Working in the U.S. vs. Sweden
Hej, Jag heter Hanna och jag kommer från Sverige!
(Hi my name is Hanna and I am from Sweden!)
I’ve lived in the U.S. for about 13 years now and have worked in several different environments and businesses all across the country, so I have a somewhat unique view on different work environments. I was born and raised in Sweden and lived there for 25 years. Coming to America, I learned quickly that the work culture is different than Sweden. And no - Sweden is not Switzerland, they are two separate countries, basically on the opposite ends of Europe. If I would have gotten a dollar for every time someone has made that mistake, I’d have a whole $50 by now.
We’ve pretty much all read or heard about the free health care and great benefits the Swedes receive, and what a wonderful country it is. I often have friends tell me that they need to move to Sweden. In Sweden, there is a huge safety net, from the day you are born. That is also why they pay very high taxes. I believe that this gives people a different type of work ethic. And I’m not talking about them not being on time or not performing well etc. It’s more about the privileges Swedes actually have and, many times, don’t value and appreciate.
There are positive things about both countries, and I’ve come to absolutely love living and working in the U.S. because people are nicer, more open, more helpful, and the kind of neighborly love you see here doesn’t exist in Sweden.
So, what are the BIG differences?
I believe Swedes are very good at balancing work and quality time outside of work. There isn’t really a Swede that doesn't utilize their paid time off. And they do get a whole lot of it. 4-6 weeks each year depending on how long you’ve been with the company. And they will take all 4 or all 6 in one long stretch. This is where temps come in, which is great for college students. You can find a job over the summer and come back in future summers to that same job while finishing your studies.
Here in the U.S., vacation time is almost frowned upon. It’s more about how many extra hours you put in at the office. We are very fortunate here at Texas Creative, as we enjoy paid time off for both vacation and sick time, and are encouraged to use it. Although this cannot be said of all companies here in the states.
Swedes take their breaks seriously. We have a word, Fika, this is when you take a break, have some coffee or tea and a cinnamon roll, or any other baked goods. It’s very surprising that most Swedes are healthy with all the Fika that goes down the chute every day at 9 am and 3 pm. Here’s what CEO of Toca Boca, Bjorn Jeffery has to say, "In reality, it acts as a sort of lubricant for communication...It's a chance for people to talk to each other outside of formal meetings." Personally, I love a good fika! In the U.S. we don’t use breaks as they do in Sweden. If you work in an office there are no set times other than lunch and that is often eaten at your desk while still working.
At Texas Creative we also have Happy Hour, which is a chance for co-workers to chat about things other than work over a drink. The after work or happy hour culture is definitely not something I was accustomed to while living in Sweden, but I love a good happy hour with my colleagues.
Parental leave in Sweden is also on a whole other level, both the mother and the father get up to 16 months of paid time off. The time you can take off varies depending on how long you have been working as well as your earnings. You can basically stay home longer and still be paid (80%) if you choose to take fewer days paid per week. This works well if your significant other has a good enough income. But not only do you get paid parental leave, childcare is also not as expensive in Sweden as it is here. And from the day your baby is born you get a child allowance directly deposited into your bank account until your child is 18.
The U.S. will hopefully be making progress on this matter, but they are far, far behind Sweden. And I get it, this is not something that will change overnight. The U.S. has 327.2 million people, according to the United States Census Bureau, vs Sweden's circa 10.3 million per the statistics bureau SCB.
Do you utilize your paid time off? If so, what are some of your fun plans? Here’s another TXC read about why you should.