From Seattle to Stockholm

The long road….

Årets bästa… två år sent

February 17th, 2015 by zoothe

So about 4 years back I decided to post a “year’s top ten albums” list here on the blog, and figured I’d keep doing one every year. When it came time to do 2013’s list I was just lazy and never got around to it, and then when 2014 was due, I felt like I couldn’t do it without first completing my 2013 list…. so, here’s both of them combined:

(2013) “True Romance” by Charlie XCX – A great pop entry- what I liked most about this album was that it kept me guessing. There were several times when I would think I was listening to a different artist. There are several great songs that can easily get stuck in your head. I think the biggest problem with it is that the dynamics of the album aren’t backed by a strong central sound, and ends up coming off a bit generic. That being said, it’s definitely a great, energetic pop album. Favourite tracks: “Nuclear Seasons” and “What I Like”

(2014) “Forever” by Painted Palms – Mellow indie rock… that’s my description of this sound. I really enjoyed this album, and I think it’d be higher on the list if it were just a little more memorable. That being said, I think it’s a great listen. Favourite tracks: “Carousel” and “Not Really There”

(2013) “Black Ribbons” by Neuromancer – The opening track of this album is just so great that it was impossible to ignore. A great build to a fantastic melody that seeps into your bones. I’d classify it as alternative electropop rock with a tinge of 80’s New Wave. However, while there are other better than decent songs on the album, none of them live up to the opener (or it’d be higher on the list). Favourite tracks: “The Fear” and “All I Ever Wanted”

(2014) “Moments to An Elegy” by The Smashing Pumpkins – Back in the mid to late 90’s, SP were my all time favourite band. No matter what direction the music took, I was always confident I’d like it. But, when they came back after a long hiatus with Zeitgeist (and by “they” I mean Billy Corgan), it just wasn’t the same… and got continually worse to the point that the band faded from my “go to” playlist. So, it was a pleasant surprise when Moments to An Elegy actually turned out to be good. The caveat here is the same as with pretty much every Pumpkins album: I like this album because of the three or four really great songs on it and despite the rest of the songs, which are forgettable. Favourite tracks: “One And All” and “Tiberius”

(2013) “Voices In My Head” by Light FM – I discovered Light FM with this album. The best way I can describe their sound is to say they are like Fountains of Wayne (you know the song, “Stacy’s Mom”) without the tongue-in-cheek goofiness. The big plus is that you get really good alternative pop rock songs. My biggest complaint are the lyrics, which come off incredibly simplistic and lazy (and that’s coming from someone who almost never pays attention to lyrics unless I really want to sing along). Favourite tracks: “Voices in My Head” and “Black Widow”

(2014) “Time” by Mr. Kitty – Mr. Kitty is one of those bands where you’re like “meh” aboust most of their stuff… like 95%, but that 5% is like REALLY good. Straight up electropop with hints of both goth and 80’s new wave. Favourite tracks: “Hollow”, “Neglect”, and “Glow”

(2013) “Langsom Dans” by Gliss – Gliss lost a bit of the fuzzy guitars that made their earlier album so great, and my first impression of this one was slight disappointment. The album eventually grew on me and I was able to think more of it in time. It’s slower and moodier, reminding me very much of The Ravonettes (not a bad thing at all). Favourite tracks: “A to B” and “In Heaven”

(2014) “Silent So Long” by Emigrate – Emigrate is a project headed by the guitarist for Rammstein, and I wasn’t expecting much from this album since their debut was only just okay. Part of the reason I think this album is so much better is all the collaborations that lie within- Peaches, Marilyn Manson, Lemmy, etc. That being said, the stand-alone songs are also much better than their first effort. Favourite tracks: “My Pleasure” and “Get Down (featuring Peaches)”

(2013) “Static” by Cults – I saw this band at a small venue in Seattle. It was a place I’d seen several other great bands (Glasvegas, Gliss, The Drums, etc), but the venue itself isn’t anything special. That’s why I was exceptionally blown away by the incredible sound when The Cults took the stage. Seriously, I think it was one of, if not the, best live performances (sound quality wise) I’d ever heard. It was that show that really made me go back and give this album a closer listen, and I came away with a deeper appreciation for it. As for the sound, I’d say indie-pop with a strong influence of 60’s era pop. Favourite tracks: “Always Forever” and “Shine A Light”

(2014) “Heaven” by The Bilinda Butchers – I wanted this album to be higher on the list. This is probably due to my weakness to good and/or great Shoegaze. I don’t know what else to say, I mean, I played the fuck out of “The Lover’s Suicide”… I love it. Just listen to it and be happy. Favourite tracks: “The Lover’s Suicide” and “Less Than”

(2013) “Night Time, My Time” by Sky Ferreira – This album came out of nowhere, especially if you listen to Sky’s earlier stuff. It’s gritty and raw while sounding polished and refined at the same time. It has a hard, sometimes industrial edge while still sounding extremely poppy. I played the shit out of several track on this album and originally had this in the number two spot. However, the songs I love are offset by others that are extremely bad (“Omanko”), and the album as a whole didn’t have quite the staying power that others on the list did. Favourite tracks: “I Will” and “Nobody Asked Me (If I Was Okay)”

