Settling in Sweden

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At the beginning of January I emigrated from England to Sweden, and began my journey to discover the wonders of Sweden. The culture is completely different to what I have been used to previously, and often confusing, but ultimately is something that I am glad I got to experience.

There has been a lot of red tape involved in me moving here to Sweden, but I was lucky in that I was hired by the best company in the country. I am proud to say I am a Ninja for tretton37, a company who value knowledge and people over all else.

The biggest problem I have faced with moving to Sweden is becoming part of the society as far as the Swedish tax office is concerned. To do anything in Sweden, from opening a bank account to making purchases online, you need to have a Swedish personal number (much like a National Insurance number in the UK, and Social Security number in America). Filling in the form to obtain this number is extremely easy, however you have to submit it in person within the same city that you hold an address. Their opening hours are only week days and regular work hours, so you need to make sure that you either work in the same city that you live, or you need to book time off of work to spend 1-2 hours in a queue waiting to submit a form that takes no longer than 2 minutes to complete. It then takes a further 3+ months for your personal number to be issued to you, however you are unable to question the status of this process and have to simply wait.

Once you have a personal number, you are a person! You can actually be paid, because until you have this number, your employer is unable to tax you, so technically, you are unable to receive a salary, but many employers that are taking employees from another country will offer you an “advance” which is a set amount of your salary, but they do not know what your tax is until they have your personal number. Now you have this number, you can open a bank account to put this money into, however unfortunately you are not allowed to have online banking nor a debit card to withdraw your own money, and are forced to visit the bank with your passport every time you want to withdraw money. Why is this you may ask? The answer is that Swedish banks require that you have a Swedish ID card to obtain these, because a passport and a driver’s license are not valid ID in Sweden.

So now we need to apply for a Swedish ID card, surely that should be straight forward! Well think again, because you need to transfer some money to the tax office’s bank account giving your personal number as the reference, you cannot pay by card nor cash, you have to do it as a transfer from a Swedish account to another Swedish account, to ultimately obtain the account you cannot have in the first place! So how do you do this? You need to visit FexEx who will charge you 50 SEK for the transfer. You then need to wait at least 24 hours before visiting the tax office, after that you will be able to wait a further 2 hours at the tax office so they can measure your height, take your photo, your signature and that is it! They then tell you that it will take UP TO 2 weeks for your ID card to arrive… a little over 3 weeks later and I am still waiting for mine.

The summary of it all is this… Sweden may as well not be in the EU, simply because their tax office have made it clear that you are not a person until you have their crazy personal number which takes forever to obtain and without which you cannot be paid. Following which, all ID is not valid with the exception of their own issued ID. Once you are in the system though, you are all set. The people in general in Sweden are extremely polite, friendly, intelligent and generally good to be around. I guess this all just came as a shock to me, since I always thought Swedish people were known for efficiency yet their government is completely the opposite.

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Published on March 22, 2017