Saturday, 21 September 2013

Sweden. # 1

I arrived in Malmo, Sweden around three weeks ago and it has to be said, my move here hasn't been without it's trials and tribulations. But to me all these little hiccups have just been part of moving to a new country and with the help of some very kind people (especially my boyfriend's friends) I have finally begun to settle into my new life here.

My number one problem has been immigration. This was unexpected. Despite being a member of the EU, Sweden (like the UK) seems to like to play by their own rules. At the moment, I have the right to live and work in Sweden for three months, but whilst I am working here I pay tax in the country I am still registered in, i.e France (and believe me, having lived in France for six years, in a year's time that is going to be a headache I don't want to deal with).
In order to be able to stay in Sweden for longer than three months, you have to apply for a residency permit (the easiest to obtain lasting two years). On my most recent trip to the Migrationsverket or Migration Office I was told that in a worst case scenario the permit could take up to a year to process and that's without guaranteeing it will even be approved. Now, all of this I accept as boring paperwork that you have to fill in to be able to stay etc.etc. but, why is this permit so important? Without the permit, you can't go to the tax office and get your own unique personnummer which in Sweden is needed for you to do pretty much anything. If you want to open a bank account - you give that number, if you want to get a mobile phone - you give that number, if you go to the doctors or a school or even the library - you give that number. It's a badge that follows you around, telling the government and the rest of Sweden what you're up to and without it most doors are shut. So living in the country without it, is a little bit like living in limbo. You're never quite able to settle down and really get stuck in to your new life, but you are... sort of able to.

Problem #2 was job-hunting. It is hardly a secret that looking for a job is an horrific and frankly quite demoralising experience. It is also no secret to anyone who reads this blog that I don't speak Swedish. I knew from the offset that without a good knowledge of the language my opportunities were going to be limited but I also knew I needed a job. I needed financial security and even more importantly I needed to start creating my own social circle and my own life, not just back-benching off the life my boyfriend already has here (no matter how wonderful his friends may be).
So a week or so after I moved to Malmo, I began walking around the town, talking to managers in shops and restaurants and handing out my CV. Most of the time I was told that since it was the low season, nobody was looking for new staff. I also discovered that Sweden's unemployment level was high, but I kept going. I visited and called a large range of places, ranging from warehouses to english teaching agencies to coffee houses. After one particularly difficult day, where I was told that I couldn't deliver letters without the Swedish language because that would mean I couldn't read the names or addresses either (?) and where I was informed I couldn't clean hotel rooms without the language either, I stumbled across an English pub. I had visited a few pubs in the town, but this one had escaped my attention. Hidden around the back, next to an old lighthouse I got lucky. For them, the language used wasn't nearly as important as the customer service. After a try-out yesterday, I now have a job.

lighthouse next to the pub

Sweden is a beautiful country and even as the days grow darker, shorter and colder I'm getting excited about living here. I'm in the third biggest city in the country and it's a ten minute bike ride to a beach with crystal clear water and a small café with a private bathing dock out back. And it's only a twenty minute bike ride to the city center. People keep telling me I'm going to get bored of this small town sooner than I realise, but I'm not sure that I will. It's nice to have escaped from the hustle and bustle of towns like London and Paris, even if it's only for a little while.

And if that's not enough for you they sell bread with anchors on it too. 

1 comment:

James R (Randy) Fromm said...

Your story about the job delivering mail reminded me of a scene from /The Roads to Sata/. The author, who is American but speaks flawless Japanese, recounts his walking tour of the length of Japan. He was attempting to obtain lodging for a night in a small town in the far north of Japan and was speaking with a woman who essentially told him (despite speaking with him in Japanese) that he could not have a room because he cannot speak Japanese. She could not acknowledge that she was speaking Japanese with a foreigner because foreigners cannot speak Japanese. CATCH-22.