite, falseness or cheating, it's the quickest way of losing trust in Sweden, if it turns out that you lied or you're cheating. So it is important. And honesty, we know why you recruited, but here you ask for help, you're honest. And thirdly, you ask for help. So you're a team player. Oh, we like you. So just by asking for help, you're humble, honest and a team player. And then you touch upon three important values for Swedish people. So then again, about socializing. Yeah, patient, don't push it and ask for help.
And also don't judge. If Swedes don't show emotions, it's because of culture. Of course, it could be personality too.

Paul Arnesen
Yeah, of course. We have all different. And you said earlier, I think in many cultures, especially also in Sweden, there's a lot of second generation immigrants and they have a different selected lot of people from the Balkans that created a different personality. That's why, as you said earlier, generalization is very difficult when it comes to culture because there are so many backgrounds that is the inner layer of a personality that's been developed. But yeah, I see what you say there and I think also I want to mention this because what you're talking about is also very prevalent in both Norway and Denmark which that with freedom comes the responsibility. Right? That's sort of the essence of what you're saying here we are giving you all this freedom society is giving you and then as a child you do your homework by yourself and if you need help, you can ask, but they don't expect you to ask for help. You can figure it out yourself. That exists all over Scandinavia and it's very interesting how that maybe it's connected.

Christina Rundcrantz
To high trust culture. According to surveys, Scandinavian cultures have a high trust culture. It's not only trust in the state and authorities, it's also interpersonal trust. So it's connected to that. And the consequences are this individual freedom connected with individual responsibility.

Paul Arnesen
Yeah. So let's talk a little bit more about what because I think it's interesting to understand a little bit of how back to social life. Because a lot of times, especially from personal experience, when I move to another country or live in another culture, it's difficult to I could bring on what I like to do as a sort of after work activity, or even how I behave in the workplace and things I want to do, like lunch culture, for example, or socializing at the workplace. Or socializing after the workplace. So what's like the general way of for a suite to look at a week of normal work outside of holidays? How do they spend a day?

Christina Rundcrantz
So we plan the days we plan the days according to the kids activity and to the weather. You have to have five weather apps so you don't go tiki if it's sunny. So we start talking this is a good small talk. You start planning the weekend on Wednesday and then the most common question on Monday is how was your weekend? And maybe this is connected to the work life balance focus, which is my freedom is as important as my work, but I handle that balance myself, like we're saying. So to socialize after work is not that common. Even if you love or like your colleagues, you have different social life and different bubbles. That's also what I say to people moving to Sweden. You have to create your own bubbles because don't expect the company to organize things for you. We try to do that. We even have a word for know in Brazil. You can just go out with your colleagues. You don't need a word for it. But Swedes have to schedule it. So we have a word, not just for FICA. It's a spontaneous activity, isn't it? But it's scheduled spontaneity the coffee breaks.
And we even have a newer word. Well, RV. We call it RV, but it really is. Have you heard of that, Paul?

Paul Arnesen
No, that's new for me as well.

Christina Rundcrantz
So all Swedes know about it. And RV, it's really a weird word in a way because RV, we don't use W, so it should be AW or RWV, but we say RV. And what we mean is after work activity. So it's like a concept that the Swedes have, innovated. And we might think it's an American thing, but it's not. Now I exaggerate a little bit, but it's like an activity where you can actually skip work and you schedule it. And now we're going to be spontaneous and we can also have some alcohol and it could be a Thursday. Okay, wild and crazy for Swede. So we call it ave. And that would be to go out, have a drink, could be alcohol with your colleagues and maybe even on a Thursday. Not just Friday, Saturday, actually, not on a Saturday. So it's connected to work and that's of course take part in those activities. So join the coffee breaks and join those RV activities because that's the moment when Swedes get a little bit more extrovert, maybe. But otherwise if I try and answer your question, I think the Swedes really try to we have these different bubbles, whether it's connected to your dog's activities or your kids activities, or your own sports or hobbies or singing in a choir.
And those different bubbles networks, they don't always meet. So if you want to get to know Swedes, you need to go into one of those spheres or bubbles, I would say.