(2014) “Deep Fantasy” by White Lung – I don’t normally like punk, and I think White Lung rest on the boarder of punk and just rock, but that’s about as close as I like to get to punk anyway, so we’ll just call them punk. The best way to listen to this album is in a dark room, having never heard White Lung before… your head will explode and it will be awesome. Favourite tracks: “Sycophant” and “Drown With the Monster”

(2013) “Sleep In the Water” by Snakadaktal – I don’t know how to define this genre; it’s shoegaze, dream pop, regular pop, a little ambient and electronic… take your pick… take ‘em all, ’cause it ends up being really fucking good. The echo-y clean guitars are complimented by subtle electronic synths, catchy melodies, and great vocals- sometimes male, sometimes female (sometimes both). Favourite tracks: “Fall Underneath” and “Isolate”

(2014) “Slow Moves” by Oh My! – For most of 2014, this was the album I intended to be at the top spot. Overtime, however, it slipped due to a lack of staying power. That’s not to say it’s not a great fucking album… it is. I always think of two bands when I listen to Oh My!: The Strokes and Rooney. Cathcy, radio friendly pop rock with a hint of lo-fi sound. Favourite tracks: “Slow Moves” and “Listen”

(2013) “Before Then Was Now” by RLMDL – The tempo comes down a bit for this entry. It’s a great chill-out album; breathy vocals and dreamy, echo-y tunes with a flare of 80’s New Wave pop… I dig it. Favourite tracks: “Polaroid” and “Local Celebrity”

(2014) “Technicolour Blind” by Tennis System – This album was a late comer, and that probably helped it avoid being being buried by other great albums (see: Oh My!). In fact, I didn’t actually hear this until late December or early January, so I initially thought it was a 2015 album. Tennis System are exactly my kind of shoegaze band, employing just the right combination of fuzzy echoes and, tempo, and pop melody. I hope everyone gets a chance to hear this album. Favourite tracks: “Memories & Broken Dreams” and “Dead Honey”

(2013) “June Gloom” by Big Deal – My best description for this album would be that it’s a more poppy take on The Joy Formidable. They have a similarly “big” sound coupled with more radio-friendly melodies. That being said, it took me a while to realize just how great this album was, and I remember the first time I heard it thinking that only the first couple of tracks were decent, and when I started compiling my top ten list, the album was at the bottom. However, the more I listened to it, the more I was like, “Oh! This album rocks!” Favourite tracks: “Swapping Spit” and “Dream Machines”

(2014) “White Noise” by Pvris- The way I describe Pvris is also the reason I’m almost ashamed they’re on my top ten list, let alone in the number two slot: they’re like a mix of Paramore and Katy Perry… Katy Paramore, if you will. In all truthfulness, they sound almost exactly like Paramore but have a slight electropop polish to them that Paramore doesn’t. But, I can always admit when a song is good, even when it’s embarrassing to do so, and in all honesty, there are a bunch of really good songs on this album. The perfect mix of catchy pop melody and hard, driving rock. Favourite tracks: “Let Them In” and “Fire”

(2013) “The Winter Ward” by I Are Droid – I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing the very first time I heard this album. That should say it all. It was one of those moments when what you’re hearing stops you in your tracks and you need to take a much closer look. “The Winter Ward” has everything that I would/could want in an album: catchy riffs, great melodies, excellent instrumentation, etc. I could go on. Bottom line is it’s a fucking amazing rock album and everyone should own it. Favourite tracks: “Given Is Given (Part 1)” and “22:22″

(2014) “Aelita” by Mando Diao – Funny thing about this album is that I was totally confused when I first listened to it. Mando Diao is a pop rock band out of Sweden who have been around for a while… which I didn’t know. I had only ever heard the album that came out right before Aelita which was called Infruset. Infruset was not your typical Mando Diao album; the band had taken ten selected poems from a famous Swedish poet, Gustaf Fröding, and put music to them. The music was kind of folky to me, so I wasn’t all that into it. So, thinking that Mando Diao was some kind of folk band that sung in Swedish, you can imagine my surprise when I listened to Aelita. That being said, even this album is a departure from what the band sounded like when they started out. To me, it’s like a mix of 80’s new wave pop and 70’s R&B, and it’s great! I played the shit out of this album and tried to turn as many people onto it as I could. Ultimately I think it was one of the most underrated albums of the year, Favourite tracks: “Romeo” and “Money Doesn’t Make You a Man”

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Livet börjar…

October 30th, 2014 by zoothe

A few weeks after my last post, I had a job interview and was offered a job a week later. I didn’t want to make an “I got a job” post before it was 100% settled, so I held off saying anything. I finally started about three weeks ago and have just been busy with that and getting accustomed to actually working again. So, anyway, yeah… I got a job. Now life in Sweden can finally begin.

