Ruth Dolla, Official Spokesperson, Visit Sweden has candid insights to share about life in Sweden and what you can expect as Indian travellers.
With more than 16+ years of professional experience as a marketer and brand ambassador, Ruth Dolla has worked with a diverse spectrum of brands such as India’s first wine company - Sula Vineyards
Planning a trip to Sweden next year and wondering where to get started? For Indians who may be curious to know what it would feel like to live in Sweden, it may come as a reality check that life in Sweden and India can be quite the total opposite of each other in many ways. Ruth Dolla, Official Spokesperson, Visit Sweden has candid insights to share about life in Sweden and what you can expect as Indian travellers.
With more than 16+ years of professional experience as a marketer and brand ambassador, Ruth Dolla has worked with a diverse spectrum of brands such as India’s first wine company – Sula Vineyards. Afterwards, she moved to the exciting world of Formula One racing at Kingfisher Force India F1 and international marketing for Bollywood music at Hungama Digital. In 2014, thereafter, Dolla moved to Sweden in 2014 and currently works to promote Sweden in India and vice versa.
What’s life like in Sweden from an Indian perspective?
Ruth Dolla points out that personal space is a welcome luxury in Sweden, with its population of 10 million people only, and social distancing was already a norm there way before Coronavirus made it mandatory for the rest of the world!
According to Ruth Dolla, “If you stood at the bus stop you’d stand 2 metres distance from the next person and if there’s space on the bus you would never sit next to someone else. The crisp and clean air is something that doesn’t fail to amaze me, you take a deep breath and it feels like fresh mountain air. Stockholm being the most crowded city in Sweden has an Air Quality Index (AQI) of 30 whereas Mumbai has an AQI of 165.”
Wearing two hats – Half Swede, half Indian
“I was born and brought up in Mumbai and now after moving to Sweden in 2014, I feel like I’m already half Swede and half Indian. What I do miss is spontaneity in Sweden. In India you could call a close friend for a cup of chai at 2 am and you know that it would be ok. In Sweden everything is organized in advance including catch ups with friends leaving little room for spontaneity,” Ruth Dolla candidly tells Financial Express Online.
In this exclusive interaction with Swapna Raghu Sanand, Ruth Dolla shares what it feels like to don two hats simultaneously – yes, the Indian hat and the Swedish hat, “One’s way of thinking and viewing things changes, and one realizes that what is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is subjective depending on which cultural filter I am using. When I talk to external parties in India I have the Indian hat and remind myself that it is completely normal for someone to send me an email and then send me a message via whatsapp after 15 mins informing me that they have sent an email. If I had my Swedish hat on I’d only get irked.”
She adds, “On the other hand, having a ‘jugaad’ solution that goes around ‘set rules’ is not commonly accepted in Sweden and then I may have to put on my Swedish hat and just accept that. Straddling both worlds has been a challenge albeit a fun one and it keeps me on my toes and makes my job at Visit Sweden very interesting.”
How important is India to Sweden in terms of tourism, cultural ties and so on?
Regarding the growing link and growing traffic between India and Sweden,Air India launched a direct flight between Delhi and Stockholm in August 2017. There was a MOU signed in 2018 between both the countries by both the Prime Ministers for collaborating within healthcare, technology, green energy and more. The link between India and Sweden has been growing stronger and stronger and the crescendo was at its peak when the Swedish royal family visited India in Dec 2019. This helps us indirectly with tourism. The more Indians know and hear about Sweden, the more it is on their travel radar as well.
The cultural bridge and the trade link between India and Sweden are two of the most important links in promoting tourism. The history between the two countries goes back to 1731 when the Swedish East India Company was founded in Gothenburg, Sweden for trading and importing various goods especially tea, silk, arrack and porcelain from China and India. The imported arrack (alcoholic drink) since then became a popular drink amongst the rich in Sweden.
The Swedish alcoholic drink ‘punsch’ or punch originated then when five different ingredients were blended. Five is ‘paanch’ in Hindi which then became punsch in Swedish. Traditionally the five ingredients were – arrack, lemon juice, water, sugar and tea.
Today there are 200 Swedish companies in India today from H&M to IKEA, Spotify, Truecaller, Ericsson, Electrolux, Tetrapak, Volvo, Oriflame, SKF and more. These companies directly or indirectly hire thousands of people and introduce them unknowingly to Swedish culture.
Are there any specific case studies/examples/personal observations that you would like to share in this regard?
These are my personal observations. There are quite a few similarities and differences between India and Sweden, as with any other European country.
What struck me was that we had a few similar words in common. ‘samband’ means connection in the Swedish language and ‘sambandh’ means relation or connection in Hindi too. This cool coincidence has now been a part of many business and cultural events between the two countries where the ‘India Sweden samband’ has been emphasized.
On the other hand, Sweden and India can be quite the total opposite of each other too in many ways.
What, in your opinion, can excite Indians when they consider a trip to Sweden? Also, what are the cultural aspects that can entice them even more?
Three things that could excite Indians when they consider a trip to Sweden: The Northern Lights, hip city of Stockholm and the Midsummer festival.
The cultural aspects that could entice the Indian traveller would be the openness in society. For example, if you are a person from the LGBTQ community you would feel very accepted and almost loved. Same sex marriage is legal and it can be so inspiring to actually see same sex couples on the street holding hands, kissing or even with a baby in their family.
Another sign of openness is that you could wear literally anything and nobody would bat an eyelid.
‘Naken dopp’ or taking a dip naked in Sweden has absolutely nothing to do with anything erotic but more to do with enjoying nature and feeling comfortable in one’s own body. Sweden has more than 97 500 lakes and taking a dip without clothes either before or after a traditional sauna experience is an ingrained part of the Swedish lifestyle.
Easy access to nature and sustainability are also some of the things that could entice the Indian traveller.
If you had to explain why Sweden to an Indian traveller, what would you say?
If I had to say one thing, I’d say come to Sweden for it’s beautiful nature.