Averea ascunsă din România…

Nu mă refer la bogăția spirituală (??) sau la bogățiile de subsol, nici la vreo comoară ascunsă de daci sau de alte neamuri care au străbătut  meleagurile mioritice.

Conform statisticilor, România este o țară în curs de dezvoltare, iar în Uniunea Europeană suntem codașe când vine vorba de produsul intern brut, veniturile pe cap de locuitor etc. Venitul mediu net este extrem de scăzut, cu excepția câtorva orașe mari și niște profesii noi și lucrative.

Dar mulți însă nu vorbesc de o avere ascunsă. Imobilele. Și nu mă refer la vilele din Pipera și Bună Ziua (oricum nu știu dacă aș vrea să trăiesc în așa zise cartiere ”fițoase” unde nu există utilități, școli, grădinițe, ci niște vile hidoase în toate culorile) ci la casele și pământurile de la țară, și la blocurile din cartierele comuniste.

Da-da, blocurile alea gri și hidoase care acum sunt renovate în n-șpe mii de culori.

Să încep cu un cetățean american, proaspăt ieșit de la facultate. În ochii noștri ei sunt simbolul bogăției, capitalismului cu Dallasul lor, mașini mari și case și mai mari, cu iarbă verde și grătare. Mulți uită însă că studentul american iese de la facultă’ cu o datorie de 150/200 de mii de dolari. Și credeți-mă fraților, ori unde te-ai afla și oricât ai câștiga, banii ăștia sunt bani greu de adunat. Anii trec, studentul nostru (mai ales cu criza) își găsește un job care-l plătește cu vreo 3OOO de dolari pe lună și decide că vrea și el o casă. Se duce la bancă, ia un împrumut de 300.000 de dolari și își ipotechează casa. Degeaba se duce la ta-so, că și ăla săracu plătește până în adânci bătrâneți împrumutul pe casă. Americanii sunt îndatorați pe veci și dacă e să tragi linia cu activul și pasivul lor, vei vedea că sunt în minus majoritatea vieții lor adulte.

În Europa social-capitalistă (mai ales în țările de Nord, Germania, Franța) slavă domnului că educația e gratis sau destul de ieftină. Dar e greu să-ți găseși un loc de muncă bine plătit din care să-ți cumperi măcar un apartament în viitor. La ce prețuri au la apartamente, trebuie să lucreze două persoane, 3O de ani de zile să-și plătească împrumuturile. N-ai plătit rata? Nicio problemă, vine banca și îți ia frumușel căsuța. De aceea mulți din aceste țări trăiesc în chirie până în adânci bătrâneți. Iarăși, degeaba te duci la mama, că cel mai probabil și mama încă își plătește împrumuturile sau stă în chirie. Dacă tragi linia, europeanu’ nu este la fel de îndatorat ca americanu’, dar puterea  lui de cumpărare este mai mică ca peste Ocean și cel mai probabil niciodată nu o sa aibă casa lui proprie.

Mulți mă întreabă când mă duc acasă, cât câștig? Și când spun suma toată lumea se uită la mine, că vai cât de mult. Dar ui’, că că am 26 de ani, n-am nici casă, nici mașină și când îs în Danemarca dau 500 de euro/lună pe o cameră iar în State dau 750 de dolari/lună pe o cameră. Nu apartament frate, că n-am de unde să scot 1200 de euro pe lună pe un apartament și un depozit de 3500-4000 de euro, dacă mai vreau să și pun bani deoparte.

Și acum ne uităm și în ograda noastră. Cei mai mulți dintre părinții noștri au primit un apartament de la nea Ceașcă și gașca roșie. Că ne place perioada aia, sau nu, ei au primit un imobil (mulți au și pierdut imobilele lor, dar majoritatea au primit). Că este apartamentul din Mărăști, sau Mănăștur, nu contează. Părinții noștri nu plătesc 30 de ani rata la bancă ca să aibă propria lor casă. Că are numai 60-70 m2 și e gri, este un imobil care valorează între 40.000-90.000 de euro, în funcție de unde te afli în țară. Peste asta, mulți dintre noi au o casă la bunici, câteva hectare de pământ. Un lux la care un olandez sau belgian ar visa luni întregi. Cu chin cu vai, fiecare dintre noi a cărat un sac de picoci (cartofi) de la bunici, a mâncat porodici (roșii) și a gustat un măr de la țară. Și dacă doamne feri totul pică, ai unde să te duci înapoi, pe feldera ta de pământ unde să crești un porc și o găină. Poți să te duci înapoi la părinți care au apartamentul lor și nimeni nu-i poate scoate afară (probabil cei de la Gold Corporation, El Căpitan și Plagiatoru’). În Occident asta nu mai e posibil. Dacă e să tragem linia, avem mai mult pe partea de activ.

