The Legendary Nordic Vacation

June - August 2024

· THE NEF

 

 

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The Nordic Midsummer Magic

Welcome to the July-August issue of this monthly newsletter—For those who are new here, my name is Henrik Totterman; I am the Finnish Honorary Consul for the City of Boston and the States of New England (MA, ME, NH, VT, RI).

Below is a summary of collected insights: The similarities and differences between Nordic and New England summer vacations, a recap from my recent Nordic work tour, Gen AI in Pharma, approaching FinnFest, a call for upcoming fall event on Cleantech and Climate Action, seeking volunteers for blood drive, and a brief info table on the State of Rhode Island. Enjoy The NEF!

 

Economic and Trade Relationships

Are you planning to contact someone in the Nordics in July for business? Have some extra patience, as those you call may enjoy well-deserved vacation time.

As late as this morning, I got a note from a Finnish company executive asking if I could pick up my order by Friday as the thirty-odd-employee manufacturing company will close for the following two weeks. This is not uncommon in Northern Europe, where there is a cultural tradition of collective vacations or industrial holidays. Many businesses and institutions slow down significantly and may decide to close during the summer to enable vacations, usually in July, lasting for about two to three weeks. This practice is deeply rooted in the societal values and work culture of the Nordic countries, promoting work ethics and a solid work-life balance to ensure rest and leisure.

The tradition of closing companies for vacation dates back to the early to mid-20th century when labor unions negotiated with employers to ensure workers had time off for rest. For instance, businesses, especially in manufacturing and construction, used to shut down entirely, and even today, many reduce production significantly during this period. The collective vacation is seen as a time for families to reconnect, for people to enjoy nature, and for relaxation. Regardless of the rise of flexible working arrangements and the global nature of many businesses, companies now increasingly stagger vacations and maintain a skeleton staff during this period. No wonder the Nordic countries are among the happiest, and Finland the happiest nation in the world six years in a row.

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Summer vacations here in New England are much more staggered and individualized rather than a collective action across colleagues. Instead of taking several weeks of vacation, most of my US connections take shorter personal days off, lasting anywhere from a few days here and there to a week or so. Those with families may park themselves in the countryside for the summer and then commute to the city or work on distance to keep the business in gear.

Don’t get me wrong; my New England connections also value their summer relaxation, generally in shorter sprints, remaining more tuned to business, and with a less intensive vacation approach than my Nordic connections. I probably fall somewhere in between, flexibly mixing work with free time throughout the year.

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As we move forward, please share with me upcoming events, potential business visits, and exciting people with the scoping of this newsletter in mind. We are always excited to share expertise and experience in our NEF community.

 

Educational and Research

TOURING THE NORDIC COUNTRIES

I was recently on a Nordic work tour, visiting Helsinki to deliver executive education to an international publicly traded manufacturing company. I also attended the Rektor’s International Advisory Board meeting of Hanken School of Economics. It was great to experience Nordic business and higher education performance at close range.

Following this, on June 17, we offered an executive challenge in Stockholm for Hult International Business School's specialized master's, MBA, and EMBA students. In this seminar, the international postgraduates engaged with C-level executives from Northern Europe’s largest coffee house chain, Espresso House, which operates over 500 cafeterias. Students focused on addressing specific strategic problems detailed by the executives while gaining a deep understanding of the unique culture and customer behavior in the Nordic countries. This comprehensive approach included company engagement, university and innovation discussions, and multiple site visits, enriching the student's learning experience while providing invaluable strategic insights to the executives. Thanks, experts and executives, for your magnificent support and the real-world challenge!

During the City Seminar in Stockholm, visiting the MIT of the Nordics, KTH Innovation was a true highlight and made students better understand the unique regional ecosystem. Thanks to Viktor Olsson from KTH and President Magdalena Huber from SACC-NE (The Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce New England) for the arrangements. We also found the meeting with Miltton Sweden's team of experts, headed by Finnish-born CEO Jesper Brandt, super engaging.

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As a sugar coating, during our Stockholm City Seminar, a former colleague of mine and now retired Providence Bruins ice hockey player Elias Abrahamsson generously opened his home to all 30+ postgraduate students, providing personal insight into the lives of business leaders and their families in suburban Stockholm. This was a unique opportunity for students to connect personally and intimately understand the local culture.

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We aim to return to Stockholm and other locations for these unique experiences, which combine fun and hard work. Student and stakeholder appreciation makes the extensive preparation by administration, professors, and students worthwhile, with successful outcomes. This year, the client company awarded each team for significant strategic contributions and invited teams to present to their senior leadership. These seminars provide a profound learning opportunity, combining practical business challenges with cultural immersion and personal connections.

