Do as the Swedish Do: Organisation

Seen at a supermarket's fish counter

In this post I want to share some bureocratic and economic standards in Sweden that struck me as very different compared to Germany.

Tax office, bakery, fish counter in the supermarket, bank office — wherever you go, if there is even the slightest chance of a a queue forming you have to draw a number. This is something I like very much. Not only can you enjoy the oftentimes very cozy waiting areas without having to fear losing your place, but you can also estimate your waiting time and do something else in the meantime. Skatteverket even has a machine that sends you a text when it is your turn.

Most supermarkets and big stores have really long opening hours, often 7am till 11pm. And they open on Sundays for almost the same amount of time, so no need to stack supplies for the weekend. Spontaneous Sunday dinners are something I can easily become accustomed to.

It has appearently become customary to install express checkouts in larger supermarkets. My experience has not been too good so far. Might have been my fault, but the supervising lady had to enter her code several times because the machine thought I was cheating for some reason. And I have been ripped of every single time I bought rolls; the machine just does not offer the correct choices. Professional cashiers are faster, anyway. That is, they are in Germany; I miss Aldi for that.

Mobile rates are stupidly cheap. With my regular prepaid card one text message costs 50 Öre and calling 70 Öre per minute. Calling a German landline number is also 50 Öre per minute. Compare that to your German contracts — and remember, it is prepaid.

The biggest bureaucratic issue as foreigner in Sweden is the famous personnummer. This is a unique number every Swedish citizen is assigned immediately after birth. Consequently, everything works with this number: any kind of contract, bank accounts, flat rental, online transactions, public libraries, and so on. This is very convenient — once you have that number. Without it, nothing important can be done in this country, you are not a fully capable human. My salary, for example, cannot be transferred to my impromptu bank account because Chalmers just tells its bank to transfer amount X to personnummer Y; they reacted very confused when I wanted to give them my account number. Too bad it can be very hard to get a personnummer, especially if you stay here for less than several years. Many people get into the death-trap: no job without personnummer, no number without job. You really have to get employed through connections before coming here in order to have a smooth start.

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