As mentioned in my last post, I did start SAS and managed to finish the first part of it right as my work schedule kicked in. I really disliked my teacher and found the SFI classes (and teachers) to be much, much better, so it wasn’t hard to drop the rest of the course due to work schedule conflicts. I’m pretty sure that the job will do more for my Swedish than the class could anyhow.

So, that’s about it. Just updating.

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Klar med SFI…

August 15th, 2014 by zoothe

I suppose I could pretend that I’ve put off updating this blog because I’ve been busy, but the truth is that I’ve simply been waiting until there was something noteworthy to say. A milestone perhaps.

Four months (and one day) ago, I began my classes at SFI. Today I am finished. Well, technically I finished more than a week ago, but I was waiting for my official grade before making any “announcements”. I had originally planned on updating the blog back in June when I graduated from SFI level C to D, but I guess I forgot. So… yup, I’m done. No more SFI. Which is especially funny since the Swedish Government recently announced that it plans to do away with the SFI program as it currently exists. But, the course has been helpful nonetheless. Prior to starting, my SFI expectations were pretty low after having read many, many negative comments about it from others who had attended. However, I’m happy to say that my experience was almost entirely enjoyable and beneficial. Sure, there are some flaws in the system and integration can be challenging at times, but I think a person’s success in SFI ultimately depends on how much effort they put into it. Period.

Aside from that milestone, there hasn’t been much going on. I tend to try avoid spending money as much as I can these days. Snåla. We did recently take a 5 day trip to Berlin. Can’t say I “loved” that place, but it was fun being there regardless. We also took a trip to Tyresta National Park last weekend, which was really cool. I highly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t been. Dead forests photograph beautifully!

So now what?

Well, I have already started the application process for continuing my Swedish studies in Svenska som andraspråk (SAS), which I would like to attend if I can manage it. However, my bigger focus now will be on finding work. I doubt that my Swedish is good enough to jump into any career-oriented jobs, but I’m thinking a barista or restaurant gig would be perfect in the interim. We’ll see. I’m really looking forward to getting back to work as being unemployed has made my acclimation to life in Sweden less enjoyable. On top of that, we’ve been experiencing an unusually warm summer here and, as anyone who knows me will attest to, the extended exposure to sunlight has me pretty pissed off. I’m anxious for the sun to go away.

Bring on the darkness!


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Min katt är död…

April 29th, 2014 by zoothe

A lot has happened since my last post, as is often the case with life. I mean, it has been more than a month. A few days after my last entry, Helena and I made a short trip to Norrtälje to see her grandmother. We had a nice visit and the town was very quaint and charming. Unfortunately, that night Mazzy had to be taken to the vet in Uppsala where it was determined that she had a serious kidney problem that was not treatable and she had to be put to sleep. So, yeah… that sucked.

My SFI classes weren’t to start for about two weeks, so I mostly spent my days working on my CV and applying for jobs. However, I wasn’t really expecting much response since most employers want you to be fluent in Swedish. I did eventually make my way over to the Arbetsförmedlingen (Swedish unemployment agency) office to register and see how much they could help me. From what I’ve heard from other people, they don’t really do much… but I guess we’ll see. I have another meeting with them next week.

I went to my first SFI class on the 14th of April. When you’re new to the course, you go through this little processing step on your first day. Basically they’re just confirming you’re supposed to be there and what level you’re to be placed in. The whole thing should have taken 30 minutes, tops. It took over 2 hours. I was in this small room with maybe 8 other people, and almost all of them were at the beginner level, meaning that they understood little-to-no Swedish. But the woman processing us spoke to us in normal, everyday Swedish. I was only a little confused… I can’t imagine how the other people felt. Most of them were just sitting there with blank faces like, “I have no idea what you’re saying right now.” Eventually, I was escorted to my new class room.

It was there that I learned that I have four different teachers. A woman who comes in on Mondays and Tuesdays, a guy who comes in on Wednesdays, a second woman who comes in on Thursdays, and then a third woman on Fridays. Yeah, that’s not confusing. My first week also started at an odd time as school was closed that Friday as well as the following Monday (for the Easter weekend), so, what with vacations and such, I literally had a different teacher every day during my first two weeks.

Despite the chaos, it hasn’t been that bad actually. It only took me a day or two to feel fairly comfortable and I really do try to take advantage of the chance to practice my Swedish with other people. It’s also a quite humbling experience to be in an environment where you speak, and are spoken to, at the level of a child. Yesterday we had to sit and listen as our teacher read us a short story and it just made me chuckle inside. Luckily for me it hasn’t been a difficult thing to get past, but I can imagine that it could be very frustrating for others. All in all, it’s good practice, I’m learning things, meeting new people, and it gives me something to do during the day other than stressing about finding a job.

