1. We are ruled by the seasons
The first warm day of spring, I noticed a marked change in my coworkers. The somber Swedes of the winter had transformed into frolicking nymphs already making plans for Midsommar. The kitchen was filled with laughter and play-wrestling and slightly fewer people wore their black jeans. Now we’re heading back into Seventh Seal season…
2. Drinking with colleagues (the ‘’afterwork’’) is acceptable and if you’re lucky – subsidized
As far as I can tell, an ‘’afterwork’’ is a made-up English word coined by Swedes. It describes employees going out for drinks and bonding after work. What makes it better is that our company sees the inherent value of shared drinks and provides free beers after work every Friday and monthly themed parties. Beer-pong/food truck ‘’American’’ night was probably my favorite. Although, our last one was on a boat. Beer + Boats = the magic formula for retaining me as an employee.
3. ‘’Everyone is equal’’
This was told to me abruptly by someone in IT during my first week at the company. It felt really Animal Farm at the time but now I’ve come to love the Swedish flat business structure and have seen how it drives innovation. Maybe that’s why Sweden is being called the start-up capital of Europe.
4. We drink a lot of coffee – and we drink it strong
Strong coffee is delicious. It makes me feel all badass and cozy at the same time. Coffee is savored during a ‘’fika’’ which is a Swedish word for so, so much more than a coffee break. If you would like to implement a workplace fika, follow these instructions: take twenty guilt-free minutes, kick your feet up, enjoy a cinnamon bun, and bask in the jazzed-up relaxation with your work friends.
5. The kitchen is a terrifying social terrain
Everyone has their time on the kitchen schedule and when it’s not your turn in the kitchen, you’re still expected to clean up after yourself. Nothing crazy here. That is until a fake surveillance camera is put up in the kitchen, strange photoshopped images are sent in mass emails, and the staff receives regular strongly-worded, guilt-inducing emails from the receptionist letting you know your mother does not in fact work here. My Swedish man at home says this is par for the course in this country’s office culture.
6. I’m allowed to be sick
Right now in Sweden, the first sick day is unpaid. I think of that as their protection against paying people to be hungover. Then the following days are paid at 80% until, at some point, you need a doctor’s note. I think it’s an awesome, sensible system. It’s far more logical to me than having an allotted amount of sick days – because – being sick doesn’t follow a schedule.
7. I’m also allowed to have kids
That’s right, folks. I’m still too immature to contemplate the realities of childbirth so I’m missing out on this one. However, in Sweden you get paid leave to stay home with your kids until you can put them in state-subsidized day-care. Swedish parents are entitled to 480 days of parental leave and 60 of those are reserved for the papa.
-Abby Guthrie writes for Educations Media Group in Stockholm which recently launched Findcourses.com, a professional development search engine for North America.