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'If they have bad news, they'd rather not tell you'

19 Dec 2012, 12:45

Published: 19 Dec 2012 12:45 GMT+01:00

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I would first like to take this opportunity to say ‘sorry’ to Andreas from T3 Broadband. I hollered and raved at him like a loon last week as I bemoaned his company’s customer service.

In truth, T3 hadn’t been that bad. But poor Andreas had answered the phone to field a complaint about my broadband service at precisely the wrong time.

For the past six months we have been attempting to organize the renovation of our house as well as sort out personal numbers, bank accounts, tax affairs – the whole shebang of emigrating somewhere.

The tax people have been great – exemplary in fact. Incredibly helpful and surprisingly flexible. Our local bank has been fantastic too – once they even opened the branch 90 minutes after closing time so I could pay in a cheque. Try doing that in the UK.

But, oh my, the local tradesmen. I’d heard that there is, shall we say, a more relaxed attitude to working practices in northern Sweden than in other parts of the country.

In theory this is great.

People aren’t in thrall to their careers and they spend more time with their families. It is an admirable concept. Noble even.

However, by all accounts this approach has been mostly abandoned down south as people chase work and promotions.

To all those bemoaning the erosion of traditional values, let me extend an invitation to head north. Here you will find a hugely laid-back community of local tradesmen.

Not for them the unseemly scrambling after new business. Heavens, no.

There are cinnamon buns to be eaten and long aimless chats to be had. I discovered early on up here that most local tradesmen prefer not to return telephone calls. Clearly they regard such activity to be tantamount to desperation - you must never display eagerness for work.

After all, if you have time to call someone back you can’t be that busy. As for e-mails, well, I’ve given up e-mailing tradesmen up here. Actually, strike that. Never mind tradesmen, there’s rarely any point e-mailing anyone. Trying to contact your SFI teacher by e-mail to ask a question? Don’t be daft.

How about e-mailing the local municipality to check progress on a project they asked you to become involved with? Yeah, good luck with that. You will never, ever hear from them again, unless you turn up in person – cinnamon buns in hand – to ask them face-to-face.

But it’s the local tradesmen who really do my head in. I’m not contacting you to discuss the weather or the recent Luleå vs Skellefteå ice hockey game. I’m not a flaming debt collector.


Story continues below…

Why does this happen? I suppose some of it is due to the northern Swedes’ hatred of confrontation. If they have bad news for you, they’d rather not tell you.

But this reticence only accounts for probably 10 percent of the communication problems I’ve faced. I even write e-mails in Swedish now, so it’s not a language barrier. I’ll admit it, I’m foxed. As well as infuriated.

But there have been a few exceptions and, in the spirit of the forthcoming festive season, let me offer my fellow northern immigrants a gift – the gift of the details of some excellent northern tradesmen (these are all within an hour of Umeå).

For all your geothermal heating and plumbing needs look no further than the incredibly enthusiastic and professional Jim Wållberg of Svenska VPG (www.svpg.se); for windows and doors, Låge Eklund, the jolly owner of Åkullsjöns Snickeri (www.akullsjonssnickeri.se) should be your first choice (as he was for Benny from Abba, in case you were interested) and for all things electrical, the lugubrious Roger Vikstrom of Bygdsiljums Elektriska (no website but Google is your friend) offers reliable and affable service.

There, my northern compadres, these are the fruits of six months of banging my head against a wall of apathy. I have suffered so you don’t have to. Happy Christmas. (And God Jul to Andreas from T3 Broadband - I'm sorry, I really am).

Paul Connolly

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Your comments about this article

13:57 December 19, 2012 by spongepaddy
Excellent article. Moving to Sweden can sure be a pain. Now if only somebody would write a novel about English-speakers moving to Sweden, looking at all these issues in a very amusing way with lots of jokes and smut thrown in...

Oh, hand on a second, I have!

"Erotic Refugees" by Paddy Kelly. Available on the amazon ebook store now!

14:01 December 19, 2012 by isenhand
Swedes not answering email?!!! I'm glad that it's not just me having that problem.

Norrland takes lagom to the extreme!!
15:07 December 19, 2012 by GraceBee
Oh definitely! I have lived here for ten years and it has something I have just got used to. I have no idea why they're so bad at communicating but they are. Another great article!!
16:04 December 19, 2012 by Rishonim
"Fangorn." Gasped Gimli. "What madness would drive them in there?" And my question to Paul Connolly; what madness would drive you to the north of Sweden?
18:05 December 19, 2012 by PaulConnolly
Rishonim - where do you live?

Paddy - subtle, very subtle.

Isenhand - I've since been told that southern Swedes are almost as bad. Almost.

GraceBee - Tack!
21:03 December 19, 2012 by Rishonim
Hello Paul. Thanks for your communication. When in Sweden, I live in a little pleasantly enough sleepy town:-) just east of Stockholm, (Värmdö)
21:42 December 19, 2012 by ret
i feel sorry for any foreign worker having to find out these things on their own.

apparently the swedish word återkoppling doesnt work here .

or rather-incompetence.

i have totally lost trust in swedes,and revert back to english in official matters,and really push them for answers,and ask them to write down and sign what they promise!!

see the link below to see what crap is happening to me!!

22:48 December 19, 2012 by jarvtrask
Very funny Paul. I hope your neighbours and friends up there aren't reading. You'll be met with sympathy and quizzical eyebrows for months. Pity even.

Oddly, substitute Andalucia for Norrland and the rest of your piece could be exactly the same.
19:36 December 21, 2012 by vivientoft
OMG! The Local is becoming a real newspaper...
15:36 December 28, 2012 by muscle
In my case, getting late replies for emails was the issue. Initially, I used to feel perhaps the people are either lazy or they just don't want to reply to emails... but slowly I realized the important days and timings. Like its better to mail on sunday late night (if you wish to get reply soon), or during the day before 11. Or never to expect timely responses near christmas or summer vacations or any other long vacations. Also, not to mail on fridays anytime!

So, even though I am sure Paul has more experience than me in communicating with people here :) but perhaps he may try checking such timings for emails :)
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