So Long and Thanks for all the Rabbits

rabbit

It’s just a rabbit! (This isn’t Champis.) Photo by: Larry D. Moore (CC BY-SA 3.0)

 

So Long and Thanks for all the Rabbits.

Whah? What kind of a title is that?

Well, this is my final post for this blog and as I was thinking about what I wanted to write about, I read a recap of the top 2012 stories in Sweden according to The Local. One of the top stories was about a sheep herding bunny rabbit in Northern Sweden. Read more »

Cars and Driving in Sweden

vintage car

A tricked-out Mustang is unusual on Swedish city streets but I came across this one. Photo by K.Lund

 

I’ve been avoiding thinking about getting my Swedish driver’s license. I was able to use my US license the first year but now I have rolled over into my second year. I have driven a lot over the years of first visiting and then moving to Sweden but it has always been summer driving and not in Stockholm (though I have driven long distances).

The problem is that you must take all the Swedish driving tests including one on a special icy track so you can demonstrate you know how to drive in the winter. I haven’t driven in winter for over 20 years. Read more »

Adventures with the Swedish Tax Board

cions

My daily tax payment. Ha ha.  Photo by: Jason.Rogers (CC BY NC SA)

I have only a few posts left as the Swedish Institute has made the decision to discontinue having blogs. Ending this blog got me thinking that I want to leave those of you thinking of moving to Sweden or who are fresh off the proverbial boat with some concrete information (and maybe some more anecdotes) about life in Sweden. I thought I would revisit a subject I wrote about back when I was writing the Work Blog.

According to an article in The Local, an 87-year-old Swedish woman received a letter from the Swedish Tax Board (Skatteverket) informing her that she had died. “The letter was addressed to the “estate of the deceased” with the woman’s name on it. The letter asked for relatives to fill in the details concerning the woman’s address, to be returned to the Swedish Tax Agency.”

This, of course, resulted in her having to call the authorities and protest that she was still alive and kicking. My favorite part of the article is the woman’s description of her call to the Tax Board. “The person I spoke to said that I must be alive, as I was able to call. She promised to correct the details and write in that I was alive.” I love this story because it perfectly sums up a portion of my challenges with dealing with various authorities. Sweden is struggling mightily to improve the whole immigrant process but it’s a work in progress. Read more »

25 Impressions and Thoughts After 13 Months in Sweden

It’s time again to gather some impressions, observations, and ruminations I’ve had about my expat experience in the last few months. I’ve written about my impressions periodically during my year plus in Sweden. Here is a link to my previous one.

Ready?

Here goes:

Numbers:

  • I think, after a year, I have finally started thinking in 24-hour time. What trips me up the most often is writing the time with a period like this 9.00 instead of what I am used to, which is this: 9:00. Plus, the time 17.00 still messes me up on occasion…seems like it should be seven pm instead of five pm.
  • I also find using a comma instead of a period confusing. Four hundred and fifty kronor is written like this “450,00” so I worry, for example, that I am sending 450 thousand kronor to someone instead of 450.
  • Week numbers. OK, I could understand the value but I have met countless Swedes who don’t know what week number it is currently either. How can people refer to week numbers when most of us have no idea when Week #42 is…(To be fair, Ihave the same reaction when you tell me to exit the subway station and “head West.” Whah! Do I look like I know the cardinal directions at all times?)

Christmas:

  • Let me get this straight…Santa visits every Swedish household around the same time of the day on Christmas Eve and it always happens while Dad is out getting the paper? Got it!

Entertainment and Clothes:

  • This idea of booking a specific seat at a movie theatre is kinda cool. It beats worrying that you won’t get a good seat. You know in advance where you will sit. You can book the seat at home on your computer and then either print out the tickets or pick them up from a special machine in the lobby. (You can also purchase tickets in the theatre right before the show either from the machine or from a cashier.)
movie ticket machine

Self-service ticket machines in a Stockholm movie theatre.