Mai uităm nunțile noastre grandioase. Să-i spui unui danez că ai făcut 10.000 de euro profit la nuntă și deja vine în România să se însoare. Plus părinții, că așa sunt ei, mai sacrifică niște bănuți pentru odraslele lor. Mai uităm și de persoanele care au moștenit (și erau mulți) pământuri lângă orașe și le-au vândut în timpul boomului imobiliar.

Mulți dintre prietenii mei se vaită, iar alții sunt fericiți cu starea lor actuală. Da, primești alea 300-400 de euro pe lună, care nu-s mulți deloc. Dar dacă și nevasta mai ia 300 de euro pe lună, ai deja 700-800. O bere te costa 1/1.5 euro (nu 7-12 euro). Dacă mai ai și minte în cap, mai faci niște ciubucuri ne-impozitabile. Te mai ajută părinții cu niște bucate, mai faci o nuntă și scoți bani; probabil stai la părinți până la 25 de ani și nu plătești chirie; mai moștenești o bucată de pământ unde pui o ceapă, mai moștenești un apartament comunist care și în condițiile crizei actuale are o valoare destul de mare.

Știu că viața nu e ușoară acasă, dar nici în străinătate nu stă cârnatu’ pe gard. Nu știu când o să am banii necesari să am casa mea aici (unde o fi acel ”aici”), iar încă tre’ să treacă niște ani până când să-mi permit luxul de a avea o mașină (în multe state taxele sunt imense) și să mă duc în oraș și să petrece ca lumea, când berea mă costă 7-10 euro.

 

How would I become the biggest shareholder in Gabriel Resources? A bit of conspiracy theory…

As much as I am a fan of democratic movements, and the recent Rosia Montana protests have shown that social media and young people can come together to protest for the greater good, I always have a slight amount of skepticism left in me. I do believe that history has taught us two things: 1) people can be manipulated, especially larger masses and 2) in most cases public uprisings hide interests that have nothing to do with the ‘greater good’.

One recent article has caught my attention, according to which the shares of Gabriel Resources (the 80.69% owner of the Rosia Montana Gold Corporation) have plummeted since the protests began 10 days ago. This might seem logical, as why would anyone buy shares in a company that has caused public protests and might not get the promised licenses to do what it is meant to do (mining). The old demand-offer rule of economics. If there is no demand for something, the price of the product falls.

However, there is another good rule of economics. ‘Buy when the price is low!’ Now you see, if I for example would like to become a significant shareholder in a company, I would by when the shares are low. The value of a company’s shares at any given point is the result of highly volatile factors. It fluctuates due to environmental, political etc. changes. The stock exchange value of a company reflects future potential. The future is bright, the price goes up. The future is grim, the price goes down.

Now over the years, many have come up with different devices and tricks to lower a company’s shares, buy them when they are at its lowest and then wait until they bounce back and sell them off again. One such technique  (already invented by a Dutch guy at the turn of the 16-17th century)  is ‘short selling’. This generally occurs inside a company, from an existing shareholder. What we might be witnessing in the Gabriel Resources case is an outsider wanting to get into the company.

I checked the numbers on Gabriel Resources. It is a Canadian company, listed on the Toronto stock exchange. Its market capitalization (the actual market value = the price of a share x the number of outstanding shares) on 11 September 2013 is approximately 250 million dollars, while the price of shares has dropped from 1.46 dollars/share to 0.72 dollars/share. Now that my dear friends is a significant drop and it has been the lowest share price in ages. So who ever would like to buy the shares, should buy it now.

I also checked the ownership of the company, and as of 31 July 2013 it is as follows: 16% Paulson & Co., 16 % Electrum Global Holdings, 16% BSG capital, 13% Newmont, 13% Baupost Group and 26% are free (public) floating shares. As you can see none of the shareholders are too big, but the 26% free floating ones are the ones which are currently on the market (can be bought on the stock exchange). So whoever wants to become a shareholder is smart enough to buy now, and if they buy up the 26%, then they are the biggest shareholder in the company. A bigger stake of the equity means a bigger share in the proceeds and profits of the company (dividends).