 

GEN AI INTEGRATION IN PHARMA COMMERCIALIZATION

Over the past weeks, my Harvard University Extension School capstone students have fallen in love with the challenge of integrating AI into the pharmaceutical industry. This industry presents a complex but highly promising landscape for AI integration. By embracing AI, pharmaceutical companies can drive significant advancements in drug discovery, development, patient care, and commercialization activities.

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During the challenge focusing specifically on pharma commercialization, we have been fortunate to work with over a dozen experts in Boston and worldwide. Experts have met privately with each capstone team to help dwell more deeply into the pharma AI problem-solutions space. Considering all these experts who have dedicated their cutting-edge insights and time, I want to highlight

Charlie Schick, PhD, a Senior Advisor in Healthcare and Life Sciences at Business Finland.

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Cultural Exchange and Public Diplomacy

The event is set to captivate attendees in Duluth, MN, offering a vibrant celebration of Finnish culture and heritage from July 24-27. This year’s event promises an immersive experience with a packed schedule featuring diverse themes such as Nordic life, architecture, sustainability, and indigenous cultures. Highlights include the Tori Nordic Fair, floorball championships, and a rich lineup of seminars, including health and wellness discussions, historical insights, and art exhibitions. Attendees can also enjoy Finnish music performances, film screenings, and culinary delights. Whether exploring Finnish-American history or participating in interactive workshops, FinnFest 2024 offers something for everyone interested in Finnish culture and its global impact.

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UPCOMING FALL EVENT: FINNISH / NORDIC CLEANTECH AND CLIMATE ACTION

CALL FOR ENGAGEMENT: Dive into the forefront of sustainability this September in Boston at our upcoming event focused on Finnish/Nordic cleantech and climate action (Date to be confirmed)! Join us for a dynamic gathering where innovators, experts, and enthusiasts will converge to explore cutting-edge solutions and strategies for sustainable business.

>>> Together with the Consulate General of Finland in New York City, we're seeking passionate speakers, thought-provoking themes, dedicated volunteers, and impactful partnerships to make this event a resounding success.

Whether you're a leader in cleantech, a visionary on climate action, or simply eager to contribute, we invite you to be part of shaping a greener future together. Share your ideas, nominate speakers, propose themes, or volunteer—let's ignite change and accelerate sustainability initiatives by building bridges between the Nordics and the New England region and beyond. Together, we can make a difference. Stay tuned for updates, and reach out to get involved today!

 

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Community Engagement

 

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The Scandinavian Living Center in Newton, MA, is organizing several blood drives to address the significant shortage of different blood types. Sign Up Here!

  • September 11th, 2024, 1:00 pm-6:00 pm
  • October 16th, 2024, 1:00 pm-6:00 pm
  • November 13th, 2024, 1:00 pm-6:00 pm
  • December 11th, 2024, 1:00 pm-6:00 pm

 

Exploring New England: The State of Rhode Island

Each month, I summarize and benchmark high-level facts and information from one of the New England states; this month, we focus on the state of Rhode Island.

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Concluding Remarks

I hope you find the sixth issue of this newsletter insightful. Do you have any feedback or suggestions for content considering the above broad sections? Once I return from my Nordic summer vacation, the publishing date for my following newsletter is Sunday, August 11.

All the best,

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HENRIK TOTTERMAN, D.Sc.
Honorary Consul of Finland to the City of Boston and the States of Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

www.HenrikTotterman.com
www.linkedin.com/in/htotterman 

 

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The NEF—This newsletter is designed to build bridges between New England, Finland, and Scandinavia. It's the chart for our shared past, present, and future adventures. I created this newsletter based on popular demand among Finnish New Englanders, and I want to engage with you in trade, education, and cultural matters. This fourth edition marks a significant milestone. We are now a community of over 2300+ subscribers on Linkedin, with many more subscriptions to my email send-out and those following the blog. Share the link to this newsletter with anyone interested in building bridges between the Nordics and New England.

Selected Dates (for planning purposes):

  • January: New Year's Day (Uudenvuodenpäivä): January 1.
  • February: Shrove Tuesday (Laskiainen): February 13 (2024), Kalevala Day (Kalevala päivä): February 28th.
  • March: Nordic Day (Nordens dag): March 23, Easter (Pääsiäinen) Mar 31 (2024).
  • April-May: May Day (Vappu): April 30/May 1.
  • June: Runon ja suven päivä (Day of Poetry and Summer): June 6, Helsinki Day (Helsingin päivä): June 12, Midsummer (Juhannus): weekend of June 24.
  • July: Sleepyhead Day (Unikeonpäivä): July 27.
  • August-September-October: Aleksis Kivi Day: October 10.
  • November: All Saints' Day (Pyhäinpäivä): first Sat of November, Finnish Swedish Heritage Day (Ruotsalaisuuden päivä): November 6.
  • December: Independence Day (Itsenäisyyspäivä): December 6, Jean Sibelius Day: December 8, Lucia Day: December 13, Christmas (Joulu): December 24.