Starbucks is coming to Sweden (Finally)

Most prominent European countries have a Starbucks. For whatever reason, there is not a single location in Sweden. That is about to change in 2010 as Starbucks is finally coming although only at one location - Stockholm's major airport, Arlanda.

I was surprised that Sweden didn't have a Starbucks when I moved here in 2004. Being one of the top coffee consuming countries (per capita), it made no sense to me with Starbucks doing so well in Europe. Even Austria (another top coffee country) has produced good Starbucks results.

There has been plenty of written reaction (positive and negative) to this famous American brand's entrance into Sweden. Below are three comments from The Local, (Sweden's News in English). The link to the fully story is also below.

Has the typical Swedish prejudgement of all American coffee rubbed off on many of you? I come from a family of coffee lovers, and can say that the best coffee to be had is in USA. You can get it how you want it at a number of nice shops. Starbucks may not be the greatest of all places, but it is definitely MUCH BETTER than Swedish coffee. Swedish coffee done at home is good, however, every time Ive been to Coffeehouse by George, Wayne's Coffee, etc. I am left disappointed with mediocre coffee and a BORING Panini (same everywhere). Hopefully the American chain can bring in some "change."

Moreover, the best coffee to be had is at Espresso House. None of the other chains measure up. Go to you local (small) coffee shop too. There are many throughout Stockholm and Göteborg which are brilliant!
As my username so eloquently explains, I am English., and as an Englishman I feel horrified that Sweden shall be submitted to yet another attempt by an American globalising brand trying to destroy the local culture, such has happened to the country I formely lived in.The negative effects of multinational chains outweigh the benefits of a supposedly faster, more efficient service a thousand fold. Local difference and diverisity of life is one of the more engaging aspects of humanity and something Sweden excels in.It is not simply a matter of taste that needs to be debated here, it is the homogenising of our planet into a single American accented organism that buys coffee at Starbucks, eats in McDonalds and shops at Walmart.A feat that has already , I am ashamed to say, been accomplished in the UK.I hope the population here contniue to keep its head level, buy Swedish branded products and maintain the independance that i for one respect this country for.Keep Sweden Beautiful. --Englishman_In_Norpan
Well, say what you will about Mickey Dees and Starbucks but the fact is that it's usually a sancuary when I travel abroad. My tastes are for Swedish coffee but outside of Sweden good coffee is hard to get. Starbucks is actully the best alternative.I can imagine ppl from Italy or some random place trying to get a good Esspresso somewhere else. They'd probable settle for Starbuck too. As for Swedes not going there because it represents "capitalism" which seems to be some ppls attitudes. Then I'd say quite unlikely that they could resist the buisness model. Everything here is centeralized and swedes almost always do as everyone else does. All they need is a strong push and then magic takeover of the market.-- Bumblebeetuna

In my opinion, the naysayers have little ground to stand on as Starbucks is a brand worthy of being here. It's the largest coffee-house in the world, international, environmentally/socially conscious and most importantly - makes quality coffee. I can understand those who don't like the coffee or are anti-American or don't like big brand names. Those that claim that the coffee isn't quality obviously don't know java very well.

It's important to note that the location will be at the airport, (easy appeal for international travellers) not in a main city. Therefore, I'm not overly optimistic that we will see more Starbucks in the near future. If so, Sweden and Swedes will have to take the bold step of embracing competition and allowing Starbucks to go toe to toe against the the numerous coffee chains including Wayne's coffee, Expresso House and Coffeehouse by George.

In general, Sweden does coffee VERY WELL and I rarely get a bad cup of coffee here although some of the chains could take a page from Starbucks in the ambiance and music category. I enjoy Wayne's coffee and frequently meet friends there.

For those interested in the finance of the company, Starbucks stock has done extremely well over the past two decades until the recession took away a bit of its charm. In my opinion, during the last ten years they lost their focus by opening up too many stores and neglecting their core business - coffee and the customer experience. The founder (Howard Schultz) came back in 2008 as President/CEO and his presence has refocused the brand. I recommeded the stock to a few friends earlier this year when it was 11 dollars a share; since then it has almost doubled.