So the conspiracy theory is this: it is known that some affluent and influential business men out there have been funding for some years protests against Gabriel Resource’s mining operations in Romania. But business men are business men. They don’t do things for free! And I would be surprised to see that some of these business men, through companies they control, all of a sudden become shareholders in Gabriel Resources. The shares went down due to the protests, so it is optimal time to buy them up.

You could ask ‘So? Why would anyone ruin the image of a company to buy it up and then this company will not be able to mine for gold.’ Two reasons. 1) If you buy up the 26% of public shares at this point of time you spend 65 million dollars. But if Gabriel Resources launches investment arbitration proceedings against Romania, Romania might just have to pay 4 billion dollars in damages (and Romania has lost some cases till now) 2) Let’s not forget that Gabriel Resources also owns the company Rom Aur and also has concessions in the Bucium area (south-east of Rosia Montana), which can be traded for mineral rights in the Baisoara area.

If that investor buys up those 26% of shares at this low share price, but the company gets 4 billion dollars in damages, whoever that investor is, becomes a rich man. And he will only have to pay a team of lawyers to defend the company and not pay the high costs that come with mining operations.

The Danes 5 – Working hours and work ethics

Danes at work 

So here we are again. While the rest of Europe is witnessing heavy storms and even snow in certain parts (in the middle of May I might add) good old Vikingia is witnessing ‘extremely’ good weather with 20 C temperatures and only partly cloudy skies.

This also means that the average Dane’s work drive  decreases proportionately with the rise of temperatures. But I guess that goes for everyone.

So when do Danes work, how much and most of all how do they work? Given that I work in the public sector, in academia, my observations might be one sided. However, some general observations can still be made by talking to other people and looking around in town.

When and how much do Danes work?

There used to be a saying when I was interning in Brussels ‘Nothing happens in Brussels before 10 o’clock’. And boy it was true. Most of the people started working or arriving to work at half past 9 am, staying in the office till 6 pm. It might sound like 8 and a half hours but one forgets the 1.5 hour long lunch break. Brussels followed the more French way of beginning work late, leaving work in the evening with a nice lunch/siesta in the middle.

The Danes are more used to the 8 am – 16 pm set-up. However, it is sometimes rare to find someone in the office at 8 am. Most of the people arrive around half past 8 and by 4 pm they are long gone. There is also a half an hour lunch break which unlike in Brussels, is kept really short. While in Brussels this is the time to pig out, and eat well, in Denmark most Danes eat a sandwich (or rye bread with lever paté, rugbrød med leverpostej) and keep the lunch break as short as possible.

leverpostej på rugbrød

If there is a meeting, Danes are quite punctual but I would not say that they are as punctual as Swiss. There is a general sense of being a bit laid back.

Like all around Western Europe the average working hours per week are decreasing. The average Dane works 35-37 h/week and unlike the workaholic Americans, they do quit the office before 4 pm (on Fridays before 3 pm). Also, Danes have a considerable amount of paid holidays as well as a lot of useless small public work-free days, such as Constitution Day (Grundlovsdag), Pentecost, Prayer Day (really???) and so on. If such a day falls on a Thursday or Tuesday, you bet that someone will have a nice long weekend taking Friday or Monday off as well. Also, given that a lot of jobs require a laptop, many Danes sometimes don’t even show up, as they are ‘working’ from home. Let’s believe that they do so.

One might ask how they can work so few hours but have such high wages. Well several explanations exist. The first one is that Danes are really efficient and they do the same work in less amount of time. Ammm…..Neeeaaahhhhh… The second explanation might be that most of the work has been done by their forefathers who set down a well-functioning system in the 60s and 70s and this generation is enjoying the benefits of a system where you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. A third explanation has to do with modern globalized economies. Many Western economies are the heads of economic octopuses that stretch their tentacles to many other countries. Let’s think of major/global Danish companies such as Tuborg, Carlsberg, Grundfos, Vestas etc. If as a company you manage to outsource the shitty work to low paying countries but keep the office jobs in your country, then you can afford to have well-paid office jobs in the home country and the taxes paid by these companies will produce great revenue in the home state.

I think the answer is all the above three combined, with the last two explanations being the key factors for high wages and low working hours. From what I have seen, I can say that there are people with way better working efficiency. Tough luck for us Eastern Europeans who have a 50 year old communist draw back and a 20 year old ‘transition’ period filled with Western privatizations and corrupt politicians.

Also, speaking at least from my experience as an inhabitant of the second biggest Danish city, the city dies after 6 pm. Yes, you got me right. After 6 o’clock it is muerto! The buses all of a sudden come as often as the Halley’s comet. Most supermarkets close by 8 pm and boutiques, stores close by 5 pm. Oh, and good luck finding a bank or public office open after 4 pm. This is extremely frustrating (plus a lot of shops are closed on Sundays) if you come from a place where you are used to non-stop shops, late opening hours etc.

