#SwedeInMadrid: Turning a perfect Spaniard into a Swede

A kid screamed very loud. So loud that my Spanish colleague and I turned away from our dinner at Kista Galleria in Stockholm (we were on a business trip together) to see what the screaming was all about. Then we heard a parent scream back in Chinese.
We both turned back to continue eating. My colleague said:
"When we lived in Sweden (he and his famly lived in Sweden for 3 years) my wife and I noticed that whenever we heard loud kids in Sweden, they weren't Swedish. We always wondered how Swedes could get their kids so quiet."
Well, since I am Swedish and have three kids I know a lot about that.

Our youngest son Lukas talks more than the rest of the family combined. And he is loud. Already when he was very small my husband and I would tell him:
"Sh! We are right here, there is no need to scream. We can hear you anyway." 

We also showed him the volume button on the radio in the car and suggested he turned down his own volume button when he talked. (He did inform us that this was not always possible since his button was stuck on max...)

He also tends to interrupt. If I am talking to our middle-son Samuel, Lukas may come running and yell:
"Mummy, mummy, mummy, at school I..."
And I will tell him (not once or twice but over and over again):
"Wait a second Lukas, right now I am talking to Samuel. You need to wait a bit."
Then, when it is his turn to talk he talks. And talks and talks.
"Then this happened and then that and do you want to know how this works? If you unscrew this first and then that, look mummy, look!"

There is usually no end. So if someone else wants to talk to me, for instance our oldest son Sebastian, I tell Lukas to take a break now and then so someone else gets an opportunity to talk.

After a few months in Spain I had an insight. I told my husbandy:

"You know what we are doing? By telling Lukas to talk softly, wait for his turn when talking and leaving space for others to talk, we are trying to turn a perfect Spaniard into a Swede!" 

If we just let our Lukas be, he will integrate a lot better than the rest of us who still stand there waiting for our turn in a conversation. A turn that is as likely to happen in a conversation with a Spaniard as getting a slot in the traffic without pushing (after having lived here for some nine months this has yet to happen.)

Who knows, maybe now that we live in Madrid, Lukas feels more at home than ever.


The games people play at work

Sometimes I get surprised about the games some people play at work.

Like using the do or die statement to scare people into action:
"If we do not deliver this product / make this sell / prolong the contract with this customer, our company will go under."

The first time I heard this, I was working very hard at a car manufacturer and I was told that if we would not start production of the new car model on time the whole company could go under. When I told my father, who had worked in the car industry for a long time, he just shrugged and said:
"Oh, this model too?"
Now that I have also worked many, many years in the corporate world I have heard similar statements so often that they have lost their meaning.

I do not believe in fear as a way to motivate persons to do their best. On the contrary.

People who feel good do a better job than people who feel insecure.

But unfortunately there are often insecure people at work, and some of them let their insecurities out on others.
  • They blame others when things do not go as planned. 
  • They yell at them if deadlines are missed. 
  • They make them feel guilty while still pushing them to make more impossible promises.

Again, none of this works.

Or as Anders Haglund at Lifevision wrote on facebook recently:
"There is nothing you can do stressed that you couldn't do better with a calm mind."
I do not participate in the power games at work.
I kind of watch them from the sideline and get surprised by them, but I do not let them get to me.

Instead I do what I can to create an environment where people feel safe and enjoy work.

And let me tell you a secret several managers do not seem to be aware of:
People who feel happy and safe do great work. Unhappy, nervous and scared people do not.

No need to take my word for it though, it is so well explained in this great video with Simon Sinek that I can share with you thanks to a tip from my friend and colleague Oliver.


He will have to cook for four wives!

My middle son Samuel is learning about Islam in school. One thing that surprised him was that according to Islam one man can have four wives.

He had also learned that the man had to treat all his wives equally well.
Poor him, he will have to cook for four wives! Samuel exclaimed.
I just love this comment.
I love it because it is completely unexpected  for most people.

It is not surprising for those who know my family though. My husband is the one cooking.
If I need to cook I will take the family to a restaurant / order take away / reluctantly heat something up in the microwave oven.
So for Samuel this is a very logical assumption to make.

It is easy to tilt our heads and smile at this cute comment from a child who bases his view of the world on his own situation.

But wait a second.
He is not the only one.
We all see the world based on our own experiences. This is normal. Normal and not bad at all. As long as we realize that our view is not the only one.

Or, as I heard Dr. Phil phrase it:

There is no reality. Only perceptions.


#SwedeInMadrid: My shortest winter ever

Madrid is colder in the winter than most Swedes think. Unlike the south of Spain Madrid is some 600 meters above sea level and far from any sea.
As I wrote in cold butt in Madrid it is possible to drive a motorcycle all year round, but it sure is cold in the mornings for a few weeks.

However, the cold did not start until somewhere in Dec and already from mid Feb it started getting warmer.
In fact, last week it was 8 degrees celcius in the morning and I walked in to the office with a big smile on my face. When I took off my motorcycle gear I said to my colleagues:
"It´s warm!"

The day after I had lunch with one of the colleagues who heard this remark and he asked: "Annika, when you said yesterday that it was warm... did you mean it?"

I guess it was hard for him to know whether I was sarcastic or serious.

And then today, when I write this blogspot, it is 1st of March. It is first of March and 18 degrees celcius. In the shade. I am not exaggerating when I say that sitting in the sun today felt like a warm summer day in Sweden.

I look around and I see that spring arrived here already in the end of Feb, with lady bugs, ants, blooming trees and warmth.

This has been our shortest winter ever and it almost takes some getting used to. Will there be a set-back with some cold coming again? Shall I put away the thick jacket? Our references are all off, as I wrote in: An autumn that smells like summer.

The interesting thing is that we hear a lot of Spaniards who long for spring. Long for spring? After this short, barely two months long winter?

Apparently people long for spring also in countries where the winter is not even long. Another explanation is that they think the winter has been longer than I think. Maybe they found that November was cold and that the winter is still here.

The following has been said about Madrid:
Madrid  has three months of hell and nine months of winter.
Whoever said that clearly has a different view of winter than I as a Swede have.

I can understand the description of the three months of hell though. We got through the daily 35-40 degrees last summer thanks to the pool, siestas and air-conditioning. Not to mention our summer vacation in the North of Spain. (Some of my colleagues did warn me about the "bad weather" in the North and said that we would not be able to swim in the sea since "the Atlantic is too cold". Needless to say, we swam there.)

When I talk about the heat of last summer, my colleagues look at me with pity and explain that last summer was unusually cool.

Well, we keep our fingers crossed that also this summer will be "unusually cool" so we can have a little less of the 3 months of hell.

For now, we will enjoy the spring that feels like Swedish summer.