During the long Easter weekend, Helena and I went to Bergen, Norway. I had wanted to visit ever since I saw it in a movie and it was awsesome. The geography in Norway is fantastic. Lots of green trees, mountains, and water… Here’s a link to some pics I posted on Flickr. Norway is also crazy expensive… more so than Sweden, so be prepared if you are thinking about taking a trip there. I was paying $15-17 for 0.4 liter beer. Made me want to cry.

I think that’s it for now. I will post more when I have more.


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Svenska för invandrare…

March 25th, 2014 by zoothe

Swedish for Immigrants (SFI) was something I have always intended on taking once I arrived in Stockholm. Over the years, I’ve done some studying on my own with Rosetta Stone, and even attended a few classes in Seattle at the Scandinavian Language Institute (SLI). Rosetta Stone was a good start but the challenge and effectiveness dropped off by the second level. The classes at SLI were terrible, and I lay all of the blame on the teacher (as nice as he was), who was scattered, absent minded, half deaf, and had absolutely NO lesson plan. In preparing myself for SFI over the past week or two, I had read more about the program on a few blogs and was disappointed to hear many people make the same complaints: unstructured and ineffective. But, being that the courses are free, I’m most certainly going to give them a shot.

I hopped on the metro and got off the red line at Zinkensdamm. From there, it was about a two block walk down Hornsgatan to the SFI office. The office is on the 3rd floor of Hornsgatan 124, and upon walking in, I took a number and sat down. There were many people in the waiting area- almost every seat was taken. I waited 10, maybe 15 minutes for my number to come up, and then proceeded to the reception counter. I had expected to need just my personnummer and my passport, but when the woman saw the temporary ID card document that I had received at Skatteverket, she didn’t even look at my passport. She typed some information into her computer and told me to have a seat, that I would be called shortly. Maybe 5 or 10 minutes later, a woman came out and called my name and had me follow her to an office. She spoke to me almost entirely in Swedish.

I tried my best to answer her questions. I could actually understand a lot of what she was saying, but had trouble responding appropriately and so, for most of the conversation, I answered her in English. She asked me things like how long had I been in Sweden, why I was here, if I was working, about my prior educational background, and my Swedish language exposure. After a few minutes, she led me back through the waiting area to another room where I was to take a placement test. I had absolutely no idea what to expect from this test. None of the blogs I had read gave any indication of what it was like, and the woman had only described it in Swedish and quite vaguely. The small room was packed with several rows of computers on long tables that were sectioned off by small dividers. It was your basic testing room.

SFI is made up of 4 levels: A, B, C, and D. The first two levels are reserved for people with little to no educational background, who speak no Swedish, and little to no English. I was to test for placement in levels C or D. The test started off with a 4 or 5 paragraph mini-essay where a girl writes about herself. At key points in the essay, there are blank spots marked by yellow question marks. Upon clicking on them, a pop-up window would display a few possible statements that would complete the sentence. Pick the appropriate answer and move on. The essay was rather advanced, and I had to keep reminding myself that I was testing at the upper half of the curriculum. Other sections in the test required me to read various things and answer questions about the information within, while others, still, had me listen to audio and then answer questions. These were stressful because the volume was very low on the headphones, there was no way to turn it up, and you are only able to listen to the audio files twice. The final section of the test asked me to write a short bio and touch on specific topics. By the time I got to this section, I had probably been sitting in the testing room for at least an hour (maybe longer), and I was so ready to be done.

Upon completing the test, I took yet another number and sat back out in the waiting area. It was a little past 1pm (I had arrived there around 11am), and now it was standing room only as I waited for my result number to come up. This took only about 5 minutes or so, and I was led back to an office with another SFI rep. After more than an hour of reading, listening, and thinking in Swedish, I was much more comfortable answering his questions in Swedish, which was encouraging as, after three weeks in Sweden, I have yet to carry on a single Swedish conversation. The rep told me that I tested above SFI level in the listening section, which was surprising to me. I tested at level D in reading, and level C in writing and speaking. After a short discussion, the man decided it would be best to place me in the final unit of C level. I chose to attend the afternoon classes (1pm-5pm) at the Högdalen location (which is near where I live). My classes start on the 14th or April.

So, that’s yet another item to check off the list. I’ll, of course, go into much more detail about the program once I’ve attended at least a few classes, so stay tuned!

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Skatteverket är snabb!

March 20th, 2014 by zoothe

During my first visit to Skatteverket, where I applied for my personnummer, I was told I would receive it in the mail in 1-5 weeks. That was on Friday, March 14th. Well, my personnummer arrived in the mail just 5 days later, on the 19th! That’s not even one business week!

With my personnummer in hand, I headed back to the Kungsholmen office the next morning. Being that you must pay the ID card fee BEFORE going to the Skattevrket office to apply for one, I got off the metro at Fridhemsplan and went to the Forex branch there. Aside from currency exchange and wire transfers, Forex will also let you pay the ID card fee (which is 400 SEK) for a fee of 50 SEK. I don’t know if you can pay with a card there as I had already taken cash out ahead of time. I arrived at the branch right when they opened, at 10 am. I already had the invoice form you need from Skatteverket all filled out, but I noticed that the branch had blank ones there as well. I was in and out in under 5 minutes, hopped back on the metro and continued to Thorildsplan (which is the very next stop).

