This month we sat down with Swedbrand’s Head of Asia, Isabell Joos, to learn more about her and her years in China.
How long have you been working at Swedbrand? And what’s your happiest or most interesting memory about this experience?
I’ve been working at Swedbrand for 8 years now, and the most interesting memory… wow, it’s been a long time! So many memories! But I would say the most memorable from these years is the people. Hiring people and see how they grow into their new positions and how they develop. To see how the people at Swedbrand have made their own ways, that’s what I remember most clearly after my 8 years here. There have also been a lot of interesting projects we have worked on, but I think the most exiting one was developing our company in Vietnam. Opening up the production site there and finding suppliers. So I wouldn’t mention a specific project, but mostly our growth outside of China.
You started as an intern in the company 8 years ago, could you tell us more about how Swedbrand has grown and developed since?
When I started it was basically only me, the two founders and one merchandiser in a small little office. So, to me we are now a big company going from 4 to having around 25 people. That has been the biggest change for me so far and something very exciting to be part of.
What were you doing as an intern when you first started?
Literally everything. Since we only started with a handful of people I needed to help with everything. But mostly I did business development back then to help grow the company. I also travelled a lot to all the different countries. I was also studying a bit in the beginning but then finished my studies while working for Swedbrand.
What have you learned personally from working at Swedbrand?
Patience. (She laughs*) I used to be very explosive, but overtime I’ve learnt to be patient and that there is always a way and a solution to things. In this type of job there are always some small problems that need to be solved, so we really need to be problem solvers, and find a way to fix even the most complicated situations.
Can you describe Swedbrand with 3 words?
How long have you been living in Shanghai? And what tips would you give to someone who is moving here for the first time?
I have been living here for 8 and a half years. Actually, almost 9 if I think about it. One tip would be to learn Chinese, at least some words because it will make your life easier. And, always be open! Don’t try to change people, be humble!
Do you remember which tips you got when you first moved here?
When I first moved here I was studying, and to be precise I was studying Chinese culture, so we were getting a lot of different tips about what you should and shouldn’t do. But the best one was that you always need to be open and humble. Also, remember that we are ambassadors for our own countries and that we are guests in China, even if we are living here. So always accept others and their cultures and learn to embrace it.
What do you miss the most about Germany? Describe something that you love about your country but maybe not a lot of people know about.
Of course, my family, but something I never thought I would say that I miss is clean air. In the beginning the bad air in China didn’t really bother me, but now after living here for some time it actually does. So, I miss a good and healthy environment, even if it seems boring it’s actually a luxury to have!!
Something not everyone might know about Germany is that we are very hospitable, and very warm and welcoming to foreigners. Some might say Germans are quite stiff, but we are a very warm people actually.
You have been traveling to a lot of different places over the past few years. Could you see yourself living in any of those countries?
Hong Kong or Vietnam probably, but only for a while. I could not see myself living there permanently.
How have you developed personally from living in China?
Same as from working at Swedbrand, I have more patience and I am not as opinionated as I was before. You learn to accept that other people have opinions that might be right as well.
Is there any change in yourself that you might not like?
Yes, as a foreigner living here you sometimes loose a little track of reality. Life here is very convenient and it starts with the small everyday things. For example, taking a didi (taxi) everywhere, food delivery at any time, and just that you can call someone for anything you need! Everything is so simple, cheap and convenient here that after a while you can get a bit cocky. So, you need to learn how to ground yourself and get back to reality!
And, last question, do you have any hidden skills?
I’m really good at doing nails! 😉