Is Italy in the European Union or have I just imagined the last fifty years of my country’s history? This unusual question has sprung to mind on several occasions recently when I have been in contact with Swedish customer service.
A few months ago I applied for an Ica card at my local supermarket. The girl at reception stared for ten long minutes at my Italian national ID card searching for the Swedish personal identification number, unwilling to understand that she was never going to find it on a non-Swedish document.
She was greatly surprised when she asked to see my passport and I answered that I did not have it with me.
“And how did you enter Sweden without a passport?” she wondered.
I did not know if it was better to explain to her that it is possible to travel from Italy to Sweden with just a national ID, or if I had to tell her that actually I did not come directly from Italy to Ica, but have in fact lived in Sweden for a year and had just come from home where there is no passport control at the door.
Recently I tried to buy a bed at Ikea in Uppsala. There was an offer for payment over 12 months without interest. This time I came prepared: I had with me both an official document stating my personal identification number and my Italian passport.
But the guy at the customer service desk refused to let me apply for the offer.
“You do not have a valid ID”. Referring to my Italian passport, he stated: “This is not a valid passport, since it does not have the personal identification number”.
Of course I tried to explain him that a foreign passport will never include a Swedish personnummer, to which he retorted: “If you do not have it in the passport, it means that you do not have it, thus you are not eligible”.
So I showed him, again, my ID document from the tax office and his answer was: “Well, if you have a personnummer, just go and get a Swedish passport”.
At this point I asked to speak to a supervisor. The guy phoned his supervisor and told him he had a problem with a customer (me) who had a passport “that he claims to be from Italy”.
Finally I was able to talk to the supervisor. But he had some bad news for me.
“I am sorry, we cannot offer you the 12 month rate since you are not an EU citizen”. Try as I might I could not convince him that Italy actually is a member of the EU.
I decided there and then that it was finally time to get a Swedish ID card.
Since I am a customer of Nordea bank I decided to call their customer service to find out how to get the card. A nice woman told me to take the following with me to my bank: an ID document from the tax office, a personal picture of specific size and features, my Italian passport and 350 kronor.
Along I went to my local branch and presented all the requested documents. The first answer I got was: “We do not provide this service anymore”.
Not being in the least surprised at this stage, I informed them that the customer service had expressly told me, just a couple of days before, that they do provide this service.
The second answer was quite funny: “Do you have a Swedish ID? You’ll need one to get a Swedish ID.”
“Of course not, I am here to get one.”
The third answer brought me right back to Ikea: “I am sorry, you have only an Italian passport and you are not an EU citizen. We cannot provide this service to non-EU citizens”.
The front page of my passport bears the words: “Unione Europea, Repubblica Italiana”. On the second page this is translated into all 27 languages of the Union.
Despite this, I had to explain once more that Italy was one of the founders in 1957 of what today is the European Union and that Sweden joined it only 38 years later (in 1995).
However it took another half hour, the advice of a supervisor, and the signature of my Swedish-citizen girlfriend (with her ID), to fill out all the forms necessary to obtain the elusive ID card.
They told me that I should receive it in a couple of weeks. I really hope so. Meanwhile I have now been waiting five months for my Ica card.
And I haven’t bought that Ikea bed yet.