When I arrived at the Skatteverket office, I told the woman at the information desk that I needed to apply for an ID card. She asked if I had paid the fee and if I had my personnummer letter with me. Yes to both and she handed me a number and told me I was next in line (so much for Södertälje having the shortest wait times. You don’t get much shorter than zero). I went to the window and the woman asked me for the receipt showing that I had paid the ID card fee, my passport, my personnummer letter, my residency card, and had me write my mobile number on a post-it note. I had read on another blog that they would also ask for my “visa granted” letter, which I did bring with me, but she didn’t ask to see it. The woman looked over my documents, handed me another number, told me to go get measured for my height, and then to wait for my number to be called.

Again, there was no wait to get my height taken, and my number came up just as I was wrapping that up. At the window, the woman asked me for all of the same documents I had provided at the first window as well as the height measurement I was given. She made some copies, typed some stuff in her computer, and then told me to face the camera to have my picture taken. At this point it was the same procedure as when I went to Migrationsverket except that they did not take my fingerprints. Once everything was in order, the woman handed me my documents back along with a paper that appeared to be like a temporary ID card (had all of my info, signature, and photo on it). She then told me I would receive a notice in the mail when my card was ready in 2-3 weeks at which point I must return to claim it. Keeping in mind that I had arrived at the Forex branch at 10 am, I walked out of the Skatteverket office at 10:30. The whole process at Skatteverket took less than 15 minutes!

From there I stopped at the Swedbank branch in Skanstull to open a bank account. As with everything so far, it all went smoothly and quickly, and in about 15 minutes, I had a Swedish bank account! I have read on some blogs that the banks here require that you have an income in order to open an account, and that may be true if you are opening the account with no initial funds, but since I had money that I as depositing from my US account, that wasn’t an issue.

Next on the list is registering for SFI (Swedish for Immigrants), a free course that aims to get immigrants on track with speaking Swedish. Registering for the course and taking the placement test must be done in person, and so I will be going to do that on Monday. I’ll let you know how that goes. From comments I’ve read on various forums and blogs, the general consensus is that SFI is rather unstructured and not all that effective for people eager to learn the language in a timely manner, but I’m going to give it a shot before I shell out money for the intensive courses at Folkuniversitet, which are fairly expensive. Also next on the list is beginning the job search… a daunting task to say the least. More on that later.

Lastly, before I headed home from Skanstull, I stopped at a store called Kaffe Maskinen, which sells all kinds of coffee equipment, mostly high-end. I befriended the worker there and asked for his help with finding a decent roast here in town. He had plenty of suggestions, so I’m sure I’ll have to try a few different roasts before I decide on my favourite. When I mentioned that I was from Seattle he said, “Seattle eh? That’s like coffee Mecca, no? Or… no, maybe that’s Portland.” I looked at him and laughed, “Uhhh, no. It’s Seattle.”


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Väntar på skatteverket…

March 14th, 2014 by zoothe

I left Seattle on March 3rd, arrived in Stockholm on the 4th… time to get started on the admin. Thanks to Helena booking me an appointment ahead of time, she and I headed to the Migrationsverket office in Solna on Wednesday, March 5th. Upon arriving in the country on my co-habitation visa, applying for a UT card (residency card) is the first step towards getting into “the system”.

The office is visible from the pendeltåg stop, and just a short 2 minute walk away. Inside, there are information windows and a large waiting area. We had to wait there until a woman, who was inside a second area, called us by the time our appointment was scheduled for (ie: she would call 9:45 and anyone who had an appointment for that time could then enter the room). When she called 10:00, we walked into the room where there were about 4 or 5 windows. The appointment notification email had said I must go to window 13, 14, or 15. I walked up to the first open window and told the woman I was there for my residency card. She took my passport and looked me up in the system and asked me to write my mailing address down on a post-it note. Then she took my picture and fingerprints and told me my card would arrive in the mail in 7-10 days and that was it. The whole thing took about 6 minutes.

About 8 days later, on March 13th, I received my UT card in the mail. It’s pretty fucking high tech… I have never seen so many different and elaborate security measures on a card before. Funny that it doesn’t really do much as a card itself… I can’t use it for ID, and still have to have my passport (along with the card) whenever traveling back into Sweden. The biggest thing that it does for me is allow me to go to Skatteverket (Swedish tax office) and apply for a personnummer (Swedish equivalent of a social security number), which I need in order to get a proper ID card, get a job, start SFI (Swedish For Immigrants), open a bank account, and a multitude of other things.

