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Interview with Julien S. Bourrelle

Interview with Julien S. Bourrelle

Julien S. Bourrelle met his biggest cultural challenge when moving to Scandinavia. In this exclusive interview, he will tell us more about his keynote speeches, his experiences from Scandinavian/Swedish culture and how we can benefit from having knowledge about our own culture. He will also explain how a Canadian rocket scientist ended up in Scandinavia in the first place.

  • How does a Canadian rocket scientist end up in Scandinavia?
    Scandinavia is one of the most beautiful parts of the world, so it felt very natural to land here! I studied astrodynamics in various countries and I was looking for a great place to write my doctoral degree. The Scandinavian approach to higher education felt right and I chose to move to the North.
    Scandinavia was going to be the most challenging cultural experience of my life. Once I cracked the code, I left my doctoral studies to help others understand how Scandinavian socialize.
  • Which was your biggest challenge when trying to understand the Scandinavian culture?
    Perceptions and expectations.
    We all see the world based on what it means in our own culture. When one moves to a new culture, one needs to make a conscious effort to interpret the behaviours of others based on what it means in their culture. Otherwise, misunderstandings quickly arise. Scandinavia was especially difficult as social interactions, norms and rituals were very different from anything I had experienced in the five countries I lived.
    Actions of Scandinavians can easily be misinterpreted by foreigners as a form of rejection, a lack of interest or indifference. This is how behaviours may be perceived – my work is about helping to interpret the intended meaning of these social behaviours.
  • What kind of clients have you worked with as a speaker?
    I’ve held more than 200 lectures in large conferences, corporate events, corporate training, universities and also for public entities helping foreigners to find their way into Norway and Sweden.
  • Would you say there are any differences between Norwegian and Swedish culture? If so, which are they?
    The Nordic countries have their peculiarities. While each Nordic country feels pride in its cultural uniqueness, the differences are not noticeable at first by foreigners coming from cultures that are so tremendously different to the Scandinavian way of life. These Scandinavian differences are ripples of culture which will be noticed after many years living in a Scandinavian country. My work focuses on differences between Scandinavia and the rest of the world, but by reading my books on the Norwegian and Swedish cultures you will easily see how these differ, e.g. with respect to hierarchy, consensus, service, social status, etc.
  • How can we use knowledge about our own culture in our advantage?
    If you are well aware of your own behaviours, your biases, your perceptions and expectations, you have a powerful tool in hand to communicate in ways that will convey your message precisely. Being aware of others’ perceptions, biases and expectations will allow you to modify your way of speaking so that they understand what you want them to understand.