'Starting my own firm was my best decision'
Published: 02 Sep 2013 10:19 CET
Where do you live and what do you do?
I live in a small town outside Dresden where I have my own business called Hansson Übersetzungen GmbH; a specialist translation agency and language service provider of technical translations. As a Swedish native, I focus on translations from German into Swedish, but also cooperate with a network of different translators who can handle other language combinations.
What brought you to Germany and how long have you been here?
Being a poor student with empty pockets back in the 1980s, I quite often travelled in eastern and Central Europe. I got to know my German girlfriend here and decided to leave Sweden at the beginning of the 1990s. I have now lived in Germany for more than 22 years.
What is your professional background and how did you end up starting a business?
I have always been fascinated by foreign languages, countries and cultures, and knew as far back as in my early teens that I wanted to live abroad later on in life and if possible work with languages.
When I came to Germany in 1991, I got started as an English teacher for adults more or less by chance. Back in those days, less than one year after German reunification, there was a huge demand for English language trainers in different courses for unemployed adults in the eastern part of Germany.
In 1992, I decided to start my language service business which focused on different language services, covering training sessions, translations and interpreting.
Over the years, my clients who had ordered Swedish translations required translations into other languages as well. This was the start of my agency business.
What advice do you have for anyone considering starting a business as an immigrant?
Even if being your own boss often means that you have to work 16 hours for yourself instead of 8 hours for your employer, the decision to start my own business was one of my best ever.
As in all countries, starting a business takes a lot of energy, but the difference for immigrants in a foreign country is that you have to learn how the system works, i.e. understand the mentality of the people, get along with the bureaucracy, know which authorities to ask and whom to contact about taxes. I was lucky to find reliable and trustworthy consultants and partners right at the start. Knowing the language is definitely another important factor.
How important is it for you to be able to speak German?
Generally, you cannot simply take it for granted that you will get along with English everywhere and in order to integrate in German society, you really need to know the language.
From my personal point of view, it's crucial to be able to understand and speak more or less perfect German, but honestly, this can also be the high demands I have set myself.
Especially for me as a translator from German into Swedish, it's not only important to understand the documents I translate, I also need to recognize the language style to be able to catch “the spirit of a text.”
What are the best and worst parts about working in Germany?
The best parts are the friendly people in this region, its culture and the vibrant economy. On the other side, there is a daily struggle to deal with the bureaucracy which in my view still has a long way to go. For example, the taxation system is a riddle to most of the citizens, and even the tax accountants are sometimes at loss.
Do you plan on staying?
I am happy and satisfied with my career and am enjoying life in Germany. At the moment, I don't see any reason for moving back to Sweden. I suppose time will hold the key for the future.