Despite being told that the Skatteverket office in Södetälje has the shortest lines, I opted to try my luck at the office in Kungsholmen, which is a very short walk from the Thorildsplan stop on the green line. I arrived about 15 minutes before the office opened and there were already about 8 other people waiting outside the door. By the time the office opened there were closer to about 30 people waiting to get in. We all walked in and formed two lines at the information desk. A man a few people ahead of me in the other line was there for the same thing I was and I listened as the Skatteverket rep told him he needed to fill out an application and then come back to the line. The man asked if the application was in English and the rep told him yes. When I walked up to the rep in my line, I told her I was there to apply for a personnummer. She handed me an application and told me to fill it out and come back to the line… but when I walked over to a table to fill it out I noticed that it was all in Swedish. I tried my best to fill it out, but my Swedish isn’t that good yet, so, not wanting to fill it out incorrectly, I went back to the woman and asked if she had the application in English. She said “Oh yes, here you go.” I said thanks and she laughingly replied, “I thought you had already learned Swedish.” I said, “Not yet, sorry.”

The application was pretty straightforward; your personal information, your sambo’s personnummer (if you have a sambo), what kind of visa you have, etc. The only thing I wasn’t prepared for was that the application asks for your property owner/landlord’s name and number, but I was able to get the this info from Helena via SMS. Once I had the application all filled in I went back to the woman and she gave me a number. I walked down to the waiting area and waited for my number to be called. My number came up just under 30 minutes later and I sat down at the desk where another woman sat. I told her I was there to apply for a personnummer and handed her my passport, UT card, and application. She looked it over to make sure it was filled in properly and noticed that I hadn’t put anything down for apartment number. I told her I didn’t have one as far as I knew, but she insisted that there was one. Luckily, she was able to look it up using Helena’s information. She then made copies of my passport and UT card and told me that I would receive my personnummer in the mail in 1-5 weeks, at which point I could return and apply for an ID card. Knowing I would need it later, I picked up a blank invoice form for paying the ID card fee from the rep at the information desk before I left.

So, that’s where I’m at now: waiting for Skatteverket to send me my personnummmer. Funny that I will have to go back there two more times before I can actually get my ID. Just hoping that everything continues to go quickly for me. On that note, some of you might be bored with my overtly detailed description of such mundane errands, but I just know that this is exactly the kind of info that I wanted when I was getting ready to do all this myself: Where do I go? What do I need? and most importantly, How long will it take?

Anyway, once I get my personnummer I will start seriously looking for work, so until then I’m going to try and enjoy NOT working while I still can.

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En katt reser till STHLM…

March 10th, 2014 by zoothe

Just about a week ago (give or take the 9 hour time difference between Seattle and Stockholm) I was getting ready to board a plane to Sweden on a one way ticket, lugging with me my cat and various essential material goods. Now, we live in Sweden!

Let me first say that moving a pet from one country to another is ridiculously over complicated. I mean, I get the reasoning behind all the exams and whatnot, but still! I’ve had my cat, Mazzy, since 2007 and really wanted to bring her with me to Sweden. Since Helena is crazy allergic to cats it was worked out that Mazzy would live in Uppsala with her sister. And so the journey began to get all the necessary documents to move a pet overseas. In searching on what I needed in order to travel with a pet internationally I came across Do not bother. It’s a useless waste of money. I paid $17 for what I later learned I could have gotten for free, and because one of their documents had incorrect information, I had to re-do the health certificate and vet exam mere days before we were scheduled to depart. I’d also like to suggest to anyone looking into doing this that you price out the health certificate thing. The first vet charged me $104 to fill it out whereas the second vet charged me only $17. As long as they are USDA accredited, any vet can do the certificate and exam for you.

Basically it goes like this: the best website to start at is the USDA’s APHIS site. Here you will find all the necessary paperwork and instructions on what to do. From there, in my case, I had to get Mazzy microchipped with a 15-digit ISO compliant chip and then vaccinated for rabies. The vaccination cannot be done less than 21 days prior to the travel date and must be done AFTER the animal is microchipped. Then, no more than 10 days from your arrival date, the animal must be examined by a USDA accredited vet who will also fill out the health certificate. The filled-out certificate must then be endorsed by the USDA, which can be done at local offices (the closest one to Seattle was near Olympia). Some airlines require additional documents which my vet also filled out. At the airport, I had to pay $140 excess baggage fee and have the TSA physically inspect both my cat and her carrier.

Traveling Icelandair as I always do, I had a 50 minute layover in Reykjavik. Normally that is plenty of time, but my flight out of Seattle had been delayed just enough that by the time I went through customs and got to my gate it was already final call for boarding and I was the last person to board. This had me extremely worried that Mazzy wasn’t going to make it on the plane. Upon arriving in Arlanda, I stood at the window of my gate watching them unload the baggage from the plane. I was able to see one of the baggage handlers pick up Mazzy’s carrier and wave to her, probably saying “Hej katten!” This brought relief as I figured his reaction to a dead cat would have been quite different.