I'm excited for the potential of additional Starbucks in Sweden if only in the major towns of Stockholm, Göteborg and Malmö. I have no doubt the brand would be successful and would motivate other coffee-houses to "improve their stores and/or enhance the customer experience" which would benefit all coffee lovers!

Interestingly, I have never read a worthwhile answer from Starbucks as to why they are not in Sweden. It would seem to be a no-brainer for them as Sweden is wealthy and adores coffee - an ideal country in my book.

Will we see a non-airport Starbucks in the future? I'm hopeful but I won't be holding my breath.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

Autumn has arrived in Stockholm. Mild temperatures with plenty of rainy days.

Obama's Nobel - Don't Hate the Player, Hate the Game

The love keeps coming President Obama's way - this time in the form of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize from my neighbors in Norway. I had no idea that he was in serious contention for this prestigious honor until a good friend mentioned it to me. Why all the negativity around his winning the Prize? I can understand it from the right wing zealots in America along with the narrow minded Republicans who still believe former President Bush (#43) was a strong leader. What is troubling are those (some I suspect who voted for him) who have shown disdain, disgust and hate toward Obama for getting this award. I saw one American peace leader on TV say "he has done nothing".

Done Nothing? Please.

Here's a taste of what President Obama has done (writer is Joe Boyle):

Critics can argue all they want that Obama has not done anything. However, that is just wrong.

He has called for an end to torture of prisoners, the eventual withdrawal from Iraq and a serious discussion on curtailing the threat of global warming. He has also brought Democrats and Republicans together, often kicking and screaming, to begin serious discussion on national health care.

Critics state that he does not deserve the award because he has been in office only nine months. But perhaps that is the point. All the above listed items are being addressed under the Obama administration. It is not like Obama has had a cakewalk since becoming president. He inherited massive national debt that stirred over from the Bush administration.

He has had to make some tough decisions and addressed the needs of many American citizens who having a difficult time making ends meet. Now, are all of the programs that Obama has initiated going to work? No. However, it is better than watching while the economy continues to crumble

The criticism leveled at Obama seems to get stronger as more praise is showered on him. For those who want to knock him off his mighty platform, know this: Obama has "IT" and having "IT" is hard to explain, describe or define although you know "IT" when you see it. One just becomes more popular and influential than anyone ever imagined and that is the position Obama finds himself in. Let's not disrespect the man for that as I don't think he had any intention of wanting the "rock star" status that has been thrust upon him.

He should be given immense credit for wanting to tackle the horrendous and overwhelming problems in America. In my opinion, his heart is in the right place and I am grateful to have him as my President. Obama has touched the world in an almost majestic way and the world has responded strongly to his compassion, intellect and rhetoric. After the last 8 years in Washington, America and our brothers and sisters around the globe needed someone to give them hope for a better tomorrow and Obama has filled those shoes eloquently.

Even before he was elected, many Swedish immigrants (and even some Swedes) spoke to me glowingly of his potential for the world. Some had tears in their eyes as they spoke and their hope warmed my heart. Interestingly, most of the immigrants made a point to tell me that they feared for his safety. I don't think any of them would say that Obama has done nothing.

Was the award a bit premature? Of course. Obama admitted that he was "surprised and humbled".

For those bent out of shape or angry that the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to our 44th President, remember this:

Don't hate the player (Obama), hate the game (Nobel committee). It's not Obama's fault for getting the award. Any frustration that you harbor should be cast upon the 5 members of the Norwegian selection committee.

Here's what the committee based their selection on (from Joe Boyle's link above):

The announcement from Norway that Obama won the award was due to his ability to unite the world on a call for peace and better understanding of each other. He has also attempted to bridge the gap that exists among Muslims and the United States In short, Obama has essentially won the award on his appeal to nations overseas. Europeans, it seems, like what Obama stands for.

