I should really be packing. I could totally do that. I went to fetch boxes today and everything. Turns out I’d much rather talk to faceless people on the internet, and put off packing for another day.
The irony of that just hit me. In other circumstances that sentence might have little relevance, but it was talking to faceless people on the internet (and in fact, on this very blog) that got me to Sweden in the first place. If you don’t understand this reference click here for the beginning of an explanation. I’m not going to call it a “quick” explanation, because there is no such thing where this subject is concerned, but if you’re a fan of romance you might like it. If you’re really sentimental and mushy you can go all the way back to the post that started this crazy snowball rolling back in 2011, by clicking HERE and read the posts and comments (the lady commenting as “theswedishflowerpot” is now my wife), but if you are middle-aged already I would advise against it; you only have so many years left.
Anyway, it is because all of those things happened that I ended up in Sweden, and now that I am moving (with theswedishflowerpot) back to England, I am doing this list of Things that I will miss vs Things I have missed.
Everyone caught up? Goood. Let’s crack on then.
What I will miss #3: The Swedish work ethic
Before we get off the wrong foot… I am not saying the Swedes are lazy; quite the opposite. They can manage to get the same amount of work done in half the time that it takes most Brits. And what do they do with the rest of their time? Whatever they want to!
I love the way the Swedes view work!
You see, although I have had many different jobs, I have rarely (until very recently) had a job that I enjoyed. Normally I have done whatever work I could get that enabled me to pay the bills. What I like about the Swedes is that most of them seem to have the same opinion of work that I do. And what I think of it is this:
Work isn’t life. It’s the thing you do in order to pay for life.
Maybe I worded that badly, but I’m going to elaborate whether you want me to or not, so don’t jump to any definitive conclusions just yet.
My ex-partner was one of the busiest people I ever met. But she busied herself doing things that need not have taken that long, because she stopped often to do other things that weren’t necessary. When she asked me to do the same things, I did them in a lot less time, not because I am a hard worker (I am precisely the opposite) but because I like my free-time. Consequently I often do not sit down (even for a drink) until the necessary work is done. That way, when it is done I can completely relax. This has driven most of my partners insane, because I often don’t eat until very, very late because I don’t like having to get up and do things after my dinner. It’s just the way I do stuff. My time is MY time.
Now that isn’t exactly the way the Swedes do things (everything stops for Fika here for example), but the concept of “as much free-time as possible” is definitely one that the Swedes have embraced.
To illustrate the point, I will paraphrase someone I met whilst working here in Stockholm.
The company I worked for in my capacity as a Tour Guide was owned and run by a Polish family. Now, for those of you who are unaware, the Polish work ethic is pretty much polar opposite (no pun intended) to the Swedish one. The Poles too like to get as much work done as possible in the shortest time possible. Where they differ drastically from the Swedes (and from me) is that, once all the work is done they don’t go home… they just go looking for more work. And they look hard.
I was assigned one day last year to work with my Boss’s niece. She was over from Poland, where she worked for another branch of the company. During a brief period of the day there was nothing for us to do. No guides had called with problems; tickets and vouchers had all been tallied; no buses were due to leave or return for at least the next hour; no-one from the cruise line had any problems or questions… She seemed very restless so I tried to make conversation.
“How do you like it here in Stockholm?” I said.
She shook her head… “I never like working in Sweden!”
“Oh?” I said, “Why’s that?”
“The Swedes don’t like to work” was her answer. “They spend so much time at home, or out with friends. I would go crazy!”
I naturally thought she was being sarcastic, but when pressed to elaborate, it turned out that she was genuinely puzzled that anyone would want to be anywhere but at work.
Weird, but unfortunately strongly connected with…
What I have missed #3: 24 Hour Shopping
Did you ever hear the expression “You can please some of the people some of the time, but you can’t please Sleepless Knight any of the time”?
No? Well, start using it because I’m thinking of having t-shirts made.
That’s right; if no-one at all worked long hours, there would be no 24 hour shopping at all.
What to do?
Robots? Once they take over TESCO, what’s to stop them taking over the world? Not us. We’ll be too busy sleeping or buying ice-cream in our slippers to do anything about it.
So, for the time being at least, somebody has to work these sorts of hours. And this is further evidence of the Swedish work ethic; because there are precious few stores in Sweden that open 24 hours a day. I live in the capital, and I’m not aware of any. But perhaps my Swedish friends can correct me on that point. At any rate my conscience is clear. For one thing, I have done more than my fair share of working 12 hour shifts, both day and night, to shy away from enjoying the pleasures of 24 hour shopping. For another, I will probably be working through the night quite often even when working for myself because… that’s when I’m awake.
See I don’t call myself Sleepless Knight without good reason. I have struggled with sleep since I was a small boy, and have come to be all too familiar with the wee small hours. And, though the hours may be small my sudden need for Doritos is usually not.
And what of pregnant ladies, whose whims must be pandered to on pain of castration? What are we to do when they say “It’s 3am, and I need 2 bags of unshelled walnuts, 1 bottle of strawberry flavoured fabric softener and a large spoon! NOW!”? I say go get it for them but, at the risk of repeating myself (no laughing), I like going out in the wee small hours almost as much as I like my genitals where they are.
So, the question remains, how do we balance working fewer, more sociable hours, with the luxury of being able to shop through the night?
For now, it will remain one of those “first world problems” which facebook memes are constantly reminding us of…
Do I walk to the store in the rain, or risk getting water spots on my newly waxed Mercedes?
My diamond earrings are scratching the screen of my iPhone!
One pillow is too low… two pillows is too high!
I have to write 2 more of these blog posts because I started my “moving to a better life” countdown at 10 instead of 7!
No pleasing some people. See you tomorrow.