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.