Tomorrow is Midsummer, one of the biggest days of the year second only to Xmas. In most countries, a public holiday would suffice. But this is Sweden, where public holidays are so common you could hardly call them special occasions. So a day like this gets two public holidays!
This is also my final week at Vasastaden. As we’re nearing the end, the bosses from Astor have been paying more regular visits, and so our break times have started to correspond closer to what they’re supposed to be.
Yet everyday I still see new instances of Swedish slothfulness. For example, I’ve noticed no one seems to use the toilet during one of our designated breaks. After all, why would you waste a toilet break when you’re already on a break? Far better to wait until you’re back at work and take an extra break. My favourite is the smoking break taken five minutes before finishing for the day.
Yesterday, Peter told us with great relief that we’d been given a week’s extension, “…so we didn’t need to panic anymore.” Panic? If the past three weeks have been panic, than what will things be like when we ease back into regular work pace? Two hour breaks after every 15 minutes of work?
Chris reckons if he started up his own company and brought a dozen of his old work colleagues from the US, they’d get things done so much quicker than the Swedes that he’d have TA out of business in no time. I know Americans like to boast, but I find his claim believable.
Once again I have to stress this is not unique to the construction industry. It appears to be a part of Swedish mentality. Last weekend I offered to help Ankie’s father Jan-Erik, move apartments. He had hired a big truck, and was moving a distance of 500 metres. It required two trips, and should have taken three to four hours. Instead, I was there all day and we still didn’t finish it all. The slow work mentality is great when you’re getting paid by the hour, but not so great when you’re giving up your free time. The whole day Jan-Erik kept stressing that “we had to take it easy” and insisted on regular breaks. His theory is that life is too short to stress and worry, and that it is far better to do things at a leisurely pace. “I think we must have time to smell the roses”, he often tells me ever since he first heard an English phrase to describe his philosophy. I felt like telling him that my idea of living isn’t sitting in half furnished apartments drinking instant coffee from plastic cups, and that I’d far rather we got this moving done as quickly as possible so I could enjoy the rest of my weekend. But as usual I only ever think of saying these things long after the occasion passes.
PS. I didn't take the photo above. I don't know where it was taken, but it's the sort of thing a Swedish worker would do.