Maybe, just maybe the committee could be smarter than many think.

If it turns out that Obama does play a critical role in helping to make our chaotic and divisive world more peaceful, united and safe during his 4 or 8 year term (and beyond), the critics may one day say, "Yes, he did something".

Congratulations Mr. President.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

My friend Linda took this photo in a place I adore - Vermont. It's a beautiful and relaxing state.

2 Au Pairs in Stockholm - Their Experiences (in their words)

Before the summer, a young woman engaged me in a conversation as I was having coffee with a friend. I instantly knew she wasn't Swedish as her amiableness to a stranger rarely happens here. She was with three other women and our dialogue turned to why they were in Stockholm. Her answer surprised me - they were all au pairs from Canada and America. Having lived in New York City, I knew of the plethora of Swedish au pairs in and around the Big Apple although I never realized the immigrant au pair business in Stockholm was so vast. Our connection turned into a nice friendship.

She introduced me to another au pair (big fan of my blog) and the three of us have enjoyed quality conversation and coffee on an almost weekly basis. What impresses me about both is their zest for life, positivity, interest in meeting people and the fact that they have traveled extensively in their twenty-something lives. In addition, it's great to hear about the youth perspective and what is on their minds. I have talked with many teens but not so often with those in their twenties. Also, much of what I write on my blog is geared toward young people and providing a platform for helping to keep them focused and responsible so it was wonderful to listen to their opinions of my blog and hear about how their friends have enjoyed it. There was a big surge in traffic after meeting them so I am grateful for that!

One is from Canada while the other is Swedish/American and comes from the western part of America. Their experiences are quite different so I thought it would be enjoyable and important to know for those young women thinking of coming to Sweden as an au pair. The Canadian au pair has had a wonderful experience. When she talks about her family in Stockholm, her joy is infectious. Unfortunately, her friend has endured an intense form of disrespect from her family - some of which was hard to fathom. I am very proud of her for "taking the bull by the horns" and doing something positive about the bad treatment as one should NEVER tolerate disrespect in any form or fashion.

I encouraged them to write about their experiences and they complied rather quickly. Both are leaving this month and will be missed!

Their stories are below

Happy Gswede Sunday!
Canadian Au Pair Experience in Stockholm, 24:

Experiencing Stockholm has been one of the best years of my life. To really embrace a culture, the best way to do so is by living with a family of a different culture. My journey began when I met a Swedish boy in Thailand, and decided to explore another country by moving to Sweden to be with him. I decided to become an au pair because it was easy to get that kind of job when only speaking English. I had never even thought of becoming a nanny before. I heard a lot of bad stories of girls being treated very badly. I decided I had to find out for myself. When I interviewed with a family on I said to myself I had to have this family, they seemed so great! I got my friend in Sweden to interview them for me to make sure they were as great as they seemed. He convinced me they were. Unfortunately I broke up with my Swedish boyfriend right before I moved to Sweden, which made things kind of difficult but was ok since I was still happy to come to Europe and so excited to meet this family.

I met the family and they were great. Very nice and extremely welcoming. Which when you think about it, to have a stranger from another country come into your home, you must be very trusting. They have 2 kids a boy and girl ages 6 and 9. A perfect amount of kids and I couldn't ask for better ages. These kids were so sweet and well behaved. They didn't speak English at first but the oldest one now can hold a good conversation, and the youngest understands, but only speaks a little English. The parents are great, easy going people. Both have busy jobs but having me around, helps them to spend that much more time with their children. I work 25 hours a week which is the maximum in Sweden for an au pair. I wake up get the kids breakfast and ready for school and walk them to school. Then I have most of the day free and pick them up after school and make them and the mom dinner 4 times a week. Dinner time is good to get to know the family more, and the mom and I have become good friends having spent time together eating dinners. After every dinner she thanks me for the meal, and almost every time tells me how good the dinner was. Just saying those extra words goes a long way in my mind. When doing this kind of job, its so important to hear thank you and that they appreciate you and the work you do. Its so important I think to make the nanny feel like they are part of the family and that this isn't just a business agreement. They really make me feel like I'm part of the family and making dinner is my contribution.

