Mattias Strömberg – From Sweden to Budapest with South Korean Flair

Please introduce yourself.

My name is Choi Zung-Kyu Per Mattias Strömberg, born in Taegu, South Korea and raised by my adoptive parents in, well most of the time in Jönköping, Sweden. I am a real mix of everything, my looks are East Asian, my name (I usually introduce myself as Mattias) is Swedish. My English is a mix of Lancashire & Irish accent, with a hint of Scottish. So occasionally it is quite interesting when I meet someone for a business meeting for the first time.

I have a background as a 2nd lieutenant in the Swedish Army Rangers, a Masters in Weapon systems and Explosives and a Bachelors in Intelligence/counter-intelligence operations. No civilian diploma but plan to attend evening courses to achieve one.

I live in Budapest, and have lived here for a year now. I live alone in a 2 room apartment in the outskirts of Budapest, which is nice. A bit more quiet and relaxed than living in the city center, and a lot cheaper too.

I have lived in Ireland, England, Poland and Algeria before. I guess I am a bit of a globetrotter.

How did you end up in Budapest, Hungary of all places?

I was Delivery Manager for an IT company in Sweden, and one of the accounts had an office here in Budapest as well. Every once and again I had to go here for meetings. After a relationship with someone – for whom I moved back to Sweden – was over, I decided to move to Budapest.

What is the best and worst about Budapest for you?

Everything is so close. 3 hours and you are in Stockholm, or in Paris. Or why not go to Vienna for a day? Venice? Prague? London… And all you can think of is here too. Want to go to the opera or a musical? Go clubbing? Enjoy history and culture?

The administration is the one thing I really dislike here, and that EVERYTHING is in Hungarian. Without someone who helps you to translate, you are utterly lost.

How do you make your living now – and how would you like to develop that career?

I recently started a new position as a Support specialist for ExxonMobil’s Budapest office. It is a fairly easy position I would say. I plan to stay work in this position for a year or so, then start climbing the corporate ladder. I have always worked in some sort of leadership or management position before, so being at entry level feels very strange.

Do you see the differences between nationalities easily – yours vs. Americans vs. other Europeans?

I would say that I fairly easy can tell from what country people come from. This may have to do with me moving around so much, meeting and interacting with people from all over the world.

What do you absolutely miss from your country/heritage …or elsewhere? What do you miss the most – and the least from your own country?

Salted licorice. I crave my salted licorice and have a hard time finding it here, or any place outside Scandinavia. I also miss the Swedish “snus” (wet/moist tobacco) and since it is illegal to sell outside of Sweden (for EU countries) I depend on my friends in Sweden to send me some (there is a little shop selling under the counter, but shhh… don’t tell anyone) I also miss going to the movies and watching them in the original language. I would say that 95% of all movies showed in the cinemas are dubbed.

What is your absolute favorites as far as food/drinks go in Hungary?

Since I love meat, Hungary is the perfect country for me. The selection of sausages here is incredible, and there is a never ending supply of meat in all forms you can imagine. As for drinks Hungary is also a very good wine country. So, a good dish of meat with a glass of red is always welcome. Pálinka have also caught my attention, but I try to avoid the factory produced off the counter version. Proper pálinka should be the home-made one.

Workwise – how do you see Hungarians being different from Swedes – also culturally, what stands out in your chosen profession?

Hungarians and Swedes are pretty similar in many ways when it comes to work. We dig our heads down and do what we are told. At the same time, they are very much like the Irish. A bit laid back, no stress and if they miss a cut-off it’s not the end of the world. Took me some time to adjust back to this way of working after a couple of years back in Sweden. They also try to help out more, more than Swede’s do. If you have a problem or a question, all of a sudden you have 10 people from your department helping out. Another thing is that everyone is very polite here, greeting each other in the elevator, even if you don’t work for the same company. Walking into the office in the morning and you have said “good morning” to everyone you pass by.

The only major difference I would say is that in Sweden, it is not needed to have a diploma from a University or College to land a manager position. If you have the experience and proven track-record, you can get hired for a management position. Here in Hungary, it is impossible. Experience doesn’t count at all if you don’t have a diploma.

Sweden vs. Hungary – what do you think at minimum we should know about Sweden and Hungary?

In Sweden you can get along without speaking a word of Swedish, as long as you speak English. In Hungary it is the opposite. Generally people here only speak a couple of words in English.

Knowing more about life and having lived with your decisions for a while (like work) – would you still choose to be there and why?

That is a hard one. But I have to say yes. With all the problems and trouble that come with not speaking the language, the positives still win. Why? I don’t know, maybe because everything still is “new” to me and there is so much more to discover.

What cafes or restaurants, sights do you recommend to tourists to go to in Budapest and why?

There is so much to see and experience here in Budapest, but to name a few: the ruin pubs, Castle Hill and Fisherman’s Bastion, St Stephens Basilica, The Budapest Zoo. Take a tour with the river boats, enjoy a trip with continental Europe’s oldest metro, the New York Café… The list goes on…

How is the expatriate community there in Budapest, lots of Swedes for example?

Budapest is an international metropolitan, but not many Swedes or Scandinavians that are permanently living here. Most come here for studies or an internship.

Sweden is a very wealthy and equal country. I am curious how the standard of living is in Budapest (housing, health care, costs etc) – I have never been there myself –  shame on me, I always wanted to.

Living in Hungary is totally different from Sweden. In every aspect. Salary, living standard, health care and social security. It feels like a lot of the things are still stuck in the 80’s. Yes, you can find high-end, top of the line housing, owned by foreigners and ridiculously overpriced. But if you stay away from the Real Estate agents who exclusively target foreigners, you can find really good housing for a fair price.

Connect with Mattias:
Mattias@ Facebook
Mattias @ LinkedIn