Updated: Jun 22, 2021
What really makes Sweden stand out is its sheer creativity and a culture immersed in sustainability. Every one of us has their own unique way of doing things and I am no exception. The Swedish culture kept me thinking aloud and seek an answer to my everyday question – “Can you make a business out of Swedish culture?” Well, if you would have asked me this question 5 years ago, I would never believe so. Today, my venture Learn Swedish Culture AB just won a scholarship by Sten K Johnson foundation for my efforts in spreading Swedish culture in order to make it easier for immigrants and tourists to understand Sweden, while competing against more than 600 other applicants for the scholarship.
It already started when I was a kid. I grew up in the 80's in the Swedish countryside, similar to one of Astrid Lindgren´s movies - Pippi Longstocking. I was fortunate enough to be a part of two different cultures since I was raised by my Swedish father and German mother. This cross-cultural bond at home made me feel different from all my Swedish friends since I was the only one in my class whose mother hailed from a foreign culture. Incredibly early, I perceived how different my mother was from all the others around me.
At the same time, people were curious to know more about my mother and her culture, but no-one really dared to ask since Swedish people are generally known to be quiet and shy socially. It did not take much time for me to determine and come up with a decision to make something great out of the hybrid values that I had received from my parents who belonged to two different cultures.
After graduating from the prestigious University of Lund and inhabiting in Germany, Scotland, USA, and Australia for few years, I was ready to teach Swedish pupils English, German and Swedish. I pursued this role of a teacher for more than 12 years of my life, imparting knowledge to my students. However, I always desired to live a life which was less ordinary.
Sometimes you have to turn back and follow your heart to find the right path and I think that is what we all want, to know that we left footprints for making a difference to the world around us. Similarly, it was my desire to leave footprints in others’ walk of life and be remembered for something – for helping people understand the Swedish culture.
My family could see I was not as happy as a teacher any longer and wanted to live well and live it extra-ordinary. I was lucky enough to find a part time job at the university as a teacher where I taught Swedish language and culture for exchange students arriving in Malmö. I loved my job but was soon to be replaced by the teacher for whom I was substituted due to her maternity leave. It was that point of life where I reckoned that my dream job would soon end and will no longer be available. My passion to contribute my bit towards Swedish culture never ended and that transformed into a business idea. Within no time, I incorporated my company with 5,000 Euros that my husband provided to me to start my venture.
After numerous presentations and pitch meetings, my hard work landed in discovering IKEA as one of my notable clients. My presentation was about helping their employees who are not Swedish to understand Sweden. The long-term contract with IKEA and the joy of winning a prolonged client was celebrated by uncorking the champagne to raise a toast with my family. I felt I was on the right track with my company, and I could finally manage to pay myself with a modest salary. I had regular visits to IKEA headquarter in Älmhult where it once started and presented the Swedish culture in front of an excited crowd who just moved to Sweden. Things could not get any better because IKEA loved my sessions and positive feedbacks from employees.
Soon after the Covid-19 pandemic and early lockdowns, my presentations were cancelled due to the imposed restrictions. This fostered a sense of insecurity with respect to my business and its future. I was lucky that some of my business was already online and was near certain that my venture would survive, to say the least. I was afraid of turning my presentations online since I had no experience of it and just the thought of being in front of a camera for hours felt awkward.
After a couple of months realizing that Covid-19 was here to stay for a longer period, I was left with no choice but to overcome my fear and move forward. I decided to make my Swedish culture presentations online and sell the concept not only to IKEA but to the rest of the world who had any interest in Sweden. Surprisingly, I kind of liked being in front of the camera with my Swedish national dress on and dancing to Swedish House Mafia (a modern version of ABBA). I scored the highest level at IKEA´s evaluations and suddenly life as a woman entrepreneur began to feel good again.
Today, I am still doing online presentations, have my own column about Swedish matters in the Swedish Press (a paper established year 1929), thousands of followers on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/learnswedishculture/?hl=en) where I teach a sentence of Swedish every day. The enormous joy of winning the yearly Sten K Johnson’s foundation scholarship of 15,000 Euros with more than 600 applicants of my work are hard to describe. This award in making cultures understand each other better in southern Sweden by informing immigrants about Swedish culture, is so far the highlight as an entrepreneur woman.
Hopefully, I can employ my husband soon in my company as I need help because of the enormous workload. We also want to make it into a family business as even our daughters (13 & 11 years old) are very much involved and interested in joining all Swedish adventures that our country is offering, like Vasaloppet (the world's biggest ski race) or eat fermented herring (an old Swedish tradition).
I always believe that your footprints will always be cherished and remembered for all the good work you have done in your life. Perhaps, there will be something written on my gravestone that makes me remembered and worth apprizing my life beyond ordinary. To say the least, I have a new nickname – Svea (means Sweden). I will do everything in my power to spread Swedish culture in order to make it easier for newcomers to begin their life in Sweden and then prevent racism through increased understanding of different cultures. I hope that it seems probable that people remember me as Svea for spreading Swedish matters and make the world fathom that
“YES- you can make a business out of Swedish culture, and everything is possible in Sweden!”