Paul Arnesen
Yeah. Is it also like as you mentioned, which is I think it's very interesting for a lot of cultures outside of Sweden and Scandinavia is that when work ends, usually it ends much earlier than it does a lot of other parts of the world. Like I don't know when sort of a normal time in Sweden is. Would it be like four or 05:00 p.m. Then? Is it an activity? Like dinner and an activity? Or then you have the ave. And is that ave only for the weekends or can you do that sort of during the weekdays?

Christina Rundcrantz
I like your question. I like when we say why. And I think it's interesting, you a neighboring country asking to clarify for clarification. I think it's great. I love the why because it makes me aware that once again, it's not universal and it's not even understood in Norway. So talking about the work hours so we do have this high trust, the work life balance focus. And we wouldn't stay at the office just because the manager is there. We might not even know who the manager is. And then I say to ambitious, competitive people coming into Sweden for their career. Not for the food or the climate, for their career. And how can I have a meeting? There's no Swede at the office at 03:00. They're all gone on a Friday. On a Friday? Maybe 304:00 on a Friday. And then I'll say to them, be happy you're not in Norway, because nobody's at the office after twelve on Friday. You are correct. But then some people might object and say, no, the corporate culture in Sweden is very competitive now. So for sure we work more than 40 hours. Yeah, you might do that, but the perception of working hard is different.
So this Indian girl, very talented manager, she said, yeah, in India, that was part of me climbing the career ladder to work the 50 hours. And I knew I would be called into the office and get a promotion. I counted on that. That was my plan. And in Sweden and Norway, I would say it's more like, oh, you're working 50 hours. We don't want you to get to burnout. We want sustainable labor and also insinuating. Maybe the Norwegians will say it, but Swedes won't say it, but insinuating. Oh, you're not time efficient, you're working more than 40 hours. So we accept that people go home. And also, maybe this is a misconception conception as well, that yeah. So we might leave 04:00, hopefully not in the middle of a strategic meeting, because we have to be aware how that's perceived. But still we can leave. Pick up the kids at the daycare centers because usually both parents work and you have this scheduled day, and then the kids are in bed and you might work in the evening. So this is what you said about individual freedom and responsibility. So this could be a misconception that we don't work hard, but we work hard, maybe even in the evening.

Paul Arnesen
Yeah. I think it's a very important for a listener from outside to see that it's not about and I think all back to also, they're not about bragging. Like working too many hours can be seen as bragging, look at me, how hard I'm working. And it can be, as you said, looked down upon. You should be more efficient with your time. And we are giving you we give you all this freedom. So you take your own responsibility and we want them. I think also that's something that is true with Swedes work life balance is important. And it's become very important in the last two, three decades about giving people time to reset and sort of relax and spend time with the family and then get back to work. And they're happier when they come back to work on Monday if they had a good weekend off. Right?

Christina Rundcrantz
Yeah, that's the idea. And of course, even if it's confusing for others, it could also be an attraction to work for certain companies who have this acceptance to stay at home if your child is home sick, for example.

Paul Arnesen
So you mentioned a little bit about sort of careers and everything. You mentioned that the example with the Indian woman, how they sort of see me working hard is evidence for my manager to give me a promotion. So how does the suite look at career? What sort of is a good thing to do at the workplace to give you a promotion to grow into the system? Or is that even a thing? Is that something that they would like to do to sort of have an opportunity to grow into become the manager or CEO of a company?

Christina Rundcrantz
Yeah, two good questions, because is it desirable? Do we aspire to become the manager? We don't even have a word for aspire in Swedish, really. So what does it mean? Do I work more, have less free time, manage more people, maybe more problems? Do I have a higher salary? Do I pay more tax? So a lot of factors to consider, and there are surveys about this, whether that's a trigger to motivate Swedes or not. And also the other day I got the question from a foreigner working in a Swedish team and she said, it's all about being a team and how can I differentiate myself because I want to make a career? So I think it was an excellent question and somebody else in the audience actually answered. And he said immediately, it shines through. If you're a good team player and you share information, you support each other and it will shine through, you will get your promotion. And then I added to that, that you have to plan your own career. You might not get that promotion. You have to show that you take initiatives, think outside the box and plan your own career.
So that's what I believe in. And of course you can. But it could be tricky for foreigners moving to Sweden and wanting to make a career because they feel a bit restless. And I'm actually passionate about capitalizing on this drive that the Scandinavian countries get from people from other countries with more competitive cultures, this drive. So let's bridge the gap here. If you have this drive, take initiatives, ask for feedback, ask for promotions, even, or trainings, whatever you want. And Swedish managers should also be a little bit more present and make sure you capitalize on this drive and ambition. Because one more thing. Swedes who go abroad, they do it mainly for the adventure of the family. But the majority that we meet, they come to Sweden for the career. So don't forget that the trigger, even there is different why you move.

