My Swedish Career
Martin Bundock has lived in Sweden for 12 years. Photo: Private
'I'm not an expat, I'm an immigrant'
Published on: 07 Dec 2015 06:08 CET
"I am not an expat, I am an immigrant," says Bundock firmly, as he sits down with The Local at the minimalist industrial office space of his communications agency.
"After 11 years I'm just about to get my Swedish passport, soon I'll be Swedish, not English."
The Briton relocated to Stockholm more than a decade ago with a previous Swedish girlfriend he met in London. That relationship didn't work out. But when it came to the Nordic city, his love-at-first-sight was long-lasting.
"I got the opportunity to visit one Christmas and I thought 'oooh this is nice'. I like snow, sunny crisp mornings, minus two temperatures. I realized I prefer cold countries," he says, deadpan.
"And when I came that first time I met some great people on the first night out, who later on became friends and business partners."
After years working "all day and all night" in public relations roles in London, Bundock says he jumped at the chance to forge a new life in Stockholm that he realized would allow him to give up the hour-long commutes that dominated his lifestyle in the UK and "spend more time with friends and nature".
Bundock loves winter in Sweden. Photo: Ola Ericsson/Image Bank Sweden
He had mixed fortunes when he arrived, at first struggling to persuade local PR companies to give him a job, before seizing the opportunity to run his own businesses instead.
"Back at the start you needed Swedish much more than you do now. The city has completely changed and become a lot more international," he explains.
"I tried to get a job. I am a really successful PR guy and I went to see all the agencies (...) But I didn't get a job. I didn't even get an interview. So I launched a streetwear and fashion store with a friend. It was fresh, it was different, we had brands that no one else had."
The shop stayed open for four years, while Bundock commuted back and forth between London and Stockholm, working for diverse clients, as well as being a part-time DJ and club promoter, and transitioned into working in fashion and lifestyle PR and sales.
"Through the shop and my connections I got to meet loads of interesting journalists and stylists and brands. Fashion wasn't something I had worked in in London. But I know PR, I know brands. This is what I do," he tells The Local.
By 2009, Bundock had been listed among the top 100 most powerful men by fashion industry magazine King.
"I was the only non-Swede in the business. I was a random English dude from Croydon [south London] doing fashion PR!"
Asked what his friends back home made of his transformation, he smiles wryly.
"They laughed. I wasn't viewed as a fashion kind of guy."
Martin at work in Stockholm in December 2015. Photo: The Local
In the meantime, the Briton had signed up to state-funded Swedish for Immigrants classes, but says he struggled to fit them in amid his entrepreneurial lifestyle and being a young father.
"It was kind of embarrassing because I kept turning up and saying 'sorry I wasn't there last week I had to go away from work on business' (...) Half the room were students and the other half were like 'oh I'm really hoping to get a job soon as a taxi driver' and then I was saying 'oh it's me again, sorry I had to go away for fashion week in Paris, buying stuff for my store'. So I quit that."
Now co-owner of communications agency, A World Beneath, the Briton says he has since "picked up Swedish by osmosis". He insists he's still not fluent, but speaks well enough to conduct business meetings in the language with local clients, swear a lot and crack a few jokes.
"It is nice to be able to talk in Swedish with some customers who aren't that used to dealing with international businesses and maybe feel like they're back in high school talking English, or can't really be themselves."
Bundock's latest business merges his public relations skills with his passion for streetwear, music, magazines and the arts. And he says that after years of juggling multiple projects he's enjoying focusing on one business and is starting to embrace Sweden's obsession with work-life balance.
"I do take calls from clients after 6pm. I tend also to answer my emails after 6pm and at the weekends. However I do also like the whole Swedish thing with clocking off [from the office] at 5pm (...) I have even got my own summer house now so in a way I am properly Swedish!"
Martin Bundock's summer house. Photo: Private
Bundock argues that as Stockholm becomes increasingly global, others seeking to forge their own niche in the city would be wise to act quickly, as competition for international talent grows.
"Back when I first came here if everyone else was as creative and hardworking as I was, I wouldn't exist. Because there wouldn't have been a space in the industry for me to come in, at that time."
"Now you don't necessarily have the right people with the right skills here at all. You need to bring in people from certain industries. You can see that from the startup sector. The people creating the ideas are Swedish but they don't have all the competencies they need, so they have to bring other people in from abroad."
But the entrepreneur insists he does not feel threatened by the incoming global pool of talent that is starting to unpack in his adopted home.
"Trust me, I know what I am doing," he smiles.