I really don’t know where to start… I have already been in Prague for more than four weeks and all the impressions from the town, work and colleagues are getting mixed in my head. Before I left Sweden I was scared and worried about this period abroad but now I just love it. There are of course times when I feel lonely, uncomfortable and left out since I don’t know the language. These moments are however definitely compensated with hundreds of positive things.

The city – According to Wikipedia Prague has been the political, cultural and economic centre of Europe and particularly central Europe for the over 1100 years of its existence. So you can imagine that there are plenty of historical buildings worth seeing. The Old Town has a charm that no modern city could ever get with all cobblestone streets which network is such a mess that it is not even worth using a map. It is easier just to walk in the direction that you think is correct. And you should definitely not be wearing shoes with sharp heels.

It is also really easy to keep your cost of living down (if you’re not a spender like me…). The food prices are sometimes even hard to grasp, in the cafeteria at Scania you buy a complete meal for less than 20 SEK. You should also drink beer instead of any other beverage since most of the time it is even cheaper than water… The price of 0.5 l beer is less than 15 SEK even in the more touristy parts of town. The big drawback is of course that it is easy to focus on food and beer instead of exercising.  

My work – I have three different projects that I’m currently working on. I probably shouldn’t go into details but roughly I will try to find the factors that make customers buy Scania in Czech Republic and which marketing channels that should be used to communicate these factors. In the third project I will make a landscape assessment of all IT-systems that contain some customer information and try to figure out how and if these systems should be connected to the CRM-system (Customer Relationship Management). What information could be important for the salesmen and workshop to have easy access to when meeting the customers?

It is fun to have my own project since I can plan and run them exactly as I want, but it is also rather lonely since I don’t have anyone to discuss with. My colleagues run their own projects and my boss who initiated the projects are only here twice a month. Czech Republic belongs to the Scania CER region together with Slovakia and Hungary, and to be close to all employees my boss has his office in Slovakia. On the bad side this means that I can’t have discussions with my boss on daily basis but on the good side it also means that my colleagues are pretty relaxed in office. It’s entertaining to see how many people are real “ögontjänare”…

My biggest challenge in the country and especially at work is the language. There is no problem to talk English with my colleagues in the marketing department and with most of the managers but beyond that it is harder. It is highly frustrating that I can’t communicate with the salesmen and customers since their knowledge is really important for my projects. Before going to Czech Republic I was convinced that I would try to learn Czech but when arriving here everyone just laughed at me and told me that was waste of time since it is such a difficult language. After reading the following I can understand what they mean: “Every noun is either feminine, masculine inanimate, masculine animate or neuter. There are four different forms of feminine, four of neuter and two each of masculine animate and inanimate, and each form has a different ending, depending on its declensions: twelve different noun types, each declined seven different ways. That’s eighty-four altogether, and double that number because that’s only singular and every noun is either singular or plural.  So there are one hundred and sixty-eight forms a noun can take” (from Me, Myself & Prague by Rachel Weiss). And then we have the adjectives and verbs… So no, I will stick to the corporate language English and use interpreter when talking to salesmen and customers.

The people – Before going to Czech Republic I heard that staff in shops and restaurants are still stuck in communist culture and don’t make any bigger efforts to serve their customers. This might be true to some extent but I really don’t have any problems with this, as long as you make an effort and start with “Dobrý den” they are even prepared to speak English J  I also heard that Czech people are hard to get to know, a statement which I really don’t believe to be true. I have already been on a spring festival together with one colleague, been invited to relatives of another colleague and discussed marriage and communism with a third. I think that’s the best “get-to-know-progress” in any of my trainee periods so far.

I have also noticed some habits and cultural characteristics which I think are amusing. For example it is hard to find toilet paper without any color, smell or other add on, people don’t turn the lights on in the office (they rather sit in the dark, I still don’t understand why), women have to walk one step ahead of men and absolutely first through the door and all door locks requires the key to be turned two complete turns before the door is locked. All families should have at least one dog (even if they live in a small apartment in the middle of Prague) and it is perfectly normal to make out in public as if you were in your bedroom…

Oh, this became a very long text… Finally I want to say congratulations to those who have been employed as this year’s Scania trainees! I think you have a very nice year to come.