“During the darkest winter months, I worked on a short term assignment for Essity in Mölndal and fell in love with the country, the Swedes and my Mexican partner. After this expat period I moved back to The Netherlands and started working on the possibility to move to Sweden permanently. The HR department of Essity and I worked on my relocation. Practical arrangements were made, the move went smoothly, a colleague accompanied me to the authorities to get my personal number, I attended a language course in Swedish and participated in a workshop on cultural communication and cultural differences. All ingredients for a great start”.
Besides being a new member, you are also engaged as a volunteer for the Dutch Chamber in organizing events along the west coast. Can you tell us about your ideas?
“Working for Essity as a trademark attorney at the Intellectual Property department, I see what impact the Covid-19 virus has on our business, but also on people’s daily lives. We will be sharing some challenges, opportunities and changes in way of working via a webinar for The Dutch Chamber. One of my colleagues will inform participants about the company, the impact of the Corona-virus on the way of doing business, and she will present the results of the latest hygiene & health survey. In the survey, Essity examined the connection between health, hygiene, and people’s well-being by talking to 10,000 people in ten countries about their attitudes and behaviors during COVID-19. How often do people wash their hands every day? Do people still shake hands to greet each other? She will also talk about the direct impact on Essity’s business (remember the worldwide toilet paper hoarding?) and how Essity’s brands such as TORK contribute to a better health and hygiene. It will be an interactive webinar where we will have time for discussion and where Dutch Chamber members can meet each other at a safe distance”.
And it does not stop at this webinar, does it? Something with an intercultural expat support program?
“The workshop on intercultural communication and cultural differences that I mentioned earlier was truly helpful when I first moved to Sweden. It is based on the theory of Hofstede. I warmly recommend attending this workshop to everybody who works cross cultural. We will communicate the date for this workshop to all members as soon as possible under the current Corona restrictions.
At many different levels there can be communication problems between colleagues, companies or countries and increasing the understanding of the cultural differences it will minimize possible frustration and will help to understand each other in a better way. One may think that the cultural differences between The Netherlands and Sweden are small, but the contrary is proven. And this workshop will provide you with insights how to successfully do business in Sweden.
One of the differences that I noticed was that the Swedes have a lot of meetings, pre-meetings and even pre-pre-meetings. Just to give everybody a possibility of being involved in the matter and creating a well-supported decision. In The Netherlands we tend to be far more direct and to the point. Another aspect of the job in Sweden is the fika, which is the holy grail. Far more important than making over-hours, skipping breaks, going the extra mile. Here the social aspect of work is most relevant for getting things done”.
You mentioned it was part of the intercultural expats support program. Do you still see yourself as an expat?
“The way I live in Sweden nowadays is more as an immigrant. I work according to a Swedish contract. But as long as I don’t speak Swedish fluently there is still a part of me that says I am an expat.”
What made you connect to the Dutch Chamber?
“I have been in Sweden for one and a half years now. My social network exists of my Swedish colleagues and my Mexican friends. I feel it is time to re-connect with my Dutch roots and build a network here in Gothenburg with fellow countrymen. Building my career and making great steps within Essity is my ambition in Sweden plus creating a professional network. The Dutch Chamber can play a role in this. On a personal level I would like to really integrate in Sweden and understand the Swedish culture, learn Swedish and be an international citizen.”
Welcome to the Dutch Chamber Esther!
/Viola Pettersson Vergouwe