Final Thoughts: The “Americanization” of Scandinavia Part 5

Final Thoughts

Gothenburg, Stockholm, Tallinn, and Helsinki all afforded us a unique look at international business culture. Scandinavia is naturally cold, and that does not just refer to the weather. Our initial impression of the population in the majority of the locations in which we spent time, was not that of a warm reception. A personal discussion we had with our professors enlightened us to the fact that people of the region can seem initially distant and even somewhat rude, but that does transform into a very team-oriented and sharing culture with time. As discussed in parts 1-4 the discussion centered around the “Americanization” of Scandinavian business and popular culture. Concerning popular culture (or daily living), there is a strong sense of American influence, however, business culture did not exude a perception of American influence.

Over and over we were introduced to businesses and organizations that focused on equality, fair play, and several other values that are not commonly at the forefront of American organizations. An “Americanized” business (at least to which a majority of traditional American organizations can attest) would be focused on fast-paced, overworked, individual achieving, and gained overall advantage in the market in which an organization exists. Granted, Scandinavian businesses are interested in sustainable competitive advantage equally as much as an American firm, however, their approach tends to be quite different. The organizations we met all shared an interest in supporting an atmosphere and culture that promoted creativity, forward-thinking, environmental responsibility, and simply performing more effectively than the competition. American firms push, and take advantage of low-wage earning and overwork employees to ensure meeting specific short-term objectives. The greatest difference that was communicated (both verbally and non-verbally via the hosting, office culture, and signage) was that all organizations we were introduced to on the trip were focused on long-term, highly valuable business objectives. As an example, many firms we have worked for in the States have mission statements that state things like: “industry leader… customer satisfaction… cost effective…. etc.” One example mission statement from the travel course read “to delight the world!” That says a lot about the lack of “Americanization” in Scandinavia.

So in summation, the question of “Americanization” in Scandinavia can be best answered in two parts. Concerning popular culture, the American spirit and interests are quite prevalent. Concerning business culture, there is an obvious lack of “Americanized” culture. Our assertions are that Scandinavian businesses are, in fact, further along on the time table for effective business management than are American businesses. The collective culture of team-oriented project management, and responsible business focus are aspirations which American businesses discuss as goals to be achieved, however, there is discernibly less effort actually spent on these higher level, long-term objectives. Since there is a lack of “Americanization” in Scandinavia, our lesson here is that there should be a “Scandinavianization” of American business culture. Granted, many see the shared interests, and fair play culture of these organizations as “socialist” or unsustainable in the long run, however, the countries of the region are not young by any means. This form of culture and society has proven to work well for these locations in Scandinavia, and there is a strong lesson in it for Americans like us.

This trip was quite literally a once-in-a-lifetime adventure for us. We had not spent this long away from home, our children and our lives in general. This was our first time in Europe, and we were thoroughly impressed with everything there was to experience. Our time spent in Scandinavia has opened our eyes about international business, and how very different so many things can be… and in our limited scope of experiences…. how very different we would like things to be.

Thank you to our professors, our fellow students, and to those that hosted us so graciously on our adventure. This has inspired Evelyn and I to pursue international careers, and with continued effort after we have now completed our MBA program, we hope to be able to accomplish this as well.

Good luck everyone. We will miss each and every one of you.