How do Danes work?

If you ask an international person, the questions can vary but most will ask you. ‘What? Danes work?’. Like I said, the laid back attitude and the low amount of working hours and early closing times create the impression, that well, Danes don’t work. What I can say is that they have the best free-time/work ratio in the world; meaning that every Dane has enough time to go to work and has enough time for family, friends and hobbies. And I must admit, I do respect them for this, as you also have time to enjoy life.

hygge

But I think you can do this once your society has reached a point where the roads are built, the universities are well functioning, the hospitals are clean, the politicians are less/least corrupt. Once you have this stability, then you can work less and enjoy life. But try explaining this to a guy in India or a guy from Eastern Europe, that chillax dude. Life is good! Quite simply, a society can afford to be laid back, after some previous generations have busted their asses to reach that stage.

Another good thing in the work mentality is that any type of work is respected. Back home, you are a respectable citizen if you are a lawyer, doctor, architect. Here it is different. As long as it is honest work, it is accepted and not looked down upon. Also, the hierarchical relationship is latently present, but the boss-employee relationship is a lot more horizontal.

A thing, which I find weird and probably not as good for the individual, is the lack of support given to excellence. Due to the overly egalitarian Danish society, sometimes people who are more talented than others don’t receive any recognition for this. It is considered quite impolite, almost bragging, if you talk about a good result you’ve achieved at work. Sometimes it is more important to attend the common ‘group’ social activities than one’s ‘individual achievements’. I do personally feel that the Danes are not the most competitive of people and in general are not used to the more competitive and ‘let me climb up the ladder’ attitude of most foreign employees.

So there you have it, the Danish working hours and work mentality with its ups and downs. Would you like working like this?

The Danes 4 – ‘Small talk’ and Danes – two parallels which can’t even intersect in the Bolyai type of hyperbolic space

chiacchierare

‘When in Rome, do like the Romans do’ or so they say. As you have probably guessed by now, the Danes are a particular bunch, even among other Scandinavians. I will focus today on whether Danes are familiar with the concept of ‘small talk’.

Everyone knows what ‘small talk’ is. The Italians love it and call it chiacchiera(re – if it is a vb), although besides chatting, it might also mean gossiping. I would say that the best at gossiping are 70 year old rural grannies in Transylvania sitting in front of their porch. Here I only want to write about the type of chatting, when you bump into someone and stop for a couple of minutes to catch-up and exchange a couple of benign words. You know, small talk. I personally cannot stand gossip and gossipers.

Well, apparently Danes are not really familiar with ‘small talk’. For example, if I bump into an Italian friend or acquaintance I consider it rude not to ask that person, how he’s doing or what has he/she been up to. And this is how a small conversation of several minutes starts and becomes what we call ‘small talk’.

I noticed at work that Danes never stop for a two minute catch-up. You can work with the same guy on a corridor for over a year and when you pass him, the only thing you will get is a bleak ‘Hi’ which has to be followed by an equally bleak ‘Hi’. At the beginning you think that maybe they don’t like you, or you are awkward, weird, or maybe they don’t like immigrants? But then you realize that they do this among themselves as well.

So I decided to do a little experiment at one point. I was already working in the same place for over 6 months and to be honest was quite annoyed by this whole ‘Hi’-‘Hi’ thing. So at one point, when one of my colleagues said ‘Hi’, I stopped and asked him ‘Well, how are you on this fine morning?’ What followed reminded me off the typical weirdo guy in school, who sits in the back of the class and when you approach him, doesn’t know what to say. Or maybe, the 15 year old kid who gets to speak to the love of his life for the first time, but whatever comes out of his mouth is just wrong. I was amazed to see that grown-up people in their 40s suddenly could not find a word to say.

I could already see the scenario in his head ‘Oh Gosh! Oh Gosh! Should I say I am fine? Or amm, the weather is nice or amm….’ And this is how you end up with the most weird conversation of ‘well the weather was nice in the weekend and I was at a BBQ on Saturday’, skipping the part where you have to say ‘Fine, thank you. What about you?’ and after that I would ask ‘So what have you been up to this weekend?’