Paul Arnesen
Yeah. And I think if you are listening to this and you are from a culture where you know that because the colleagues you work with is all about the hours you put into work, like basically the hours you stay, that's not the case. Right. It's more about what you do in the hours you're given or the hours you take, right? You take the hours you need to make an output instead of just I know, just as a personal anecdote. I used to live in Portugal and I studied actually HR in Portugal learned a lot about the Portuguese work culture. And they actually make I don't know if that's true anymore, but they used to make offices with a room to rest when you didn't have anything more to do. So you can spend the last hour before you clocked out. It was so important to stay until 06:00 p.m. Or whatever they left even if you had nothing more to do. They had a room where you can go and play pool and sit down. So it was all about showing top management that you clocked out after 06:00 p.m., even though you have nothing more to do.
Which seems very inefficient, but it's just the way different context. Yeah, different context, for sure.

Christina Rundcrantz
Adding to what you're saying, swede said to the Indian team member, he said, oh, it's Friday evening. Why do you work so late? It's 04:00 now. 05:00. Let's say 05:00, you should go home and care for your family. And the Indian guy said, that's what I do, I care for my family. That's why I'm here. So different contexts of.

Paul Arnesen
Yeah, for sure, it's different context. But I also wanted to mention a friend of mine, although Norwegian, we share very similar culture. He used to work in a finance sector in London and he actually adopted the culture there of staying late at work because it was important for potential promotions within the company. Even though as a Norwegian, he will probably go out and do a run in the park at 04:00 p.m.. But he stayed until 06:00 p.m., even though there was nothing to do, just so he can have evidence for his manager that he was working late and that was a good thing. So London, UK. Not that far. You don't have to say that it's like the South Europe culture is that way or this way. These kind of bubbles of culture everywhere.

Christina Rundcrantz
Yeah, but it's a good thing to bring up and clarify. And I think the Scandinavian countries are the exceptions here. And we have to be aware that it's even contraproductive, I would say, at least in this flat management style. In Gothenburg, where I am, it's even contraproductive if the manager says, I would like you to stay at the office until 05:00 today. This would inspire the challenging Swede to do the opposite. That's why I will go home or take an even longer coffee break, whatever. So it's even contraproductive to insinuate that you do something to please the manager. So how do you trigger a Swede to work harder? Well, in Sweden they say you have neither a wit nor a carrot, so you can't really fire people. It's actually even easier in Denmark than in Sweden. So because of job security, good or bad, but safe security, you keep your job. It's really difficult to fire someone. So you can't threaten with that. And then the carrots, how much carrots do you have? Can you raise the salary? Yeah, but we have this tax system where the taxes are progressive, et cetera. And then the jumper law on top of that.
If you buy that fancy car, your neighbors might look down on you. So maybe this is disappearing a little bit, but it's still interesting. So therefore it's even contrastructive if you insinuate that you should do it, because I'm telling you I'm the boss, the Swedes would do the opposite. And we perceive that as micromanagement. And this is the quickest way of getting rid. You don't need to fire them, they leave. The swedes leave. It's not that we dislike micromanagement, we are allergic to it and we perceive you could say the whole world is allergic to micromanagement. Yeah, but the level where it's perceived, it's much quicker. So even if you say I'd like you, how do you know what plans I have before Tuesday?

Paul Arnesen
Yeah, exactly. And I think this was one of the questions I would have for you as well, is how do you motivate if you have a Swedish person on your team? A lot of my network, and maybe listeners as well, is they run companies that are remote first and they hire people from around the world. And if they are looking to hire someone from Sweden, I think it's just exactly what you mentioned because I think that companies that do hire people from different cultures need to have awareness of how it works for individuals. So if you put like a system where there's lot of check ins during the day, a lot of micromanagement, you basically will turn them off and they will look for other opportunities, right?