Down in the baggage claim area, I had no idea where I was supposed to go to pick her up. There was an area for oversized luggage somewhat close to where my normal luggage was supposed to come out, so I spent about 15 minutes walking back and forth between the two. It was taking an extremely long time for the normal luggage to come out so I made my way back to the oversized area where I came upon Mazzy’s carrier, sitting on a cart all by itself, with no one around. I looked around to see if someone was going to come and check if she was mine or not, but then just grabbed her and headed back to the other baggage claim area. After I got my other things, I stopped through the customs area where a man hastily looked over the health certificate and checked her microchip. I said “That’s it?” He said yes and I got the hell out of there.

I emerged from the airport with Mazzy and four other bags loaded onto one of those carts and made my way to Helena. She was very glad to see that I didn’t have a sullen, “Mazzy-died-on-the-plane” look on my face. We walked outside to meet up with her father, who was parked out front, waving blue and yellow Pippi Longstocking balloons. As I wheeled everything towards the car the front wheel of the cart hit a crack in the cement and all the bags, including Mazzy, tumbled onto the sidewalk and then rolled out into the street. Poor Mazzy, who was still slightly sedated, made it all the way to Sweden only to have me drop her in the street. We laughed, joking that it would be funny if she had died right there… other people around looked at us like “WTF?!”

Over the next few days, Mazzy took to the new apartment surprisingly well, but that might be due to the fact that she and I spent a month living in a tiny bedroom prior to this. Then, this past Saturday, we carted Mazzy and all her stuff to Uppsala. Not sure how she’ll adapt to yet another new home, let alone one without me in it, but I suppose I’ll find out soon enough. Regardless, she’s an international cat now, having been to Seattle, Reykjavik, Stockholm, and Uppsala. I say that for all of my American friends without passports… get off your asses!

Mazzy in STHLM

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Migrationsverket och Sambo visa…

December 3rd, 2013 by zoothe

So, as one would expect, I did a lot of research in the months/weeks/days leading up to my applying for a visa to live and work in Sweden. A friend of mine directed me to this blog, which I found particularly helpful as it pretty much mirrored my situation perfectly. Having insight into a real life experience so similar to what I was about to undertake was much appreciated, and so I wanted to pay it forward a bit by just giving a brief play-by-play of my experience in the hopes that someone will find it useful:

- First and foremost, get to know the Migrationsverket website as intimately as possible. You will use this site to determine what kind of visa you need to apply for. Once you know this, it is strongly recommended that you apply using the online method for the fastest turnaround time. One thing I did in order to be better prepared was to download all the forms that are required for the application process as if you’re doing it by mail. The forms will give you a really good idea of what to expect from the online application. I actually filled all the forms out electronically and saved them so that when time came for the actual application, I could just copy and paste my answers into the online form. Keep in mind, however, that the mail-in forms and the online application are not identical, so make sure you pay close attention.

- It’s also advisable to visit your local Swedish Embassy’s website as it will provide more information. I was able to contact the local consulate via email and telephone and ask specific questions. There’s also an FAQ on the Migrationsverket site.

- Basically, be as prepared as you possibly can be before you sit down to apply for your visa. You will need time to gather all the necessary documents (depending on which visa you apply for). The rest of this will follow the process that I experienced while applying for a co-habitation visa (sometimes called a Sambo visa).

- I filled out my online application on the 4th of November. You have to register as a user on the Migrationsverket site prior to filling out the application, but that process took only about 2 minutes. Because I had filled out the forms ahead of time, the application process didn’t take very long. You are expected to provide details about yourself, your family, your Sambo, your Sambo’s family, how you met, when/where you’ve met, and your plans for the future, etc. It can take a long time to fill out if you haven’t prepared ahead of time.

- Once the application was filled out, I was asked to provide my documents. For me, I was only asked to provide a scan of my passport and a scan of my single-status document (that shows I am not married… the local consulate assisted me with getting that). I was not asked at this time for any other documents.

- After uploading my docs, I was asked to submit payment for my application fee. It worked out to about $230 USD. As soon as my payment went through, I got an email confirming that fact.

- Immediately after that, I received a copy of the email that Migrationsverket sent to my Sambo. It basically informs her that she needs to go to the website and fill out her half of the application. She waited a week before she did this because she thought she would need all kinds of documents. But, basically, she had to answer the same exact questions that I did, and was only asked to provide a scan of her personbevis and a scan of her ID card. She submitted this on November 11th.

- Less than 24 hours after she submitted her part of the application, I received an email requesting that I supply three to four pictures of the two of us together at different locations. One thing to note here: you are only allowed to upload ONE file, so you will need one JPG or PDF that contains all of the pictures you are going to provide. I was also able to provide a description of each picture (ie: where and when it was taken).

- A few minutes after I received the email requesting the pictures, I received another email informing me that I needed to set up an interview with my local Swedish Consulate. I contacted my local consular on the 12th and set up an interview for that Friday, the 15th. I was told to bring any and all documents that I had uploaded to Migrationsverket prior.

