The Swedish consulate in Mumbai had organised a dinner this week, for Swedes living in India as well as people affiliated with or working for Swedish large corporates here. In fact, there is an avenue in Pune (a city a couple of hours away from Mumbai) named Swedish Avenue, where Swedish companies are innovating–from Alfa Laval and Tetra Pak to Atlas Copco and Sandvik–are all located. Swedish Avenue is a symbol of Swedish values, innovations, sustainability and technology. Pretty damn awesome, if you ask me. There aren’t that many Swedes living in India permanently compared to other expat-heavy countries, but Sweden is still very high on the aspiration list here. Well, forgive me for perhaps sounding uber-patriotic, but isn’t it everywhere?
Geographically, Sweden may be kind of tiny, but its a big country when you take things like innovation, technological progress and social welfare into consideration. Prime example of the fact that size doesn’t matter, haha…
At the dinner I had the pleasure of meeting several leaders from Swedish business and politics at this dinner, and one of these people was Sven-Erik Bucht; Sweden’s minister of rural affairs. It was my first time meeting a Swedish minister to be honest, if you exclude the time when I almost touched the sleeve of former PM Fredrik Reinfeldt in Båstad ca 2007.
We had a long conversation about India and Sweden, and Sweden’s interest in the Indian startup scene. We discussed environment, pollution and the future of breathing masks. Then we spoke about healthcare, infrastructure, taxes and getting your money’s worth in regards to the latter. About the highs and lows of living in Sweden vs. India and vice versa. I mentioned WAC and my passion for supporting women in India. Reflected on the lack of pap-smears, mammographies, testicle examinations and routine checkups. That I’m blessed to be born there, and blessed to be living here. These things, we spoke a lot about.
All in all, it was a nice and fulfilling night, and I’m grateful to have been a part of it. The only sad realisation of the night was that my first language, Swedish, is seriously going for a toss with nine years of permanently living abroad…
Ending this post with a message I published on February 13, 2016, after being “stuck” in Sweden for three months waiting for my Indian employment visa:
“Being home in between jobs for 2 months for the first time in 8 years has sparked a newfound appreciation for Sweden. Surprisingly, we complain a lot. Maybe we’re spoiled, depressed due to lack of sunlight, bad weather, some contributing more than others. But despite a few racist nutheads, we are spoiled with democracy, structure, reliability and comfort. Did you know, only 1% of all Swedish household waste ends up in a rubbish-dump, and more than 90% of all aluminium/plastic cans are recycled? Everyone gets 5 weeks paid vacation every year by law, and with a lack of religious holidays there are instead a ton of national food-days. Sweden is always in the top 3 list of most equal countries, & we legalised homosexual relationships in 1944. No/low interest student loans to encourage exploration & education, regardless of family income. A national passion and appreciation for nature & the outdoors, in fact so much, kids are encouraged to sleep outside 365 days/year to build better immune systems and tougher tots (read: Vikings). When sick you’re told to rest, get fresh air & avoid antibiotics at all cost. Sweden has one of the most progressive cancer research programs in the world. 18 months paid parental leave shared by mom & dad to encourage equality, and build better homes. Parents can “vabba” aka legally work from home when a child is unwell. A nation-wide desire to “be cozy” (yes, it’s a thing): blankets, candles, bathtubs, fika, & dim-lit lighting. Free education and healthcare, excellent infrastructure, and an annual average of 6-hour working days, while ranking 6th in the global competitiveness index & 2nd on innovation and entrepreneurship. Yes, we pay high taxes, but life is a lot less intimidating when you have the basics figured out, and can dedicate your energy towards being innovative and out of the box. My only request to fellow citizens would be to stop decorating all homes all white (seriously so boring) and to not forget to appreciate clear cut-everything, where 2pm means 1.45pm and not “maybe” or two hours late. Oh & let’s be a little more excited. We do actually get what we pay for. And that’s a rarity. Go Swedes “