After this I did the same ‘empirical’ research with several other colleagues and got equally awkward answers. Danes simply don’t small talk for a couple of minutes. If you have something to say to them it has to relate to your work or they might come to your office to ask you a favor, about work of course. Or you might convince one of them to join you at the Friday Bar (it is a more rare occasion than spotting an extinct Dodo bird), although he/she will probably leave in 1 h, because many ‘important’ things need to be done, such as probably vacuuming on the wive’s orders.

So my dear Danes, I am trying to bridge this social gap but it doesn’t seem to work with ‘small talk’. Next time, we’ll look at how to become a ‘member of the group’.

The Key to Danish Happiness

In my previous post I wrote about the Scandinavian success model and this time I thought of writing about Danish happiness. According to the 2013 Forbes list for the happiest countries in the world, Denmark ranks second in the world after Norway and followed by Sweden. “Well it figures” some might say after reading the last post on the Nordic success model. This list is based on the Legatum Institute’s prosperity index, which analyses 89 factors in 8 categories: economy, entrepreneurship, governance, education, personal health, safety, personal freedom and social capital. These studies follow strict methodological rules and look at factors that are mainly rigid and appear in every possible sociological survey.

Happiness chart

from: http://www.prosperity.com/RankingTable-1.aspx

Last year I heard the speech of a CEO (forgot his name, but remembered the message) and he states that a truly happy person is the one who manages to balance family, friends, health, personal ambitions and the workplace. So I thought of looking at these factors in the Danish context and whether there is more to it than meets the eye.

Family – Without generalizing, the average Danish family follows the Nordic family pattern. Kids start doing side-jobs in their teenage years and the child mostly leaves home at 18, 19 years of age. Of course there are other examples as well. For certain people, coming from cultures where the family is so tight knit, that it becomes suffocating, the Nordic families might strike them as colder. It does not mean that the parents do not care about the kid, but it means that parents realize that the kid needs to become independent and learn to live by him/herself. Of course this is easier in a system with a stable economy, part-time jobs and study-financing. Quite frankly a lot of my 26, 27 year old friends from home still live in the parental home for not having to pay extra rent from the already low salaries.

Friends – As said last time, the Danes have a ‘group mentality’. If you are part of the ‘group’ you are okei, but don’t even plan on going to a party uninvited, as a lost international, because they will ask you rudely to leave (happened to me twice). So yes, they are happy with the friends from the ‘group’, but in general will not make too much effort to open up for others. “We already got our gang. Why do we need someone extra”. This holds also true with how Danes relate to people. I asked my teacher during Danish class, whether she thinks it’s normal to go to a 4 day workshop with Danish colleagues, have a good time, drink etc and the other day they pretend they don’t even know you. The answer was “Why should I care about you the next day, just because we had a good time the day before”. So, you can draw the conclusions.

Personal health – I will not be too critical about the Danes in this regard as in general they do exercise a lot, bike, jog and a lot of middle or third aged people go to the gym. Of course you have plenty of people who don’t and they are known for using too much salt and have a ‘sweet tooth’, but in general they take fairly good care of their personal health.

Personal ambitions and leisure – Now the first part might be a bit of an oxymoron in a society that teaches you not to be better than your peer. So what ‘ambitious’ means for a Dane might mean something completely else to a foreigner. Quite frankly, I find Danish people good at what they do, but not overly ambitious. As to free time, Denmark ranks the 4th in the world on the OECD list when it comes to the ratio between work time and leisure time. And it is true that the average Dane works 35-37 h/ week and has plenty of time for the family and personal hobbies. And a lot of people do have personal hobbies, whether traveling, sailing, running, cycling, sauna clubs etc.

Workplace – Whatever job you do, it will pay extremely well in Nordic countries and will allow anyone to have a decent living. You will not have your brand new Mercedes (especially due to the horrible taxes to register a car) but you will afford yourself many things. As said before, Danes don’t strike me as the most ambitious and this can have repercussions on your work life. Firstly, you should not be too ambitious at work, yet alone talk about it. You should be a bit average and attending common workplace social events are sometimes more important than your personal achievements. I am an ambitious person who needs competition, so the Danish system might be too lax for me. Secondly, Danes are not critical and I do believe that sound and good criticism leads to better work as long as it is not overdone.

But there is something still missing. If you walk down on the streets of Sicily you see smiley faces, people who are fairly warm to you and who have a natural sense of what happiness means. And I think this is where the key lies. Happiness is relative and it depends on what people are used to. The subtleties in life differ from region to region. I am ethnically Hungarian and there is a saying that when God created the Hungarian, he said go enjoy the good things in life. So we like a good wine, a good meal and a hot blooded woman (over generalizing again). But what a Dane finds happy, an Italian might not. To be frank I would call it ‘blissful ignorance’. Quite simply Danes are used to being happy in their own environment, which for others has amazingly bad weather, cold people and tasteless food. So if a Dane was born into this, of course he will be happy with what this country has to offer in terms of weather, food, people plus all the economic factors the afore-mentioned survey listed. However, this will not make an Italian or Hungarian guy happy, who is used to better weather, food and warmer people.

