ENGLISH SUBTITLES, PLEASE! But the word is “China”

Jönköping Thoughts

I found language barriers within the Swedish industries and observed the trend of increasing Sino-Swedish business relationships.

The Elmia Subcontractor Fair was four days long. The Chalmers Formula Student team stood proudly next to our partner Lesjöfors. The types and sizes of springs Lesjöfors offers amazed me. Yet, just another small Swedish engineering company that packs a big punch in the automotive industry.

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I was there for the last day of the marathon. So we walked around talking to suppliers, looking for partnership opportunities. It felt like speed dating. We practiced a procedure of “approaching sponsors”. I’m pretty sure somebody google’ed “how to approach girls”, copied the article and replaced the word “girls” with “companies”…us awkward engineers.

But since it was engineers talking to engineers, conversations went smoothly. People were enthusiasm towards their products and we were curiosity driven.

Except one guy. He talked to my colleague and I in English for a bit. Then all of a sudden, he switched to Swedish. Sh-woosh! Just like that! WahhBamm! And I stood there holding my smile, meanwhile my Swedish colleague continued with this “date”. Awkward… My Swedish colleague later tried to explain to me that some people are just more comfortable talking in their mother tongue. He could have at least said: “oh, my Engilsh bad”. Frankly I was a little annoyed at first. But after all, I’m in his country. I’m sorry for not speaking “Svenska”…

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The take-home message here is the confirmation of language barrier that inevitably exists in Sweden. Majority of the people in big cities speak fluent English. But if you go to smaller towns or work in smaller businesses, only speaking English can be an issue.

On a different note, a large percentage of companies we talked to said they do their manufacturing in China. We observed many Sino-Swedish joint ventures at the fair. We also saw many Chinese companies there. I guess it’s also time to pick up some Chinese!

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Engineering fair name tags. It just never looks as cool as the lawyers or the economists

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§ A little bit more about the fair:

The subcontractor fair is one of the leading supplier’s fair in Northern Europe, involving engineering and technological businesses all over Sweden.

Some Fast Facts: [Source: official webpage http://www.elmia.se/en/subcontractor]

  • Number of visitors: 14 705 (Chalmers has 10,000 students)
  • Number of exhibitors: 1 171 (that’s a lot of companies)
  • Exhibition area: 18 286 sq m (1 soccer field is 100×64 m2. So aprox. three soccer fields)
  • Participating nations: 31

Chalmers Formula Student team’s goal was:

  • Represent our sponsors: show casing the fruit of collaboration between CFS an our partners.
  • Increase awareness of the Formula Student project
  • Seek for more industry relations: delivering more “Engineers of tomorrow” (that’s our motto)

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