Working your way to Gothenburg

Understanding Swedish culture is the key to success


What are the differences between the Swedish, Chinese and American cultures? Why is the word “prestigelös” a positive word in Sweden and how do you present yourself as a newcomer in a job application in Sweden? The answers to these vital questions were presented last week at the event Working Your Way to Gothenburg, at West Sweden Chamber of Commerce. Due to the amount of attention for this event, a rerun has been scheduled for the 27th of October.




The event was arranged by Global Talent Gothenburg/West Sweden, the City of Gothenburg and Welcome Europé and is part of an effort to help international talents reach their career goals in Gothenburg.

First speaker on stage was Charlotta Brynger who works at CueMe, that offers cross-cultural competence. Multicultural teams perform better than homogenous team, she states. But in order to get a multicultural team to work, you need to understand the differences and work out where your strengths and vulnerabilities are. The word ”prestigelös” that means that you’re humble and sticking with your team, tells a lot about the Swedish way of seeing things.

Next speakers, entrepreneurs Liz Rider from LIS10 Ltd and Nicola Stockman from Lasting GmbH, talked about marketing your personal brand in the Swedish market. They both knew what they were talking about, as they were once newcomers in Sweden themselves. On stage, their presentation was a lot about focusing you offer and your targeted audience, and emphazised the importance of professional relationships.

The final speaker of the evening was Peter Karancsi from EURES (European Employment Services) who summed it up by talking a bit about the Swedish way of working in teams and organizations, and how to apply for a job in Sweden.

So what did the people in the audience experience as newcomers in Sweden and Gothenburg? Here are some of the answers:

Laure Charton

Laure Charton, France

I came for a master’s programme. In Gothenburg, when we ask for help, we get it. But I would have liked to have had more information about administrative things like banks, accommodation and health care.

I think this event was really interesting, especially in terms of the cultural differences, the behaviour and also to know a little bit about the Swedish market. In my time here I’ve noticed some differences and it was really good that it was put into words, situations where Swedes think we act weird or we think that they’ve acted weird.

Matthew McCafferty

Matthew McCafferty, Ireland

My girlfriend is Swedish and we moved here from Västervik one month ago because she got a job here. The things I find hard are what everyone would feel that doesn’t speak the language: finding jobs, networking. Every tip and information about what you should be doing and where you should be going is helpful. Not a lot of people know where to go, I think. My tip for a newcomer is: apply for everything very quickly. It can take quite a long time. Try to study Swedish as soon as you get here - that’s what I’ve been doing and it’s going ok.

Heleri Berlokko

Heleri Berlokko, Estonia

I came here two years ago as an exchange student at Chalmers. Now I’m back and doing my masters. When I first came here for nine months I wasn’t able to get a Swedish personal identity number and many things got really complicated because of that. I couldn’t get a customer card in the store, internet connection, even the Styr och Ställ-bikes. Now… there are always difficulties to find a place to live in Sweden. But it all sorts itself out. If you have some sort of network it will support you.

My tips for a newcomer is to make friends with Swedes. I had this huge mental barrier talking Swedish with other swedes. But the other people in my team were very supporting and slowly pushing me into talking and now it’s hard to keep me quiet.

I really liked that three of the people on stage tonight were women, and how they talked about being foreigners in this country. I think that they are really good role models. In my line of work, many of the workers are middle aged men, so I really liked to see women as successful examples.