The interesting thing is talking to Danes who lived many years abroad in countries where these three factors are different. They don’t behave like Danes anymore 😉 Once you get the taste of ‘honey’, it stays.

Aarhus, 29 April 2013

The Scandinavian Success Model

nordic council 

When we talk about the Scandinavian region, the first images that probably pop-up in our heads are red bearded Vikings, Swedish supermodels, Finnish mobile phones, the Northern Oil Emirates of Norway, Danish beers and Icelandic geysers. However, there is more to the story. This region, lying between the latitudes where wine is not produced anymore and where polar bears start showing up their furry faces, is one of the most economically stable and prosperous regions. Countries in this area regularly top the charts of human development, education or freedom to conduct business. But why did this region become so successful, given that the climate is harsh, the people cold and grumpy (although the Danes like to boast that they are the happiest on the Planet; just look at their faces on the bus) and the food is not exactly on top of my ‘must eat list’ (unless you prefer liver paté with onions and fish-balls).

Well in order for a society to prosper factors such as natural resources, social cohesion, religion, moral codes, education and so on play an important role. Let’s start with some of them.

a)      Natural resources – When it comes to natural resources, Denmark is not the ‘richest’ of the Northern lands. It is tiny, flat and has a bit of coal, wind for energy and some oil in the North Sea, but not too much. On the other hand, countries like Finland and Sweden are almost the size of or bigger than Germany (which is huge in European terms) and have vast forests, coal, iron and even fairly good agricultural lands in Southern Sweden. But the all-time big winners are the Northern Oil Emirates of Norway. The former underdogs, who were either ruled by the Swedes or the Danes or both, became the 4th biggest producers of petroleum in the world and one of the biggest producers of natural gas. So naturally they became the richest of the five. So the first big factors are natural resources and surface area. As we can see, the tiny and resource scarce Denmark is ‘poorer’ (whatever that means here) than the way larger and oil rich Norway. However, we also forget that the Kingdom of Denmark is still sovereign of the autonomous Greenland and with the opening of the Northern Ice-caps we might just see some Danish oil interests popping up on the shores of Greenland.

b)     Small population, social cohesion and trust – Now, if we check the demographics, Sweden tops the charts with a whopping 9.5 million inhabitants. For a country which is 20% bigger than Germany, it has the population of Paris. Denmark, Norway and Finland follow with their 5.5 million inhabitants, and Iceland has the population of a smaller city (they even have a website where you can check if someone is your relative so you accidentally don’t end up with your cousin after a couple of rounds of beer). Therefore, the amount of resources that these countries have (and they are quite vast) only have to be split among a small number of people. If we look at the current ethnic set-up, around 20% of the people are not Scandinavian (not counting Finland). But this is only due to the last 20-30 years of immigration. The bases of these societies were laid down by small populations, which were ethnically almost homogenous (not counting some Samis up in the north and some Germans in Southern Denmark). Therefore, the number of people and the type of people that had to be convinced to follow a certain social model was quite low. It is easier to convince 3, 4 million people in the 1950s and 60s, belonging to the same ethnic group, to follow a modern type of rich socialism, then to do so in a country of 50 million, which is also ethnically heterogeneous.

The other extremely important element is social trust. I cannot but emphasize how important this is. Some say it is dwindling in the last years, but for a person who comes from a system where the last one you trust is your government, Scandinavian countries are just a different thing. People trust their Government, the Government trusts the people and people trust one another. Given their historically small and homogenous groups, this might explain why trust is so high among people belonging to the group, but so low when it comes to people coming outside of the group. It takes ages until you befriend a Scandinavian, but if you do so, it stays for life. Social trust is also beneficial for business. I was amazed to find out that most business transactions in Denmark are carried out without lawyers and complicated contracts. Therefore, transaction costs are way lower. 

c)      Religion and moral conduct – now you might think why this is important, in societies that are more atheists than religious. Well because a lot of the morals that underline our societies came through religion, whether we admit it or not. And until recently, these countries were not just ethnically but religiously homogenous. Try explaining to someone like me, who comes from a city with 7 historic religious groups that in Scandinavian countries there are still concepts such as state religion, state church etc. The predominant Lutheran, protestant religion had also an effect on the working mentality and moral structure. All protestants know that you have to work hard but then again feel guilty for the wealth you acquired, so you have to give away some of it. The puritan-protestant model can also be seen in the northern states of the US and in general in the northern parts of Europe, which until this day are economically the most developed ones. Minus the catholic Austria and parts of Catholic German Switzerland and Southern Germany. But they are Germans, so quite efficient regardless of religion.

