The 36-year-old British service designer had come to Sweden's second city to visit his brother. Having worked for years in both London and Melbourne, Griffith-Jones was looking for a change of pace. He knew he didn't want to return to the UK but figured his next destination might be Berlin or Copenhagen.
But that trip to visit his brother, who had moved to Gothenburg a few years prior for a relationship, made his decision for him.
“I fell in love with Gothenburg straight away. The city is just so charming, with beautiful buildings and a lot of great cafes, bars and restaurants. But yet, there's this different pace of life here. You can have a job that is as challenging and fulfilling as what you can find in London, but it's so much less stressful,” Griffith-Jones said.
It helped that his background in digital strategy and the emerging field of service design was a perfect fit for a city that has poised itself to shape the global future of transportation, mobility and connectivity.
“Gothenburg is a very special place because of what is going on in my professional space. When you think of automation, smart cities and Industry 4.0, everything is connected and fits into an ecosystem. Ecosystems need collaboration, and there is a spirit of collaboration here totally unlike what I've experienced elsewhere,” he said.
He said that when he moved to the city three and a half years ago, he immediately started hearing about ‘the Gothenburg spirit' of people willing to help each other out and work together, even when they are professional competitors.
“I've really felt it. The service design community here is great at sharing knowledge and as a whole companies here collaborate much more than they do in the UK and Australia,” Griffith-Jones said.
Griffith-Jones's first job in Gothenburg was as a service designer at Cybercom Group, where he designed service and digital products focusing on the Internet of Things, AI and automation. After a few years, he decided to take the plunge and set up operations as an independent freelance consultant and now works with big-name clients including Ikea and Volvo. True to ‘the Gothenburg spirit', he remains on great terms with his former employer and continues to work with them as a contractor.
Photo: Per Pixel Petterrson
And true to Gothenburg's position as a destination for connectivity, AI and transportation startups from around the world, Griffith-Jones said he's able to conduct all of his business in English. He stressed, however, that he's in the process of learning Swedish because “I don't want to be one of those people”.
“All of the international companies' working language is English so you can absolutely get away with only speaking English, but I feel obliged to have a certain level of understanding in Swedish,” he said. “Gothenburg, and in fact all of Scandinavia, is really part of the Anglo-sphere, so I have found everyone here to be extremely welcoming.”
The service designer said that because there is such a huge demand for talent within fields like IT and automation, Gothenburg is attracting “some really high-quality people.'' Many come to study at Chalmers University of Technology and then remain in the city to work. He said that those who come to Gothenburg for careers in those fields are truly appreciated by the local business community whereas they might be a little more taken for granted in a place like London.
With so many professionals gravitating to Gothenburg, Griffith-Jones and his brother created the website thisisgothenburg.com as a way to introduce newcomers to the city and to show off some of their favourite haunts. The site got so popular so quickly that they've expanded it into a business that focuses on unique events.
“We asked our audience what they wanted more of and they told us they were hungry to meet people in real life, so we starting putting on events and meet ups. The concept that has really caught on is our Secret Dinner Party, where we curate matches that we think would be good fits personally or professionally and then arrange a dinner party at a secret destination,” he said.
For him, the website is a way to give back to a city that he says has given him so much. That it focuses more on the city's leisure offerings than professional opportunities is a reflection of Griffith-Jones's appreciation of Gothenburg. He said the thing he loves most about living in Sweden's second-largest city is the easy access to nature.
“The west coast of Sweden has the most beautiful nature. Every weekend, my girlfriend and I will head out in our car and within 20 to 40 minutes we'll be somewhere stunning, whether it's the lakes, the forests or the coasts,” he said. “It's just gorgeous and best of all you sort of have it to yourself. We often don't see anyone else.”
Even when he's returned to the city from the wilderness, there is still a sense of calm that has made him “so much less stressed and healthier” than he was before arriving. Still viewing himself as a relative newcomer, Griffith-Jones said he often wonders if Gothenburg natives “appreciate just how good they have it here”.
“Here, you're almost forced into having a healthy work/life balance. There is an ingrained understanding that you perform better if you have that balance, and I just find that there is more freedom here and more respect for your personal life,” he said.
It's a feeling he's eager to share with others, especially friends who have gravitated toward larger cities only to find that the costs of living force them to live far from the city centre and then suffer a dreadful daily commute.
“I truly appreciate how good the lifestyle here is, it's what really makes Gothenburg a special place. I'm always encouraging my stressed-out friends in London to come over,” he said.
This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by Business Region Göteborg.