The family is great with inviting me to almost all their family events and dinner when I am home and not cooking. Which has made it feel so much more at home. It makes me feel like I'm not just the nanny but their friend as well. I think that is important. I know of other au pairs that sit at the kids table when having dinner parties with the family and their friends. I am always included with the adults and their conversations. Someone is always translating in English or asking me what i think. I have made friends with some of their friends as well, which is important to not only have child contact but adult contact as well. Also great when adults look at you like a friend and not just the nanny.

This year has been the best because I have never had so much time to myself. I have all day, evening and weekends free. This gives me time to do the things I really love. Inexpensive things that I really love. Because being an au pair is not the best paying job out there, but its about the experience not bringing in the bacon. So being a poor nanny in a very expensive city can be very difficult at times, but it is manageable, you just have to find free fun and be very thrifty, examples of packing a lunch with you, and having cafe while watching your friends eat. Most of my time is spent meeting friends in cafes, usually au pairs because other people have jobs during the week. Getting to know people is one of my favorite things, and having the time to do so is just awesome to me. This year i have met a lot of friends, that i will stay in touch with forever. I had time to breathe, look around, and really appreciate my opportunity discovering a new country and culture. I now have an awesome family in Sweden, that I will love and cherish forever. I have a new view on Sweden that I had never had before. Coming from Canada I thought I had it great, well I now know how Swedes have it great as well. If something ever were to happen to Canada that it wasn't safe or smart to live there, I know where I would be heading to.

I would advise every single girl to become an au pair, if they want to experience a new culture, new language, good practice for being an excellent stay at home mom or house wife then I would definitely tell you to pack your bags and have the experience of having another family abroad. Even though things never worked out with my boyfriend, I realized that meeting him was just meant for me to have an experience of a lifetime and bring me to this great family in Sweden. I have no regrets of my decision this past year, and would do it again in a heart beat. Now I will leave the family and go back to Canada having an experience of a lifetime under my belt, and will only wish for my kids to be able to have such a great experience as I did one day.

American/Swedish Au Pair Experience in Stockholm, 22:

Coming to Sweden as an au pair seemed like it would be a complete breeze for me. I not only had many years of experience babysitting and being a nanny at home in the U.S. but I was also Swedish. What a perfect match! I would be surrounded by family and friends in Sweden that could also help make my move and transition easier.

My first couple weeks as an au pair were unbelievable. Here I was in the amazing city of Stockholm, that had EVERYTHING to offer. From endless cafes, restaurants, bars, and entertainment I knew Stockholm would be a great place to spend the next year. I quickly made friends through the immense network of au pairs in Stockholm. And I could not wait to start this adventure. I knew Stockholm would be the start of an experience of a lifetime.

My job unfortunately began to change right before my eyes. As the children were happy and very fun little children it was the parents who began to have a harsh impact on my “positive,” experience. The weeks grew longer and longer with my hours going from the promised 40 hours a week to a 50-60 plus hour work week with no ability to take care of myself. My love for working out and eating healthy began to go downhill as I could not even think straight after working 12-13 hour days. After giving it much thought I confronted the family with the intention of forming an agreement of hours and job responsibilities. This was a hard obstacle for me as I am not one who enjoys confrontation but I knew it was for the best if I wanted to see change in my work and to get the schedule and work description I had been promised when committing to this job.

The job soon came to an end when the family could not meet me in the middle and see eye to eye about my concerns with my hours and responsibilities. I had felt that I was being completely taken advantage of as I was responsible for “solely childcare,” as it had said on my contract, but was not the case. My long hours, inconsistent schedule, and inconsistent responsibilities made my job extremely difficult. It became frustrating to me that a family who had EVERYTHING could be so incredibly selfish and lacking appreciation for my hard work. I had never been in such a negative environment where my endless effort and hard work was just expected. I never heard the words “thank you,” words that I was grown up to say in every situation.