- I met with the consular at 2pm on Friday. We had spoken on the phone before and he remembered my case, so it was nice to have even a slight level of familiarity. He basically asked me the same exact questions I had been asked on my application and typed everything out as I spoke. He then made copies of all of my documents (ie: passport, single-status doc, and pictures). He informed me that he would send everything to Migrationsverket that same day. He advised me that it could take months before I hear anything and that I would eventually get an email informing me that a decision has been made, and that I would then need to contact the Embassy in D.C. to find out what that decision is. Being so late in the day on a Friday, I knew that they wouldn’t even see the documents until Monday morning.

- The next week, on what would have been about 9am on Tuesday the 19th in Sweden, I received an email saying that a decision had been made. Because the Embassy in D.C. is closed on Tuesdays, I had to wait until Wednesday to contact them. I called, gave them my name and dossier number and was told that I had been approved. I then received an email containing my approval letter.

- Since US citizens don’t require a visa to enter Sweden, I can wait until then to go to Migrationsverket and have my photo and prints taken for my ID card. I asked the consular here in Seattle if I could do that locally, but he said the embassy in D.C. was the only location that provided that service. If I lived close enough, I would have gone there to get a jump on things, but since I don’t, I decided I would wait until I get to Stockholm to do that.

So that’s it so far. Amazingly, despite the ten month waiting period posted on the Migrationsverket website, it took only two weeks from the day I applied to get my approval, and one week of that was due to my Sambo waiting for documents that she didn’t even need (better to be prepared though). The next step is to take care of the many loose ends here in Seattle and get myself moved! I’ll provide more info on the process after I get over there! Hope this was useful to someone!

Duwamish River

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November 21st, 2013 by zoothe

I started this blog almost exactly 4 years ago. Back then the goal was simple enough: to live in Sweden. Setting that goal for myself way back then has led to so many great things in my life. I began learning a new language, I got back into school, I got my passport and traveled to Sweden and Iceland, I made many amazing friends, and ultimately I have grown as a person. But as time went on, it began to seem less and less likely that I would ever achieve that goal of eventually moving to Stockholm permanently.

At the beginning of this year, I will say that my hopes of moving to Sweden were fairly low. I hadn’t even visited in nearly 2 years and had no real plan for a long-term way over there. Then, in April, I was promoted at work. This promotion opened up a lot of possibilities for me… but those possibilities were all here in the States. By June, when I finished my Associate’s Degree, I had all but resigned to staying here, working in my new position, and continuing my studies at a four year university. Not a bad outlook at all. Sure, the idea of letting go of my dream of moving to Sweden wasn’t the easiest pill to swallow, but the goal itself had already brought so many good things into my life, that I knew I could at least be thankful and proud of that.

As a treat to myself for the new promotion and for finishing school, I booked a two week trip to Stockholm. It would be my first visit in two and a half years… long overdue. I kept telling myself that it was less about moving to Sweden and more about seeing all the great people I had met during my previous visits. Unfortunately, between most of my friends being gone or busy and me getting very sick, my first week there was completely miserable. I wanted to go home, back to Seattle. For the first time, I was not happy that I was in Stockholm. This feeling seemed to further solidify the notion brewing in my mind that I would, in fact, never actually live in Stockholm. However, near the end of that first week, things were looking up. I was feeling much better, having fun with friends, and starting to enjoy myself again. On that Friday, I went to a kräftskiva to see one of my oldest friends. It was there that everything changed. I met Helena. Clichéd as it might sound, we fell in love instantly.

Let me just say that I had always pretty much avoided getting romantically involved with anyone in Sweden during my past visits. I didn’t want anyone to think I was using that as a way to get over to Sweden, and I definitely wasn’t interested in a long distance relationship. I’ve tried those in the past and swore I would never do that again. But, when Helena and I met, falling in love was unavoidable. And at that point, everything made sense. My whole goal of living in Sweden was merely a vehicle to bring the two of us together. So, skipping the rest of all that mushy, sappy, lovey-dovey stuff, let me bring you up to speed…

I went back to Stockholm at the end of October. During that stay, I finally made a trip to Uppsala (though I didn’t get to see much of it), went back to Djurgården for like the millionth time, actually didn’t go to Fotografiska for the first time in 5 trips, saw some friends, and got to spend lots of time with Helena. Oh, I guess I should mention that we got engaged. Yeah, that also happened.

So, I know I’m being vague with a lot of details. Mostly it’s because you don’t need them. I feel weird getting too personal on here, you know? The purpose of this post is a kind of closure: I found out today that my application for a visa to live and work in Sweden has been approved! So here, almost exactly four years from when I started this blog, I can say that it’s going to happen! I will be moving to Sweden in a matter of months!

I’m going to end things here for now. I plan on giving an account of the visa application process as an informative piece. I know it’s helpful to other people looking to read about stuff like that when they’re about to go through the same thing. I’ll be doing that in a day or so. But I felt that I needed to bring the blog up to speed first. So there it is.



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