My experiences with Swedish 🇸🇪 and Indian 🇮🇳 work culture

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

At first, a formal note to say that this blog is not about Sweden vs India.

I recently moved to Sweden to work for a FinTech and am almost blown away and overwhelmed at the same time to experience Swedish work culture.

It has been 3 months since I moved here and this is a sensitive topic (obviously!). So, take it with a pinch of salt and don’t get offended 😅

When people of different cultures work for the same company they do not know each other, they are uncertain about the other parts intention and the meaning of the words that are spoken. They might not understand the behaviour of the other and could even be offended by it. Knowing the culture of people we are working with plays a crucial part in strong cooperation and collaboration among people with different values and views of life.

Here are my experiences …

Flat hierarchy

I have experienced a flat hierarchy in Sweden. People do not fear to express their thoughts. Everyone's opinion is respected. It's not weird to question your senior and an intern can challenge a CEO of the company if she/he feels her/his idea is better 💪

I know there are some cool startups in India that encourage people to open up, however, this kind of culture is very rare and scarce in IT companies in India.

In India, it is not uncommon for managers to take their employees for granted. During my bachelor time, I was constantly bothered by my manager to work at weekends for free. When questioned “Why” he would say

“You are a Bachelor, what better things would you do over weekends ?”

Saying NO has also impacted my performance appraisals.
As moronic and Ironical this statement sounds, this is a harsh reality in India mostly, in service-based companies.

In Indian society, there is a vertical hierarchy. The person with a heavier designation often has some level of dominance. You too would have encountered these HiPPOs.

To back my feeling, I researched a bit and came across Hofstede’s cultural dimensions theory.

One of the dimensions from his theory is called the Power Distance Index(PDI). It means the extent to which less powerful members of organizations accept and expect that power is distributed unequally.

India scores 77 in PDI as compared to Sweden 31. This less score implies that more people in that country feel that the power is distributed equally.

Work-life balance

People emphasize work-life balance in Sweden.

Knowing when to stop working is one of the things I am still learning from Swedes.
Swedes prioritise personal time as much as they prioritise work. Your manager would not ask you weird favours of working on weekends or odd timings for free. People do spend more time only when the job demands it.

While talking with my colleagues here, I learned that people give greater importance to their hobbies.
Retrospectively, I always felt that I didn’t have enough time for my hobbies, but in reality, I always had time for my hobbies but I never prioritized my hobbies over my work. This might be because, for me, the definition of success was to win by competing with others and outperforming everyone.

This closely relates to Hofstede’s dimension of Masculinity(MAS). It is defined as “a preference in society for achievement, heroism, assertiveness and material rewards for success”. Its counterpart represents “a preference for cooperation, modesty, caring for the weak and quality of life”.

📊 India scores 56 in MAS where Sweden scores 5.

Masculinity is extremely low in Nordic countries: Norway scores 8 and Sweden only 5. In contrast, Masculinity is very high in Japan (95), and in European countries like Hungary, Austria and Switzerland influenced by German culture. In the Anglo world, masculinity scores are relatively high with 66 for the United Kingdom for example. Latin American countries present contrasting scores: for example, Venezuela has a 73-point score whereas Chile’s is only 28. — Wikipedia

Individualism

I felt Swedes are a bit more reserved than Indians. Indian colleagues open up among their peers pretty quick. It is very common in India that someone would lend you a helping hand even before you asked for help 🤗

It is also very common that your colleagues would wait for you to finish your work so that you can have your lunch together. It is a cultural thing where we find it rude not to do so.
This is not common in Sweden and It takes a long time to develop such good personal relationships with your peers.

My observation can be measured with the dimension of Individualism(IDV)

IDV: This index explores the “degree to which people in a society are integrated into groups”.
Individualistic societies have loose ties that often only relate an individual to his/her immediate family. They emphasize the “I” versus the “we”. Its counterpart, collectivism, describes a society in which tightly-integrated relationships tie extended families and others into in-groups. These in-groups are laced with undoubted loyalty and support each other when a conflict arises with another in-group.

India scores 48 📉 whereas Sweden scores 71 📈

Hofstede’s dimensions

Salary hikes

This is another aspect which might be completely different in both the countries. In Sweden, salaries are pretty much standard. There might not be a substantial difference in salaries even when you switch companies.

In India, especially in Bangalore, I would not be surprised if someone gets a 100 –150 % hike in a job switch 😆

And … Fika!!!

A widely practised culture in Sweden where people come together for a cup of Coffee and Cinnamon buns and have a good time. It usually happens at mid-afternoon at my office and It is often considered rude not to join Fika. I love Coffee and I love Fika ❤️

In India too, people come together for a quick snack and coffee and have a good time. They just don’t call it Fika 😄

Again, these are my opinions and I have no intentions to offend anyone 🙂
I hope this would give people a fair idea of what to expect if he/she is considering Sweden for work.

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Learning the Feynman technique. https://devcharmander.me/

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Surya Reddy

Surya Reddy

Learning the Feynman technique. https://devcharmander.me/

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