Another unwritten moral code is of course the Jante Laws. This is a set of commandments every good Scandinavian should follow, such as ‘You’re not to think you are anything special; You’re not to think you know more than us.’ It is an extremely important part of Scandinavian morals and society. And this can be seen at the workplace and during education where everyone is given equal chances and opportunities and you cannot boast or brag about your own achievements. You are as good as the ‘group’. Now tell this to a person who was used to always striving for more and being better than the ‘group’ he came from. As good as it is from a societal point of view I have two big comments. Firstly, it dis-favors individuals who excel as they will never get any reward for this. So you might kill excellence. Secondly, this mentality works in the Scandinavian ‘group’ but as anyone who has been living here for a while you will notice that the Scandinavian ‘group’ as such feels better than all the others. So these rules only apply within their group but they will make sure that you know that ‘they’ are better, than ‘you’ (plural).

d)     Education and Innovation – any successful society needs a high level of education and especially Finnish students are among the best in the world. In general Scandinavian youth is well educated and you can talk to them about various topics. This is also backed-up by free education and study-grants which are given to every student, and in countries like Denmark they can amount to 700 euros a month (and are non-refundable). Leaving university one finds that research is seriously backed-up and researchers, post-docs, doctoral fellows are paid proper wages just as any other employee. The principle is quite simple: you cannot create proper research and innovation on an empty stomach. And these countries rank high when it comes to innovation concerning the environment, reforestation, recycling, renewable energies, microbiology and so on.

 

e)      Language – Language is an important factor as well. Let’s not forget that the four Scandinavian languages are all related and at least in a written form Danish, Norwegian and Swedish are mutually understandable. Plus Icelanders learn Danish in school just as Finns learn Swedish. Besides this all Scandinavians speak excellent English (some German and French) so this means that new ideas can be dispersed more quickly and business can be done on a global scale.

f)       Taxes and wealth redistribution – Taxes in all of these countries are quite high if not too high in certain countries like Denmark. People are also taxed progressively so the higher the income the more tax you have to pay. This means that wealth is redistributed at such a level that anyone earning money in one of these countries can have a decent living. This also reflects in the attitude towards work. Scandinavians are proud of any type of work they do, while in other countries certain jobs are looked down on. Besides this, the high amount of taxes provides for free education, study grants, pensions, free health-care and a social net that makes it impossible not to have a decent living. The downside of such an overly generous system is that a lot of free riders can and do abuse the system and earn more money from all sorts of benefits than an actual employed person. Study grants give everyone equal chances at getting a proper education in life but this also means that a certain number of students will ‘stay’ students as long as they can get free money from the state.

g)      International cooperation and trade – Vestas, Grundfos, IKEA, Tuborg, Volvo, Carlsberg, Nokia and Statoil are just some of the internationally renowned Scandinavian businesses. All of these countries rank high when it comes to freedom of doing business and a combination of educated people, speaking foreign languages and innovating researchers, means that such companies can prosper on a global scale, bringing some of the proceeds back home. Also, all five countries are part of the European Economic Zone, three are EU Members and all of them form part of the Nordic Council. This latter means that there is a small EU within the EU and people coming from these 5 countries can easily resettle and work in any other. Besides Finland, the rest of the countries kept their currency (the Danish Kroner is pledged to the euro though) and their banks are not so exposed (not counting Iceland). The Northern Oil Emirates of Norway are even one of the biggest lenders of money, without any sovereign debt. Besides their openness to international trade and cooperation, at least Denmark and Norway are quite good at protecting their own markets, with high-level market entry barriers and quite a bad record on behalf of Denmark with complying with EU rules or opting out of many policy areas. Sweden also has state monopoly on alcohol. So besides their openness to foreign trade, they also keep their Scandinavian reserved character and try protecting the local markets as much as possible.

So there you have it. The countries that 100 years ago were mainly eating herrings and potatoes are now leading global economies. So if you don’t mind the cold and the Scandinavian cold character you might just come to one of these countries, as they seem to cope quite well with the crisis.

