The employer saw nothing wrong with Ahlin’s work experience, but his place of birth was a different matter. “A lot of people down here view ‘Stockholmer’ as a term of abuse,” the manager in charge of the interview told Ahlin.
At the beginning of the decade, Magnus Ahlin worked as a technical communicator and project manager at consultancy company Semcon outside Stockholm. Like many others, he was made redundant as a result of the IT crash. Rather than seeking another job on a sinking ship, however, he moved to Trelleborg and opened a tapas bar.
On seeing that his old company was looking for workers in the neighbouring town of Lund, he submitted an application that included the valuable experience gained during his previous spell with the company.
“They were looking for a range of people, from newbies to technical communicators. I thought I was an ideal candidate,” he told trade union newspaper Sif-tidningen.
But Magnus Ahlin had his application turned down. In fact, he wasn’t even called to an interview. At first he was not given an explanation. But after he had written a second e-mail the answer finally came: “you’re from Stockholm”.
Semcom’s group manager Linus Magnusson wrote to Ahlin, explaining that “the reason you only came second (or however you like to put it) is that you seem very much the Stockholmer, both in your application and on the telephone”.
Linus Magnusson develops this line of reasoning for Sif-tidningen.
“There is no doubt that down here Stockholmers are considered arrogant and self-important. Lots of talk and little action so to speak. The dialect is of course part of that.”
Magnusson is also from Stockholm but explains that he does all he can to tone down his origin and keep a low profile, which Magnus Ahlin failed to do in his application.
“It gave off an air of self-confidence. That’s not appreciated here. Here it is considered preferable for people to be low-key and timid,” said Magnusson.
According to the Ombudsman against Ethnic Discrimination (Diskrimineringsombudsman), Stockholmers do not constitute an ethnic minority and may be refused work on the basis of their origin.
Trade union Sif has no plans to pursue the case, even though it considers Semcon’s behaviour to be extremely strange.