Better late than never
To succeed as a researcher in an ambitious European project, as a mother of two small boys, being prepared is the key. For this reason, two months ahead of my start at Blekinge Tekniska Högskola, I went to Karlskrona on my own, where I found out two basic things. Firsly, Karlskrona is in the middle of nowhere - it took 19 hours to get there by train - but what a lovely place it is! Secondly, there is a word in Swedish, which is the key to happiness! Should you ever think of moving to Sweden, remember it well: personnummer (personal number). The personal number consists of ten digits – sometimes twelve, don‘t ask me why! - and contains your date of birth. This is the confirmation of your existence. No number, no existence! Eager to get things done I went to the Skatteverket, that fateful place which decides about your existence. Applying for a personal number? Oh no, that’s not possible until I have moved to Sweden. But maybe I am interested in getting a temporary number which is called samordningsnummer? Yes, of course! So, that lady I was talking to gave me a form and a beautiful smile and asked for my contract which confirms my stay in Sweden. Contract? I don’t have a contract yet... Okay, let’s try something else! One of the most important things in my everyday life is to know my boys are happy. For this, we need to find a kindergarten where they can make friends and learn the Swedish language. After having found a place to stay, we contacted the local kindergarten. The headteacher left an excellent impression on us, the boys loved the building and outdoor play area, and the concept corresponds with our style of parenting. But at the end of the day it is the municipality which decides about the placement and there is a form (of course, there is a FORM) which needs to be filled in. Once the completed form is sent, you are placed on a waiting list, but are reassured by the municipality that you will receive a positive answer within four months. Four months at home – a lifetime from a child’s point of view. I wonder, if they are aware of this!? This time the form needs to be filled in online. In Swedish, of course! And you don’t get further if some answers are missing. The first page is easy! Address? Yes. The child’s personal number? No... But there is help, you can write them mail if you have problems with filling in the form. Some hours after sending the mail, Emelie let me know, my request was forwarded to the Kunskapsförvaltningen (to WHAT?). Next day, Marjo informed me that my mail was sent to the schooladministrator. And a few hours later I had a mail from Pernilla who sent me two documents, so I could apply for the kindergarten placement for my two boys. Happy as can be I started filling in the forms, listed a few local kindergartens in order of priority, printed the forms, signed them together with my husband, scanned them and sent them to Pernilla. The inevitable question was not long in coming: what about the personal number of...? Two months later. Officially, I was already employed at the BTH, but the contract was slow in coming. So, after several days of calling, purring, asking and being known as the Annoying German, I went back to the Skatteverket. I handed in the completed form together with my passport and contract and was told that everything was fine, now. It would only take six to eight weeks to get my temporary number! PARDON ME?!? Up to two more months? What about opening a Swedish bank account? Impossible without the number. What about transferring my salary to my German bank account? Impossible without the number. What about…? Impossible! But then, walking next to my five-year-old boy, who suddenly says: „Now, I am saying: ‚I am fem years old!‘, because fem means five in Swedish!“, looking into his bright eyes and seeing his proud smile makes me want to laugh! Oh well, let‘s have another of those delicious cinnamon buns, my dear son, and celebrate our freaky decision of moving to Sweden! It IS a beautiful country after all!
Author: Susanna Weddige Photo: Susanna Weddige