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Swedish report
by Euro Reporter
2015-06-29 10:53:17
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Foreign workers need a specific kind of support

After two years working in banking in London, Canadian-born Ameek Grewal, 29, relocated to Stockholm a year ago and says he's boosted his health as well as his career by living among Swedes. When the opportunity to transfer from the British capital to Citibank's Nordic headquarters in Stockholm emerged in the spring of 2014, Grewal, who works as an analyst, says he grabbed it with both hands. "People might ask why I would move from London to Stockholm, but working in a smaller office means I get more exposure to senior management," he said. "Having spent a while in the UK, I was ready for a change of scenery. Working abroad means you get the chance to live in and explore a new place at the same time as continuing to build a career," he argues. A self-confessed travel addict, Grewal previously studied in France prior to his stint in London's financial district. He's currently got a three-year working visa, although his contract with Citibank is open-ended and he hasn't ruled out staying even longer in Sweden. "The company was implementing a new analytical structure in Sweden and I among others had the right background, so that's why I was given the choice to come here," he explains. "The Sweden office previously only covered - at a junior level - relationship management work. Now we also cover financial analysis as well, whereas before that was done out of London for Swedish clients. I am gaining a lot of experience." Grewal admits he had to quickly learn what makes Swedish clients tick and to adapt his business practices accordingly.

sweden_400"You don't contact them at weekends -- even via email -- and you definitely should not call them after 6pm unless it is an emergency," he says. "It's very different to dealing with British clients who will stay in touch on weekends, weekdays, evenings - basically any time!" he laughs. "While it can be frustrating to sometimes not get a quick email response, at the same time Swedish clients respect my time off. There is mutual respect. I know I won't be called up on my holidays." Althouh Grewal describes his transition into Stockholm life as "relatively smooth" and says his company did provide some administrative support after his relocation, he passionately believes that both Swedish and international firms need to do much more to assist international employees. "There is a lot to think about, from registering with the tax authorities, to finding somewhere to live and knowing what all the different rules are. Swedes are happy to help but sometimes they don't know the answers because they haven't been through it themselves and I think because there is such a big influx of foreign workers moving here, this kind of stuff has to be a big priority."

"Foreign workers need a specific kind of support. Even though people here speak really good English, there are certain cultural differences and processes that people who are new here might need some help getting used to." Brought up in Vancouver on Canada's west coast, Grewal says Sweden feels "somehow familiar" to him because of its strong outdoor culture to a general high standard of living. But he admits he has struggled to adapt to the weather. "I was expecting it to be similar to Canada. Even though lots of people warned me about the darkness, I didn't believe it would be that bad until I experienced it!" Grewal says that exercise helped him through the long winter and that he's been inspired to go running more frequently by his healthy colleagues.  "I think I've run more this year than I have in my whole life! It's been a good thing because it's also been something for me to talk about with my workmates, a shared interest." The 29-year-old says he's also enjoyed tasting Swedish food since he moved to Stockholm, especially elk (moose) and has been entertained by new friends and workmates sharing the Nordic country's drinking songs at parties. "That's been one of the most fascinating things to witness," he says. "You do get drinking songs in the UK but I've never experienced them in the family home before, which is where people really get going in Sweden. I have tried to learn a few, but there are so many!"


Sweden's wine industry is maturing nicely – thanks to climate change

The song of a skylark mingles with the clink of glasses from the small bodega by the winery. Inside, the sommelier is serving visitors as they gaze out on to rows of vines stretching down a slope of rolling hillside. This may look like Languedoc, Rioja or the Mosel, but it’s rural Sweden, where climate change is midwife to the slow birth of Europe’s northernmost wine region. The plot of fertile soil a short drive from Malmö, Sweden’s third city, has been in Håkan Hansson’s family for five generations, and thanks to his mother he has detailed records of the climate when she farmed here 40 years ago.  “It is clear that we now have an extra month in the growing season each summer,” says Hansson, whose Hällåkra vineyard has six hectares under cultivation with 20,000 vines. “There have been changes even since we started with grapes 15 years ago, when we didn’t enjoy the warm Septembers we have today. Some growers are harvesting five or six weeks earlier than they used to, even at the end of August.”

The rise in temperatures in the country has been roughly twice the global average change since the late 1800s, leading to summer heatwaves and winters milder by almost 2C, according to Sweden’s Rossby Centre for climate research. The change is helping to turn Nordic viniculture from a retirement hobby into a small but resilient commercial reality – there are more than a dozen vineyards selling to the country’s alcohol stores, while many more have created businesses around their wine. Few Swedes themselves have even heard of Swedish wine and, for those who have, it has been something of a joke – a poor imitation of the New World and Mediterranean wines that have transformed the country’s drinking tastes. But a Michelin-starred restaurant in Gothenburg has just started to take Hansson’s wine, and he has ambitious expansion plans. What started as a mid-life crisis after a career in finance has become a dream of placing Sweden on the map as a wine-producing nation. “Sweden is like England 15 years ago,” says Hansson’s sommelier, Karl Sjöstrom, 32, who is inspired by the story of how Kent and Sussex vineyards learned to make fine sparkling wines. “We have the potential to develop the reputation that English wine has built.”

But the obstacles are formidable. As a wine region, the county of Skåne in southern Sweden, where most of the vineyards are based, is barely two decades old and still has much to learn, says Jannie Vestergaard of the Skåne Food Innovation Network. “People came into wine with passion, but not with knowledge, so in the early years lots of mistakes were made – middle-aged men who had tasted good French wines wanting the same to happen in their backyard,” Vestergaard says.  Many growers are pulling up their red-grape vines, she says, after concluding that the soil and climate aren’t suitable. Swedish vineyards are still searching for a grape variety that perfectly suits the specific Nordic terroir, where the short growing season produces fruit with high acidity.


Major arms exporter Sweden to put human rights before weapon sales

The Swedish parliament has recommended cutting arms exports to undemocratic countries, part of a push to prioritize human rights in its foreign policy that has already irked Israel and many Arab countries. Sweden is the world's 12th biggest arms exporter, with arms companies like SAAB responsible for thousands of jobs. Sweden, though proud of its neutral status, exported arms worth 11.9 billion Swedish crowns ($1.44 billion) to 55 countries in 2013. Prime Minister Stefan Lofven's center-left government has emphasized the promotion of human rights and feminism in its foreign policy, sparking criticism that Sweden is hurting its local industry while ignoring growing threats such as Russia.

"A country's democratic status will be a central condition for an export permit," committee chairman Hans Wallmark told a news conference while presenting a report that has been three years in the making.  Wallmark said Sweden would be the first country in the world to introduce specific democratic criteria when exporting weapons, judging each country on the basis of its democratic institutions and its civil and political rights. Human rights are already a factor in Swedish arms sales policy but the committee said the current arrangements were too weak and that the country needed a law that was clearer and more systematically applied.

In March, Stockholm canceled a defense agreement with Saudi Arabia worth billions of crowns to its industry after Swedish criticism of Riyadh's human rights record sparked a diplomatic row. The Lofven government also made headlines last year by recognizing Palestine as an independent state, sparking heavy criticism from Israel. The government will present a proposal for a new weapon export law within a year and is likely to follow the committee's recommendations.


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