Christina Rundcrantz
Yes, exactly. So be aware of that because we want to optimize our teams and be aware, I think what you said also be aware, all of us, how we are perceived. Maybe it's not even reality, but it's how we are perceived. And Swedish culture is extreme in many.

Paul Arnesen
I mean, it's super fascinating and I think now we are getting a good picture of a Swedish professional and then how it is to work and live in Sweden, at least on the contextual level. There's better ways to learn about this. By being there, for example, you will learn more practical experience is always the best. But say that you are working now as a manager. You're not from Sweden. Maybe you're looking at going into Sweden, maybe you're a business owner, you want to expand into Sweden or maybe you just want to hire someone from the what would a person generalizing again, very much from Sweden, what would they bring to a multicultural team? If you put like a Swedish person on a team and they are mixed of different cultures, what would their sort of strength be?

Christina Rundcrantz
So I like that the power of cultural diversity. How can we optimize each other's strengths? And maybe, like you said, Italians are a little bit more competitive. You have this ambition and drive, so we need to capitalize on that. And what can Swedes contribute with? I think we have this idea of thinking outside the box. That's what we taught when we are young. Take your own initiative, think outside the box. And maybe here again, maybe we are so good at thinking outside the box. So we are so obsessed about thinking outside the box, we don't even know what the box looks like anymore. So maybe we have this German teamwork who's expert on the box. So this is the power of diversity here. So I think we're good at taking out on initiatives and whether it's always good and bad with every cultural behavior. But Sweden is high on innovation. So is that because we can challenge superiors, we don't get fired because we admit a mistake, or we say to the manager that you are wrong. So we had direct communication up and indirect down, the opposite to the rest of the world. So when we challenge superiors like PP Longstocking, Greta Thunberg, it's perceived as disrespectful, maybe.
But the good thing is that you maybe can open up for the company's weaknesses and that could maybe be beneficial, this challenging superiors for innovation, for a company. And I also think that you can trust the suite. So here's a typical Swinglish communication, if I may say so. We speak English, but in a Swedish way. So the Swedish manager says to the other suite we forget please. By the way, we are perceived as very rude. We don't open the door for you because you can open the door yourself. And we don't use please in the Swedish language. Really? So I forget please too when I speak English. So the suite says to the other one, we don't want to be bosses. So we wrap up the order as a question. So could you maybe write this report by Tuesday if you feel like it? Maybe if you have the time, perhaps? And then there's some silence. And silence is positive for Sweden. It means I respect your question and I don't want to lie. Lying is taboo. So I make sure I can fix that on Tuesday. So then I say I will try, and I translate that into English.
This means write that order on Tuesday. Yes, I promise. But it's perceived as a vague answer. I even worked with, actually with an Italian company, and I said we can't keep you as a supplier, because whenever I ask if you can deliver, you say I will try. But I translated to the Italian. I said this means they will do it. Well, to me it sounds like more like a vague no, a diplomatic no. So we think we speak global English, but in Swinglish, I will try it's closer to a yes, but in Italian, English, I will try is maybe closer to diplomatic way of saying I don't think I will do it and I will try. What it means in Gothenburg English, the answer I will try. It means like this I promise I will do that report for Tuesday and if I don't do it, I will get back to you and inform you. And don't you dare to micromanage me before Tuesday. Leave me alone in the meantime.

Paul Arnesen
Oh my God. This hits a little bit home to me as well because I'm with an Italian and I think in Norway we have a little bit of a similar way of thinking or saying. So this is a breeding ground for a lot of smaller discussions that we.

Christina Rundcrantz
Have because marriages personality is culture.

Paul Arnesen
It is culture. It's culture. It's a constant learning experience. You're never fully educated in these things, so it's super interesting. Okay, I wanted to ask you I don't know if you I sent this question in advance, so maybe you had time to think about this, because I know that now I have talked to an expert from Norwegian culture, Danish culture and now you're from Swedish culture. You probably don't do much training with Danish or Norwegian companies. But do you have any or you do? That's good if you do. But is there anything that sets Sweden apart within the Scandinavian context? If you think about Norway, Denmark and Sweden up against each other that maybe a listener could find interesting, because I think for a lot of people outside, they see I hear that a lot. They know I'm from Norway, but they say you're from Sweden. Right. They don't really all the time see the difference between those three countries. But we do.

