Working and Living in Stockholm
Establishing the new position of Regional Controller in Sweden – Josef Apfel relished the challenge. The fact that his new role took him to Stockholm, one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, was an added extra.
With the acquisition of Statoil Fuel & Retail Lubricants in Stockholm in October 2015, FUCHS increased its presence in northern Europe. The Scandinavian FUCHS subsidiary, which has been trading as FUCHS LUBRICANTS SWEDEN since October 2016, has its own production plant south of Stockholm with approx. 60 employees and a sales and administration department with approx. 80 employees in the city center. It forms an organizational unit with the FUCHS distribution companies in Denmark, Norway and Finland. “As a result of the increasing importance of the Nordic countries for the FUCHS Group, the additional position of Regional Controller, already present in other regions, was established in Sweden,” explains Josef Apfel. “When I was offered the opportunity to create this position, naturally I jumped at the chance.” Mr. Apfel, who is a qualified business administrator with a Masters in Finance, certainly possesses the necessary qualifications after spending several years working in controlling at the holding company in Mannheim. In early 2016, he moved to Sweden with his partner. They had already found a suitable flat during a prior 'look and see' trip. “In addition to processing and analyzing data for the head office in Mannheim, in Stockholm it was also a matter of merging and harmonizing the Statoil Fuel & Retail Lubricants reporting system with our systems,” says Mr. Apfel describing of one of the challenges he faced. “I was welcomed very warmly and was able to rely on support from my new colleagues, who have found the switch to the FUCHS Group to be positive. Even the new language has not proven to be too great a barrier.”
While the young Controller is the only non-Swede on the team, everyone speaks perfect English and helps him when communication problems occur. “Of course, I'm constantly trying to improve my Swedish - my understanding is already quite good. I still have to practice speaking a bit, but I'm getting there,” says Mr. Apfel.
“In addition to the language course, the intercultural training all FUCHS employees complete before going to a foreign subsidiary for a certain time was also very helpful,” he states, remembering his first weeks at his new workplace. “For Sweden, the topic of cultural differences is not really on the agenda, you’re not scared of making any blunders. But there are some differences in the way our northern European neighbors work compared with Germany.” For example, there is the traditional “Fika”, a break with colleagues for coffee and delicious cinnamon buns – an absolute must! “But it’s not just about taking a break, it’s also an opportunity to discuss work-related matters in an informal setting,” says Mr. Apfel. “In any case, meetings and discussions are an important part of the working culture in Sweden.” One reason for this is that in Sweden, hierarchies are less important – everyone sits together in large, open offices and decisions are often made together. “Our offices have special separate areas for important phone calls or for when you really need quiet,” he explains.
In addition, family is really important in Sweden and things like home offices, flexible working hours and parental leave for fathers are even more common in Sweden than in Germany.
And what are the most popular recreational activities in Stockholm? “I'm a real football fan, so I immediately joined a football club and made lots of social contacts there,” reports Mr. Apfel. “And Stockholm is really beautiful and as it is built on several islands, you’re always close to the water. We often take the ferry or boat to the archipelago - the maritime character is unique.” The Heidelberg-born Controller also enjoys the varied gastronomy from all over the world and the leisure park in the city center with many concerts from international musicians. He has even come to love the cooler climate. “When I came to Stockholm in winter 2016, temperatures went down to -20 degrees. For the first time, I saw a partially frozen city and stood on a completely frozen lake - what an experience!”