"I find Sweden to be relatively predictable and systematic - it has a good transparency"

Describe your role at the company, and briefly your background / experience of living and working in other countries.

– I was born and raised in Malta, a tiny island in the Mediterranean. I left Malta after I graduating from Banking and Finance at the University of Malta. Following graduation I wanted to experience living abroad and got my first  opportunity in Belgium working with the NGO AIESEC firstly with student internships and later as President.  My adventures then took me to Egypt where I started my HR Career with Ericsson.  After some years working with Ericsson in various of the North African countries such as Libya, Algeria and also Sudan and Ethiopia I got the opportunity to move to Sweden.  During my time living in Sweden I worked with Ericsson and later with Skype. I am now working as HR Lead in MSD (Merck Sharpe & Dohme) in Sweden and part of the Nordic HR team.  In my HR role I partner closely with our Human Health Commercial organisation in Sweden and our Clinical Trials organisation in the Nordics.

What expectations did you have before moving to Sweden?

– I had very little expectations to be honest.  I always try to approach my experiences with an open mind and see them as opportunities.  I find that it is mainly in the mindset and how I decide to make the most of a situation – be it an experience I have lived or a learning opportunity.

How did it turn out?

– It turned out great and I am still here :).

– There of course have been some up and downs and some instances of feeling homesick but Sweden has a relatively large expat community and various English speaking active forums and meetup groups which have supported me in this transition process and where I have made some great aquaintances and friends.  Furthermore it has an English speaking news site – The Local so I can keep myself up to date on what is happening in the country even if I didn’t speak Swedish.  The Swedish people are friendly and always willing to help a foreigner, they also have high levels of English speaking capability especially in Stockholm and I had no problems engaging in conversations or just merely finding my way around.

– I also find Sweden to be relatively predictable and systematic from the use of the national ID number to tax and social welfare processes and the use of queues.  This also means there can be some frustrations – especially if you are used to some flexibility or navigating through havoc in the system, but for me this is also mostly about trust and transparency which I like.  I have also seen that in the past few years Sweden has evolved a lot in terms of providing access to instructions and information in English which makes integration smoother for someone not speaking Swedish.

– Finally I eventually my husband and had my son in Sweden – so of course it turned out great :).

What is the best thing about living in Sweden?

– The distinction between seasons (I especialy love Autumn ), nature and outdoor activities no matter the temperature or weather, the respect and interpretation of work life balance, children friendly alternatives, the focus on innovation and stimulating innovation, and of course the FIKA (coffee, cake & social interaction) tradition! 🙂

Would you recommend others to move here?

– Yes I definitely would, like every move to a new country, moving to Sweden has got its challenges  but the positive experience and opportunities this country offers overcome such challenges.

What do you think of Sweden in regard to equality and other social aspects?

– I see Sweden as very progressive and a role model for other societies with this regards.  I believe there is a strong focus on gender equality and it is evident in aspects such as gender equal parental leave benefits as well as within the family responsibilities.  I experience an overall striving to be tolerant and inclusive in the Swedish society.

In your opinion, which is the most beautiful place in Sweden?

– This is a tough question  – I am a bit of a romantic so I would say the many different castles around Sweden is top my list, such as Kalmar Slott, or Taxinge Slott and of course Drottningholm Slott.  My family and I try to find a nice castle around Stockholm to have ‘FIKA’  coffee and a cake on a nice Sunday afternoon.

Which is the best Swedish tradition?

– Midsummer of course 🙂  – long summer day, snaps, herring, bbq and dancing the frog dance around a flower decorated pole with family and friends – I  love it!

Back to EMA to Sweden >

Thea Olsson

HR Lead in MSD (Merck Sharpe & Dohme) in Sweden