 

  • Orange is the new black. Or, actually orange and black seem to be in the stores. I’m waiting patiently for the organge to leave. The black I can handle…
orange clothing for sale

Orange is “in” this year in Sweden and probably everywhere else, too…

 

Work:

  • Powerpoint presentations still knock me for a loop. It’s very common for the visual presentation to be in English but the audio portion, given by the presenter, to be in Swedish. For me, it’s hard to make the two fit together but native Swedes don’t seem to have any trouble.
  • Swedish massage is simply called “classical massage” in Sweden. When I was growing up I used to listen to the one Monty Python record I owned and several times on the record they would announce “And now, a massage (instead of a message…get it?) from the Swedish Prime Minister…”
  • I keep finding these freezers in Swedish houses (including my apartment) that let you take out an item but not immediately put it back in (ex. You take a portion of frozen vegetables to cook)…The freezer locks you out until it reaches a certain temperature again.

Cell Phones:

  • Callers almost never leave messages in Sweden. They assume you see that they called and that you will call them back.
  • The mobile networks don’t use visual voice messages either (where you can see who called and elect to listen to them in any order) don’t work
  • When someone calls you receive a text message telling you that someone called you. It almost always says (but in Swedish) “You received a call but the person left no message.” It feels strange to get these “non-messages.”

Apartment Living:

  • Lots and lots and lots of people in Stockholm and Uppsala live in apartments. So I visit a lot of apartments. It always amazes me that people just freely give out the code to the front door to nearly everyone: friends, delivery people, relatives even.
  • Apartments don’t have numbers. When someone comes to visit you, you just tell them which floor you live on. Your name is on the door. The mailman puts the mail through a slot in the door with the right name on it.
  • Nearly every apartment door says “Ingen Reklam” indicating that they don’t want any advertisements or snailmail spam. I wonder how many the mail person can actually off load?

Random Thoughts:

  • Why does it sound so bad to the natives when you swear in their language?
  • “Svamp” means too many things in Swedish. I’m just saying.
  • It’s cool that dogs need fewer monthly medicationss in Sweden…No flea control, no heatworm medication…
  • Hotels don’t have doormen. Is it just too darn cold to stand there? Or is holding the door open for people just completely dead?
  • There are very few college (or any other kind of) bumper stickers on cars in Sweden.
  • I love signs and marketing (etc.) phrases in English in Sweden. Here’s a picture of a takeout container…
takeout food container

I love seeing things in English in foreign countries. This takeout food container makes me laugh, not really sure why!

 

  • When you need to go to an ATM, you can go to any bank. You don’t need to find one belonging to your bank in order to avoid fees.
  • Checks are next to extinct in Sweden. Everything paid and debited electronically to you account.
  • I’ll end with this simple thought…I love snow on sculptures. I don’t know why…
snowy statues

I love snow on statues. Here’s one from the Carl Lineaus statue in Humlegården (park), Stockholm

 

Grocery Store Dispenser Machines

vending machines

I see different kinds of vending machines in the grocery stores, but they all dispense one or all of these kinds of items…

 

There are some interesting vending machines in many grocery stores. Somehow I never noticed them until recently. These vending machines sells cigarettes, snus, loose tabacco, and condoms.

Vending Machines
In order to buy one of these items from the machine, you must first pay for the product and receive a special card (or sometimes just a code) from the checkout cashier. Then you sally on over to the machine and put in your card (or code) to get your items. One of my esteemed readers probably knows why this system is in place and can explain to us in a comment. I tried to ask someone at my local store but they’re a little surly there and could not fathom my interest. I also had no success trying to strike up a conversation with a woman trying to retrieve her purchases from one of the machines. I didn’t see what she was buying but maybe she was buying condoms and wasn’t too keen on being interviewed. But I felt like I needed to talk to her because otherwise I looked like a total stalker, leaning over her shoulder, trying to see how the process works. Read more »