Aarhus, 25 April 2013

Jaani a kerti tőrpe kap egy kápákat

 

Na te na. Szevasztok! Itt van né mingyá egy heete hagy víssza jőtem Dánémárkába. Na te és mongyam e’ nektek mi még történt a míkróbuszan, mivel mentem Pestre. Szóval, elíndult a míkróbusz az Autogárá Bétátó’…Aféle kícsi, Mercsédesz féleség. Kíszál a sófer. Nézi anyám. „Jaj te fiam, jaj. Ez még fiatal te”. Mondom, neki „Had el na, me’ lehet jól veezet”. Na és beűltem én is és elindult a Mercsédesz. Nem is mentünk sókat, és megál ot Hujédinben. Kiszál a sófer, átvesz vaalami kóletet. Mongya neki a másik rományul, hogy „Ai grija mă. O să-l ia ăla pe Piatra Craiului”. Góndolom, na te ki tudja mit még bízniszkedik ez is. Még csúbukol kis pénzt inét-onét, mer a szálár nem elég.

Menyünk, menyünk. Férehúz fenn a Piatra Craiuluinál, ot a bufét meget. Aszondja ez a pisti, hogy né 15 perc szűnet. Adig mennyünk a bufétba és együnk még valamit. Na várunk, várunk. Etelik fél óra. Mondom „te sófer, menyünk már ecce?” Mondja „igen te, csak né még nem jőt meg a másik.” Há mondom „te, neked a dógad, hogy minket Pestre vigyé, nem itt bízniszkedni.” Nem felelt má, me’ megjőt a másik. Átvete a kóletet, adot neki pár lejt és mentünk tóváb.

Lefele a Piatra Craiuluion szól a móbilja. Feveszi. „Áló te. Szevasz te…Hogy mit? Há’ dógazak te. Ma van kurszám nekem is Pestre…Igen? Melyik te? Az a kícsi kerti törpe? Jaani? …. Há’ anak mi még a baja te?….Hogy mi?…Há’ kínek mondta te?…Ej baszam a fülét te! Há’ mit beszél az bolondságakat?…Igen na, és tartózom neki 20 lejel. És mi a nagy szkófála? I-o murit mama vagy valami, hogy ke’ neki a pénz egybő.” Közbe kielőz még három négy autót a kanyarba’. „Mí te? Hogy emondta a szomszédaknak? … Há’ azt mé’ csínálta te? Attó’ a 20 lejtő lesz ő szegényeb te? …. Halod, mond meg neki te. De így, ahagy én mondom neked. Hogy ne még ádzsitálódjon ot nekem. Érti ő! Me’ halam én még a száját, és jur io, hogy akora kápákat adok a fejére, hogy őszemenyen még 10 centit, te. Hallod! Úgy mond meg nekije, hogy te kertitőrpe. Ne még, ahogy mondja a romány Nu mai căuta baiu cu lumânarea me’ megyek és adom a kápákat neki… Na úgy…Úgy mongyad meg nekije. Kis faszam kerti tőrpe keresi it a bajt 20 lejér”…Közbe’ látam a meletem ülő naccsága tágult pupillákal nézi, ahogyan ez vezet.

Na három és fél óra után elértük mi is a haatárt. Megál egy Peco-nál és átad még egy kóletet valakinek. Kérdi az „Cât să-ți dau mă?” – „Păi cât vrei” –mongya a sófer. Na kimenyünk a Peco-ból. Hátraszól. „A búletineket és pásáportokat, hogy agyam a rendőrnek.” Az átveszi, de szól, hogy ügyejünk me’ né, baleset van a maagyar ódalan.

Elérünk óda. Ál a maagyar pólicáj. Mongya né, mennyünk utána, me’ ot baleset vót. Na mi elindulunk utána, majd kivezetet valami kis aféle comunal útra. Ej aztán vótak ot gődrök. Na, de nem vót báj. Monta a sófer, hogy tudja ő az útat Debrecin fele. De nem ke’ bemenni Debrecinbe, me’ ott el ke’ térni egyfele. Úgy is vót.

Kőzbe hív apám. „Szerusz te. Há mere vagytak?”. „Há” mondam én „it né a bús nyavalyában, me’ vót nagy baleset a maagyarokná. Leehet elveszítem a reepülőt.” Meghalota a sófer. „Ne féjj te. Ismerem én az útat. Nem tartunk szűnetet Szónokná’ és megkókszolom jól a Mercsédeszt”

Aztán dăi tati, me’ megkókszolta és elértünk a Feerihegyre. Még vót 15 percem becsekkingólni. Na de megvót.