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“A global citizen” at heart

Yoghatama Cindya Zanzer

I have spent half of my life living in different countries, from Konstanz to Düsseldorf, both in Germany, from Santiago de Compostela in Spain to Lund in Sweden, and now I am residing in the Rhein region of Rheinland-Pfalz in Germany. Even when I was studying in high school, my parents had sent me to Germany to gain international exposure and learn the important values of responsibility in life. During my stay, I lived with a German host family and attended grade 11 at the Geschwister-Scholl-Schule in the beautiful city of Konstanz, located at the Lake of Constance, a lake situated on the border between Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. I am forever grateful to my parents for providing me with such an enriching experience that widened my perspective and helped me find myself in life. Since then, I have developed a strong bond with Germany and have frequently visited during my university years.

The pandemic – a challenge and opportunity when commuting internationally

I had an experience which I cannot forget during my early time with BENEO when I had just started working in late 2019. At that time, it was still pre-COVID and going into the office every day was an expectation. Given that my wife Ayu still worked with a Swedish company producing oat-based milk alternative at that time. Thus I had an agreement with my manager that I could take a week off every month to visit my family in Sweden. However, as news of the pandemic grew, it became clear that traveling back and forth would become more challenging.

On March 13th, 2020, I was finishing up my work and preparing to head back to Sweden when I learned that my flight from Frankfurt to Copenhagen was still on schedule as usual. I had chosen to fly to Copenhagen because my family lived in Lund, a small town located in the southern Scandinavian peninsula part of Sweden and very close to Sweden-Denmark border. Thus, taking the flight to Copenhagen and then directly from Copenhagen Airport crossing the Øresund strait to Sweden was a more convenient option than taking a flight to far north Stockholm.

On that day, I had planned to take a Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) flight SK1636, which was due to arrive in Copenhagen at 22:00. However, I was shocked to hear an announcement at Frankfurt Airport that many flights had been cancelled due to the widespread COVID virus. To make matters worse, I heard a second announcement that Denmark would close its border at midnight on that day. This meant that if I arrived in Denmark after midnight, I would be locked down in Denmark without any guarantee neither crossing the Øresund strait to Sweden nor back to Germany. I was extremely nervous and hoped that my flight would arrive on time. Fortunately, I made it back to Sweden with the last Øresund train. Pfiuhh, what an experience…

Yogha on monitoring visit to one of BENEO clinical study site during COVID pandemic time
Yogha on monitoring visit to one of BENEO clinical study site during COVID pandemic time

Well… nowadays working anywhere is possible, thanks to BENEO as a member of the Südzucker Group. Here at a family-oriented and forward-thinking company prioritizing a work-life balance where I am able to work from anywhere and allows me to adjust my schedule.

Scandinavia (Sweden) in comparison to Germany

In early 2023, my wife Ayu decided to resign from her job in Sweden and join the Product Safety Department at Südzucker AG which is mostly responsible in assessing and safe-guarding BENEO’s recipes and ingredients in formulated products. Moving to a new country, with a new language, culture, and way of life was exciting but also challenging at the same time.

Our son, who was born and raised in Sweden, found it particularly difficult to adjust to the new environment. To help him get used to it, during six months transition time we always brought him to Germany every time we had to be in the office. Our strategy worked very well, and within six months of our permanent move to Germany, he was able to navigate the German language and adjust to the typical German school system. Germans might be aware about it that German school is characterized by lots of daily homework compared back then to Sweden 😊.

“Just right – not too much, not too little” – collective decisions in Sweden

Ayu and I were discussing how the working culture differs across different countries. We both agreed that Germany has a very efficient approach to problem-solving. However, the Scandinavian style (Sweden) is interestingly different, where team members should collectively agree on decisions, and every person has equal rights. No one should appear to have a “better opinion” or act as “dominant” within the team. While this approach can sometimes lead to a delay in reaching decisions, it is a matter of avoiding conflict and everything should be in moderation or what we call it “lagom” – “just right – not too much, not too little”. It reflects that everything that is too much is seen as ‘unacceptable’ within the framework of Swedish perspective. This ”lagom“-principle is deeply ingrained in Swedish culture and offers a unique perspective on contentment and well-being.

It’s implemented in different aspects and in many ways, even from childhood. School children have been taught with this principle at school to be equal, pay respect to each other, no one should show off or being said “don’t think that you are better than anyone else.” This has led to Swedish education often using a “pass” or “not pass” system instead of a scoring system like A to F or numerical 1 to 6 to mark if someone has passed the exams on certain subjects. This highlights one of differences between German and Swedish education system: in German system competitiveness is built through school and extra-curricular activities and is valued with a numerical scoring system.

Individualism and civil society – different fundamental principles

In Sweden, we enjoy flat hierarchies at work and address everyone by their first name. Which is quite the opposite compared to Germany. In terms of punctuality at work, Sweden has a similar principle to Germany. Work overtime is unexpected and can only happen if necessary. Although many similarities exist between Sweden and Germany, there are differences in some of the fundamental principles. In my personal opinion, Swedes are quite reserved and considered individualists. Swedes and Swedish society are unique in that way as deeply delved in the recently published book “The Swedish Theory of Love: Individualism and Social Trust in Modern Sweden (2022)” co-authored by Henrik Berggren and Lars Trägårdh, professor of history at Uppsala University, Sweden.

Referring to their book, Sweden has created a social contract embracing a strong state but in the service of an extreme form of individual autonomy. This can be exemplified for instance in the case when Sweden ignored the global consensus that favoured lockdowns and severe restrictions during the COVID pandemic instead of keeping Sweden open during COVID pandemic. On the other hand, Germany has a fundamental principle that family and civil society are seen as both objects and collaborators of the welfare state. The state protects and supports the family as well as other institutions of civil society with the aim that each of these in turn should be able to provide for the welfare of individuals in the form of child- and eldercare, education, and healthcare.

The right to explore nature

Nature means a lot for Scandinavian, including Sweden. As a result, Sweden has implemented its unique Allemansrätten law (The Right of Public Access), which grants Swedes the freedom to explore most areas of Swedish nature, as long as no disturbance or damage is caused. This public access right allows us to take walks, go kayaking, or pick berries in the forest. Moreover, it has led to innovative solutions in some Kommune, such as the development of an App that enables people to locate public fruit trees, monitor the ripeness of the fruits, and harvest them for free. This promotes fruits self-sufficiency and increases fruit consumption for public benefits.

My wife and me are very grateful for the opportunity that we now both have to enjoy working within the Südzucker Group as an international company. Nevertheless, we miss Sweden very much, and from time to time, at least once a year, we travel to Sweden to have quality time with friends.


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