Friday, April 19, 2002

Today, one of the women who coordinates the translations of magazines at our office asked me about a particular sentence she wanted to make sure was correct.

"In Swedish, they use the phrase 'business ethics and morals,'" she said. "And they translated it that way, but then the American editor changed it to just 'business ethics.'"

Yes, I said, the American editor was right. We Americans don't talk about business having morals. Businesses are generally amoral at best, and immoral in most cases. They have codes of conduct - ethics - imposed on them by the law. But morals, no. They basically do what they can get away with.

Swedish companies, on the other hand, are expected to not only obey codes of conduct, but to know the difference between right and wrong; they are expected to act in the best interests of everyone and not just in their own interests. Whether they do or not is another question, but society expects it of them.

I wonder how long Sweden can hold out against the tide of Americanization on this particular issue.

The Swedish word for the day is beteende. It means behavior.

- by Francis S.

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