Second homeland for a Danish businessman

Hjortlund, 47 years old, had worked for famous organizations in many countries, such as the Trade Promotion Agency of Nordic Countries in Sri Lanka, the Ministry of Defense in Denmark and UNIDO, for eight years before going to Vietnam.
     He said that he had to travel to many countries, but when arrived in Vietnam, he liked the country, so he accepted the invitation of UNIDO (the United Nations Industrial Development Organization) in 1989 and few years later Schmidt Group – a leading group in providing electronic and medical equipment in Vietnam.
     Despite busy work, Hjortlund often finds a great passion in his job. He said that when he was a little boy he dreamed of becoming a successful businessman. Therefore, he chose business management and International Economics as his subject for his university study. Only by accepting the invitation of the Schmidt Group to develop an idea about a high-tech park in Hanoi, did he begin his business career. Social experience gained when he worked for international organizations helped him in running the Schmidt Group in Vietnam.
     Apart from earning the group high sales, Hjortlund helped it train Vietnamese staff members, qualified for important posts in the company, which were in the early days held by foreigners. Now, he is only one left of 20 foreigners in the company. He said he highly appreciated the working ability of Vietnamese people. What he likes most in his Vietnamese staff is they can distinguish their work and feeling.
     However, according to Hjortlund, each country has its own culture which needs to be considered in the daily management of the company. He said he had tried to understand and make proper adjustments in running the Schmidt Group with over 170 Vietnamese staff members in Hanoi, Da Nang, Vung Tau and Ho Chi Minh City.
     With his great passion for business activities, Hjortlund often thinks how to develop co-operation between Nordic enterprises and Vietnam. In 1998, he was one of the founders of the Nordic Chamber of Commerce (NordCham) and with five years acting as the chamber’s president, he had made significant contributions to its development.
     NordCham has been instrumental and supported many Nordic enterprises, such as Ericsson and Ikea from Sweden, Carlsberg and Maersk from Denmark and Nokia from Finland, to develop strongly in Vietnam.
     He has also brought a new, fresh air to the European Chamber of Commerce (EuroCham) in Vietnam. Recently, he was elected to be President of the chamber and he is planning to develop co-operation between its 25 member countries with a total population of 450 million with Vietnam. At the same time, he is thinking how merge NordCham and other national business groups with EuroCham, so the organization would become stronger.
     Vietnam made a great impression on Hjortlund as a country rich in cultural tradition. The Vietnamese people always welcome foreigners with warmly feelings. That is why he stays in Vietnam and he considers Vietnam his second homeland. Ten years ago he married a Vietnamese woman. They now have three children, one son and two daughters.
     Like many other foreigners who married Vietnamese women, Hjortlund experienced some initial difficulties to integrate into the life of a Vietnamese family. However, he said that the life of foreigners in Vietnam has become easier today than in 1988. There are now, international schools and clinics. His children study at international schools. His life and work is really in harmony between the Vietnamese and international environment.
     Hjortlund has told much about his life, work and family but he never tells about his difficulties. For him, there is no difficulty at all only challenge. He said that his life was similar to that of many ordinary people but he has unfortunately less time for his family. Therefore, he always tries to provide ‘quality time’ for his family during holidays and often arranges holiday trips for his family whenever he is on business trip.

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