Monday, September 17, 2007

The US Celebrates Constitution Day and I get a Lesson in Being Swedish

Sweden considers itself a social democracy. That’s basically a euphemism for bureaucratic nightmare. Everything takes time here, everything involves standing in line, everything involves going to multiple people to get an answer, and everything is done exactly by the book regardless of circumstances.

Today was a prime example. I went to Stockholm University today to finish up my registration for my class. I had to wait for my university transcripts to be sent from America, they showed up today so I headed in. Well, first I waited in line for nearly 15 minutes at a desk that was unmanned with no bell or anyway of announcing that I was there. I read the signs, and my papers to make sure I was in the right place. I was. Finally, an older woman arrived, slowly I might add, and told me that I actually needed to go downstairs despite what my paper and the signs said. So I did.

Once down there I was told that even though I speak Swedish, and studied Swedish at university I was not guaranteed to be admitted to all university classes and so we would have to go back upstairs and talk to someone who could better judge my transcripts. The Viking history class I’m taking is in English so it’s not a big deal really but I figured that I would keep my options open just in case I want to take another class sometime in the future. So we headed upstairs. Keep in mind that everything is being done in Swedish. I haven’t said a single word in English.

When we arrived upstairs I met with the gentleman who was to decipher my American transcripts. I explained to him, in Swedish, that I spoke Swedish, had studied abroad here in Sweden, and even studied Swedish in the US earning a degree in Scandinavian Studies. He then asked me why History and Business were listed as majors. I had to explain that I had done three majors. He was no impressed. In fact, he told me that in order to allow me to take classes in Swedish he would have like to have seen Swedish as my fulltime course of study. My explanations that I had actually done more than required fell on deaf ears. After wearing him down enough, still in Swedish, he referred me to the Nordic languages department. I haven’t made it there yet. Just didn’t have it in me.

Anyway, after that lovely display of bureaucracy DCP and I headed to the bank right in the middle of Stockholm to work out internet banking. We were greeted by the ubiquitous kölapp. Basically you take a number to stand in line and then get called up. Well we snagged one and waited dutifully. When we were called up we found out that because DCP is not a Swedish citizen she can’t have internet banking. She is still allowed to have a bank account, card, and everything else but no internet banking. Probably one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard. We were told there were many reasons for this. When we asked what they were the teller only told us one reason: they couldn’t be sure of who DCP was because she hadn’t had a Swedish ID number long enough. Aaah, of course, because that is the only way to find out the true character of a person. Silly Americans, we should have known that.

Not the most successful day in terms of integrating into Swedish society, oh well. Welcome to Sweden I guess.

8 comments:

  1. About being a Swedish citizen before being issued internetbanking->that is the silliest thing I heard! I was issued internetbanking even back then when I only had a visiting student permit. Try another branch of the bank. You were maybe just unlucky being met by an incompetent teller. Did you try to speak with the manager? It is your right to have that service. Anyway, just to be sure, read their rules about internetbanking and see if there's really a time requirement regarding the personnummer. Otherwise, ask them how long time is long enough? I tell you customer service in Sweden is almost non-existent and you sometimes need to be tenacious. You will find this out along the way. Goodluck!

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  2. We went to two different branches. She even has a personnummer and still they said no because she's an international student. They did say that other banks offer it so we're probably going to look into it. But I couldn't believe it!

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  3. Vilket land föredrar du bäst då? :)

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  4. just nu skulle jag säga USA eftersom det känns fortfarande some mit hem, men vi får ju se efter jag har varit här ett tag

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  5. Jayne Phoenix (pseudo)September 18, 2007 at 11:23 AM

    Not being allowed to have internet banking because you arent a swedish citizen- that was the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard! I didnt even know that. I am a Swede by birth and all that, but I can be honest that Sweden is not exactly the friendliest country in the world really. The americans when I was over there, I was actually an exchange student during 05/06 in Maryland, were more impressed at my being an exchange student and from Sweden and everything, than Swedes themselves were when they heard my stories about my year in USA. Thats strange, really. But I am so used with the swedish culture that I cant imagine not being swedish. :P I hope you will enjoy your stay in Sweden! Are your family still in USA or what?

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  6. Yeah kind of silly but oh well. My immediate family is still in the US but I have a lot of family that lives here in Sweden also.

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  7. Bureaucracy sucks. I'm Swedish so I feel your pain.

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  8. It sure does. So do slow responses that take nearly seven years. Oops.

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