Looking back at my experience as a Swedish au pair... I would not necessarily change anything as I grew incredibly from this experience. I would have obviously wished for a more positive situation and that I had fulfilled a whole year in Stockholm, but I am thankful for my decision. If I had to give any advice to other future au pairs I would tell them to make sure and always go with your heart. DO NOT let anyone take you for granted and make sure that you are appreciated and happy. As for future families of foreign au pairs, make sure you tell your au pair that you appreciate them and make sure they feel welcomed and comfortable. Being an au pair can be difficult in the fact that you are suppose to feel like a part of a family but are also an employee. I would make sure both the au pair and au pair family set out the guidelines and job details straight from the beginning.

To the au pairs: if you are ever in an awkward or uncomfortable situation look to other au pairs for help and to to your family and tell them how you feel. If you are not happy or comfortable you will not give the most important part of your job 100%, the children.

Gswede (not pictured) enjoyed a morning coffee and sandwich with his daughter on a glorious October morning. The picture is in the heart of Stockholm, Sweden.

New Friend Mixed with Current Friends = Wonderful Evening

In August, a good friend living in California emailed me about a friend of his who was coming to Stockholm for a few days. I immediately started the ball rolling with my connections in order to help him in any way that I could and told him that we would meet one night in the city.

When a potential new friend emerges (something I embrace) in my life, I enjoy mixing that person with current friends to give the night a little extra spice. Last week, I met this gentleman at one of Stockholm's popular places and within the hour, four of my friends (2 women and 2 men) arrived. The vibe amongst the group was sizzling from the start which boded well for our remaining hours. The energy was good due in large part to everyone being interesting along with a nice mix from America, Serbia and Sweden. In addition, the conversation flowed smoothly whether it was 2 people talking to each other or the whole group interacting.

After a couple of hours, we walked to another hot spot nearby so the new guy in town could experience a different setting. The place was loud and crowded yet we were still able to continue the conversational vibe from earlier in the evening. Being a family man, I left the group around midnight as did two others. The remaining three kept the evening alive and ventured to at least one more place.

Even though I was extremely tired the next day from my daughter's 6am "rise and shine", I decided to meet my new friend in town so I could get to know him better and show him other parts of Stockholm. Since I'm in the midst of 5 months parental leave, he also got to meet my ten-month old daughter. We had a great day walking around the city and the weather cooperated brilliantly with abundant sunshine and soothing temperatures - a warmness prevalent throughout most of September which is uncommon for this time of year.

We discovered that we shared common interests including but not limited to our philosophies about how to live a quality life, being responsible and avoiding dangerous pitfalls that can disrupt, damage or ruin a life. Learning from others is so crucial to leading a well-rounded life and we both gained insightful knowledge from our time together. He also made me think about some issues differently or in a way I had never thought of before which doesn't happen very often.

As I mentioned in my "5 years in Sweden" (link is below) article, my best times socially in Stockholm have been ones that I created or took part in organizing. This evening was no exception and gave me inspiration to write this article. The size of our group was perfect as it gave everyone a chance to interact - something that rarely happens when a night with friends is filled with too many people. Most of my exciting nights socially whether in Belgrade, Serbia or New York City or Stockholm have been with groups of 10 or less.

I encourage everyone to attempt to bring one new friend into your life every year. It's important to embrace as it should challenge your open-mindedness as well as give you energy and inspiration. One of my minor irritations is going to an event at a home with the same people year after year - a common occurrence in Stockholm and probably throughout Sweden as people tend to stay confined to their group of childhood friends or current friends throughout life. It happens in America as well although not with the frequency I have witnessed here. I implore those stuck in the same group of friends to be bold and venture outside of your comfort zone with new people and you may be pleasantly surprised at the results.

My new friend had a good time in Stockholm and indicated that he will return. When he does, we will mix it up once again, have fun and.....Let the good times roll!

Happy Gswede Sunday!

New Friend, Current Friend and Gswede in Stockholm.