Christina Rundcrantz
Yeah. And I think your question is really relevant because they are seemingly similar, the neighbors, and you're not prepared for the culture shock because you think we have the same history as Scandinavia. And that's when the culture shock could be harder because you don't expect it. So we actually do a lot of trainings about Scandinavian differences because we mustn't minimize them. So what sets Sweden apart, maybe because of historical reasons, are we a little bit we talked about this at the beginning a little bit more conformist, not sticking out. For example, the Danes of know, they perceive as much more frank and they think that we are vague. I can't trust you, you don't tell it like it is. And we say to the Danes, are you too frank? You are rude with me. And maybe we can benefit from that difference too, but we need to be aware of it for the Norwegians. You tell me, but I think there's a little bit more frankness too, and a little bit less of conformist. That's what I would say. And a little bit of even softer culture. I don't know if we could remember the Hofstede dimensions about soft and tough culture.
Masculinity Femininity and Sweden is extreme there we soften the language, we soften the orders. It's compromise, consensus, cooperation. So there I see Sweden being a little bit more soft and a little bit more indirect in communication style. And I think there's a little in Nova, I think there's a little bit more acceptance that the manager decides. At least in Finland there's a little more acceptance in Denmark. It's not that they accept that the manager decides above your head, but it's more action orientation. So yeah, go on, just go ahead with it. So when they built the bridge between Denmark and Sweden, one of the differences was the process oriented suite, big companies, consensus. We set all the details sitting in meetings and then the Danes started digging before the Swedes and they wondered, what are the Swedes doing on the other side? And we're sitting in meetings and then we started and the Danes a little bit more less big companies started to construct the bridge before the Swedes and maybe stopped a bit, get backwards a little bit. And then we met in the middle of the bridge with two different methods. So there were some differences that I think we need to clarify even between the Scandinavian cultures.
Yeah, very relevant.

Paul Arnesen
And I think everything you're saying is completely correct. I want to say one thing just also from the context that I'm Norwegian, is that I think that the Norwegians is much more a culture where they are very proud of being Norwegian. So they stay in Norway for like I traveled all over the world and I lived with very few Norwegians. I meet very few Norwegians abroad. I meet a lot of Swedish people, I meet a lot of Danish people. They are a little bit because could be the social welfare system that is very similar across Scandinavia, but in Norway it's a little bit different. All the money from the oil has developed sort of a very protective culture, not part of the EU, for example. I think that's also an important distinction to make there.

Christina Rundcrantz
You can see it like you further geographically, further north and more independent, not in EU and all maybe and also exposed to threat more than wars, more than Sweden. So maybe that has created this more of a patriotism. And if one sign of being patriotic, is that's how you celebrate your national day? The 6 June, the National Day of Sweden was not even a holiday before. And of course, as you said, the 17 May is celebrated all over the world.

Paul Arnesen
Yeah, no, it's a big deal. Another, just as an interesting observation you can make is how we do lunch culture. It's very different in Sweden and Norway, at least. I'm not 100% sure about how it is in Denmark now, but I know that for example, in Sweden you do go out for a hot lunch, restaurants, bars. If you work in a professional setting. In Norway, you have your food from home and you eat it by the desk in 15 minutes so that you.

Christina Rundcrantz
Can go home at four and have your family time. Yeah, exactly. How can you possibly eat two hot meals a day?

Paul Arnesen
No, it is possible, and it's also.

Christina Rundcrantz
Being a team play, getting together at that lunch hour. But that's good to be aware of and we can explain.

Paul Arnesen
Yeah, this is also a way of I think if you're coming from outside of thinking about the way of socializing, that at least in Sweden you have that opportunity to sit down at lunch with someone because it's very common to do it at the workplace, which in Norway is less common. There's more companies doing it now. Obviously they have like work cafeterias at workplace and stuff to do that. But I think from my experience being in Sweden, doing some seminars many years ago, it's like this lunch was completely packed, the restaurants during lunch hours.

