Integrity and culture

I am fond of hugging, but I want to choose myself with whom I do it. What feels completely natural with one person can be very awkward with another. When other people get too close to me without me being prepared or feel that it is ok, things get uncomfortable. Besides, I assume that everyone around me should sense what I am signalling, where my personal space starts. It is so very obvious to me… Having colleagues, offices and business operations in Spain can therefore be quite exhausting.

Susanna Laurin

Title: Chief Research and Innovation Officer

I am genuinely interested in the Spanish culture. I really try to adapt to local traditions. I accept that I am a guest and I am curious and humble about cultural differences. I get along pretty well in Spanish, have dinner at midnight without grumbling, and observe an incomprehensibly hot dress code with a tolerant smile. But I do have a problem with the eternal kissing and hugging at all times.

And no matter how I ask and study my Spanish friends, I cannot seem to understand the rules. Where is the line drawn in business? When am I expected to kiss a complete stranger on the cheeks that I meet professionally and when am I expected to shake hands? Women and men, older and younger, suppliers and clients…I have to seem passive and let the other part take the initiative, because occasionally someone extends a stiff hand instead, obviously because they sense that I am one of those strange people from the north, who do not know how to greet another person.

It was a shame that we were not filming...

One of many fun memories from Madrid is when I, along Funka’s Spanish charmer José, met a former colleague of his, a busty woman who obviously loved him dearly and had longed to see him again. Slightly amused, I stood a few feet away and watched while she, almost like a parody of a loving mother from southern Europe, showered my colleague with kisses and hugs, screams, cheek-pinching, and laughter. He looked happy so I smiled too.

But then the tornado's attention suddenly turned to me... Like in a bad movie I felt, almost in slow motion, how something - sorry, someone - struck me with full force. According to José (who was laughing his head off), I looked completely terrified and stepped several metres back during the "attack". But that did not stop the welcoming woman to pour her love over me, too. The question is whether she even noticed that I was not completely keen.

In retrospect, I can say that the whole thing was a funny story, and in some strange way, I think I actually learned something about Spain - and myself. Even so, I have not changed my mind about when I would like to hug complete strangers, if and when I am allowed to decide for myself.

And then I made the same mistake

José is stationed at our office in Madrid and he is a person I do not meet often in person, despite the fact that we work closely together and love to socialise in private. A few years ago he appeared, a bit late (mañana!), to a staff activity in my garden at home. I was so glad to see him that I dashed forward and hugged him. Like a Swede does it: Properly, long and hard, so you can feel the mutual affection.   

He looked absolutely stunned, and the hug came out completely wrong. And this is the man who insists on kissing me on all cheeks as soon as we meet!

It is not easy to do the right thing...

Related chronicles by Susanna Laurin

  • Accessibility is moving forward – believe it or not

    6 May 2019

    Sometimes progress is hard to spot if you are in the middle of the whole thing. It might be useful to take a step back and reflect on all the different things going on in our business. The evolution is quite impressive, says Funka's Research and Innovation Officer.

  • Focus on elderly users

    7 February 2019

    Funka's CEO Susanna Laurin reports from a debate in the European Parliament and international standardization that deals with the inclusion of elderly in IT development.

  • Thanks for another amazing year!

    29 November 2018

    Another year of accessibility work is coming to an end. Funkas’ Susanna Laurin writes about the importance of positive feedback and the need to give appreciation to those who do the right thing.

  • Between hope and despair

    14 August 2018

    Monitoring and possible fines can be a driving force for accessibility. But at the same time, threats can mean that services are taken down. How do we make sure that legislation increases accessibility?

  • Make sure accessibility is afloat

    29 May 2018

    Funka's Susanna Laurin sees similarities between working with accessibility and taking care of a wooden boat. Both activities require patience and the results can make many people happy.

  • Germany Inclusion Days in Berlin

    5 December 2017

    The International Day of Disabled Persons keeps us busy in all our markets. This year we contribute to the Inclusion Days program in Berlin, Germany.

  • It's time to put our feet down!

    8 November 2017

    A judicial precedent now allows for a tighter interpretation of the Swedish law on support and services for certain disabled people. This may mean that many people lose their right to personal assistance. Do we really want people to be denied a worthy life on equal terms with others?

  • Accessible summer greetings

    12 June 2017

    As the sun glistens in the ocean, the birds wake me up in the early mornings and life gets a little easier once sunshine and warm weather turn our latitudes into paradise, a report on digitization makes me even more happy.

  • Funka in the U.S.

    6 March 2017

    We are always interested in what is going on in our market. When two conferences on accessibility, gaming and assistive technology happens in the same week, the agenda is filling up.

  • The eternal question of cost

    7 February 2017

    Funka’s Susanna Laurin reports from an EU conference on accessibility and legislation in Brussels. The focus is, as usual, on the economy.

  • To recycle consultants

    6 January 2017

    Two of our very competent consultants have tried their wings with our clients and then chosen to come back to Funka. Naturally, we're very excited and we've asked Oskar and Karin to tell us a little bit about their experiences.

  • 10 years with the UNCRPD

    8 December 2016

    Funka’s Susanna Laurin ponders what we celebrate on the international day of persons with disabilities. Accessibility seems - more than ever - a moving target.

  • An international perspective on accessibility

    4 July 2016

    Funka’s Susanna Laurin is reporting on an exciting meeting of experts from all over the world, at the US Access Board in Washington.

  • Report from the European eAccessibility Forum in Paris

    17 June 2016

    The French association for the visually impaired, BrailleNet, arrange an annual conference on digital accessibility. The theme for the 2016 edition was the internet of things. Funka’s own Susanna Laurin is reporting from the conference.

  • The dangers of legislation

    10 March 2016

    An unsettling trend is happening in the U.S.: by using legislation as a battering ram lawyers are making money, but inaccessibility persist.

  • There’s hope for the future

    30 November 2015

    Susanna Laurin's reflections on the situation for people with disabilities face in the world today.

  • While we are enjoying it

    18 June 2015

    Funka’s Susanna Laurin considers trends in accessibility and the fact that we no longer have much time to reflect.

  • When technology can make a difference

    18 March 2015

    Different safety and technology aspects are being brought up as arguments against e-voting, but these problems must be possible to overcome. Funka's Susanna Laurin takes some time to reflect upon the democratic perspective of e-voting and today's broad lack of accessibility.

  • A mutual admiration society

    29 October 2014

    Funka’s Susanna Laurin questions why accessibility and user experience experts are so eager to talk to people with similar opinions. Would it not be better to let different views and opinions meet to bring about change?

  • Sunny days, but no time to be lazy

    19 June 2014

    We look back at a hectic period and look forward to even more work. But first of all, we will enjoy the summer holidays.

  • Good for all...?

    25 February 2014

    Funka’s Susanna Laurin rejoices in the fact that design for all really works in our everyday life.

  • Funka Christmas letter 2013

    20 December 2013

    Susanna Laurin, Funka, sums up a busy year. A year of continued growth, continued expansion in Norway and a new office in Madrid.

  • Why WCAG is not enough

    25 October 2013

    It is leaning towards legislation on web accessibility in the EU. Funka's Susanna Laurin takes a closer look at what the guidelines that almost everyone is pointing towards actually entail for the users.