Christina Rundcrantz
And here we're talking about culture differences. Norway, Sweden relative the aspect of food and lunch and time. And there's a difference. And then you can imagine the difference to Brazil, for example, where food is important for relationship building. And there the Swedes are perceived in Brazil as, oh, you're so fact oriented, why don't you spend this 1 hour with me? Don't you want to get to know me? So beware Norwegians going to well, I.

Paul Arnesen
Used to live in Brazil a little bit. Yeah, you did different conversations. Yeah, you did. So we're getting up to the hours and I have just a couple of more things to ask you. And the first thing is Sweden. Obviously, popular culture is a big thing. I wanted to mention it earlier when you talked about the Swedish mentality. And I think creativity is one thing that you really have. You have a lot of really big musical bands like Abai is obviously the one that comes to mind first. But in general, movie directors, like film stars and everything, super culture. So I think that if someone wants to learn more about Sweden, is there anything you can point them to that is like typical Swedish, that if you're not in Sweden that you should look at, maybe it could be a movie, a series, something to listen to, something to read about.

Christina Rundcrantz
Yeah, to begin with, I think the best way you're bridging gaps is to get to know the Swedes, of course, to get an understanding, be curious. There's a lot of literature, actually lots of books about the crazy Swedes. And that will help. I have a whole list on LinkedIn about books and then films. I watched a TV series called welcome to Sweden. It was contrasting the US and Sweden, but still very good about the Swedish culture. So the more films and books you read about Sweden, and the more you interact with Swedes and ask these curious questions, the more stereotypes wither, I quote and say so I really believe in getting to know the individual so that we can bridge the gaps.

Paul Arnesen
As I said, there are so many really good movies, swedish made movies that tells a lot about the culture. I know from watching them myself. Obviously, being from a place in Norway very close to the Swedish border, where basically also different cultures, stockholm gotten know how they are different there. Even if you see a movie set in Stockholm and you see a movie set in Gothenburg, they can be very different styles.

Christina Rundcrantz
Yeah, that's another seminar about regional differences. Of course they exist, but like we said, from the outside, people can even see Scandinavia as one culture.

Paul Arnesen
Exactly.

Christina Rundcrantz
One should consider that.

Paul Arnesen
Absolutely. Okay, well, we've been talking for almost an hour before we end it. First of all, thank you very much for your time. And now I want to let the listeners try to find you online and connect with you and BBI if that's something they would like to explore more. So what's the best way of getting in touch with you?

Christina Rundcrantz
I think with BBI and myself through LinkedIn, I think it's a great tool to expand your network and exchange ideas. And I find it very useful LinkedIn.

Paul Arnesen
Communication and your personal LinkedIn as well, obviously.

Christina Rundcrantz
Christina Rundcrantz. Rundcrantz. Exactly.

Paul Arnesen
I will link all of this in the description of the episode so anyone listening or watching this can find all the information. Also all the details about Christina you will find there. And anything you want to add in the end that you haven't been able to talk about or you wanted to talk about, or any thoughts.

Christina Rundcrantz
I can add one misconcept as well. I was in the US doing a six hour workshop on Swedish business culture. And the conclusion was that the Americans said you Swedes, you under promise and over deliver. And I said, Isn't that good? Under promise, we say eight weeks, then we deliver after six weeks. No, it's lack of commitment. It's better to say six week and maybe even extend it. There's lack of commitment from the suites and then over deliver. Isn't that good? We exceed your expectations. No, said the Americans. If we order two screws, we don't want four screws. So et cetera. So you have this perfect the engineer that wants the perfect product, and you have a more risk oriented or ready to launch side from the Americans. So be aware about these differences.

Paul Arnesen
That's my that's an excellent example to end this conversation about a very clear cultural difference between a very big culture that's American. I think that if you're from a US work culture and you want to comment on this, I would love to hear what your opinion about this? Why is it really like this? And I haven't talked to someone from the US yet, but I would be curious to hear the answer to this basically from the Americans. In the end. Okay, perfect. Thank you very much. Enjoy the rest of your day and find the episode on WorkingWithUs co. And it will be on all podcast platforms and on YouTube as a video. So thank you very much.

Christina Rundcrantz
Thank you very much. Thank you, for inviting me. Bye bye. Have a nice day.

Paul Arnesen
Have a nice day.