New Employee Orientation

Every time you start a new job they have some kind of new employee orientation. I remember very clearly the year I started working at my college tutoring center and had to attend a two day orientation and training. This professional feeling workshop was starkly contrasted with the video tape in the backroom orientation I had to attend when I started working at a movie theater the same summer.

Today I had the orientation for new employees-in English. The best thing about orientation is the free stuff! Plus you learn a lot about the history and policies of your organization. Once, a previous boss complemented me on always knowing the rules about employee tasks. I was shocked. They covered all of this in orientation. I mean I didn’t remember what the rule was but I did remember that they had talked about it so I went and looked it up in my notes. Apparently this in not the norm.

Today’s orientation was great. The free loot consisted of a 2G USB stick with the university logo, a cloth bag with the logo, some handbooks for organizations, a spiral notebook with university logo, a pen with university logo, and a good lunch. They covered topics ranging from the history of the university presidents, a very cool modern art museum that is part of the campus system, to inventions that have come from research at the university. I was inspired and took a lot of notes, and am planning some upcoming posts based on the day. However, today I just wanted to say, you should go to your new employee orientation. Not only will you learn about what benefits your company offers but you will get free stuff and hear about all the cool things that you might not know about the other parts of the company.




Being an Angry American

Only when you can use it to your advantage.

Today I had to call the tax office about my ID brev (link to last post). My official ID has been sitting in the Malmö office for over a month and I still can’t pick it up. I was supposed to receive a letter in the mail and when I didn’t get it they tried resending the letter. That was over a week ago. Now I still don’t have the letter and thus still don’t have my ID. After calling the tax authority and waiting on hold I spoke to 2 different people about getting my ID. After asking over and over what they could do, they kept saying they would just resend the letter. Finally I said, “ how is this going to be any different than the other two times?”

The employees couldn’t answer my questions or help me get the problem solved so I decided to use my “ugly American”-ness to my advantage and ask to speak to their manager. Imagine…yes we could try this other thing and send a copy of the letter to the local tax office directly. Feeling a little mean and very not Swedish…

Update: less than 5 min later:


Tax Office Brev

To get my Swedish Tax office ID I need a letter from the Tax office. I paid for the ID and took all the forms and information to get it before the holidays. They told me I would receive 2 letters, one which had my information to go pick up my ID from the tax office and one with some online codes for using their system. I got the code letter (brev) before Christmas but didn’t get the other letter. I have called 2 times to the main tax office but they kept telling me just to wait. Finally I went to the office in Malmö and waited in line for hours to talk to a person.

Yes, my ID is sitting in the office, and has been there since Dec. 28. I did need the letter to get the ID though. So they had the letter resent from Stockholm. *cross fingers* *haller tummarna*

yes my name is Swedish…now can I ask in English please

Today when I got to work my building card didn’t work. I went to the main chemistry office to ask them what to do since this is where I got my card to start with. When I got there they told me that I needed to talk to my department administrator but I couldn’t get to her since I need my card to get to our offices. After figuring this out and the crazy explanation that the permanent card wasn’t here yet because the office that makes them is closed till Jan 18 for the holidays. However this post is really about my name, while I have never loved my name and have always been envious of those that can make nicknames out of their name I do love the story that my parents wanted to name me Alisa but my Swedish farmor had problems saying it so they changed it to Lisa. However, this means that my name is very Swedish.

I like that my name is Swedish sounding, in fact when I was calling the immigration board to get my visa it was so nice to have people pronounce my last name correctly, not just the baby American way I tell people in the US to say it: “it is like the boys names Fred and Dean smashed together”. When Swedish people say Fredin it sounds lyrical.

While I have been practicing and can talk in Swedish to the grocery store clerks, I don’t speak Swedish well enough to sign any important paperwork in Swedish. Everywhere I go:  the  immigration board, the tax office, the bank, the main chemistry office….after asking if we can speak in English when I hand over my ID they say “oh but you have a very Swedish name”. Yes my father is Swedish, my name is very typically Swedish…could I make major life discussions in English please….

GOAL: be able to sign bank papers in Swedish without clarifying first. Obviously not legalese but something…cashing a check maybe.

Bureaucracy Take 3ish

After becoming a person, I need to get a bank account. I still haven’t gotten paid because the paperwork was filed too late in November for me to get a pay check that month. I am getting paid via a sort of strange government grant that pays me a few months at a time and supposedly in advance. This means that a budget will be come paramount.

I went to the bank I had decided to use, based on what my aunt and uncle use (they have a couple different banks) and what the guys at work said they used. Banks are only open 10-15 on weekdays so today I had to take an afternoon off of work to go to the bank. When I got to there I got to participate in an other great Swedish tradition, taking a number. Like at a counter serve food place, you get a number and when they are ready for you (or your food is ready), you go up to the indicated counter. In Sweden there is almost never a stand in line in stores where you need a service persons help: at the bank,  at the tax office, and the immigration office you either take a number or are given a number by an information worker.

After waiting about 40 min my number was called and when I asked the cashier about opening an account he said that I needed a tax office ID….OK but when I read on the tax office webpage it said to get a tax office ID you needed forms of ID that I don’t have, one of the options of which was a bank issued ID….

I rushed home and checked the tax office webpage again. In a very small side note (which is much more clear on the Swedish version of the webpage than on the English part, it did say that a tax ID could be made for residents who didn’t have all of the normal forms of ID asked for if you had your passport and residence permit. OK. So, first you need to pay for the ID online at least a full business day before you go to the office. I tried paying online from my American bank account but my American bank didn’t recognize the international bank codes that were listed on the website. So I called my aunt and she paid the fee from her Swedish account. (what to people who have no help in Sweden do?????)

After paying the fee, my aunt mad a pdf of the receipt and emailed it to me so I could print it at work the next day to take with me to the tax office (the one in Malmö not in Lund (close to work) because only some of the tax offices can make IDs).

After waiting a whole day, I headed to the tax office. When I got there, there was no line for the ID personnel. YAY! I then had to wait 5 min while they were talking to each other not noticing I was there; boo. After giving the tax employee all my information, height, birthday, phone number…. her fancy camera wouldn’t turn on. So I had to be transferred to another employee and re-answer the questions before getting my picture taking.

Unlike Chicago where I got my drivers license after waiting 5 min at the DMV, in Sweden they were going to mail 2 envelopes to my registered address (my aunt’s house): one telling me my ID card is ready and one with my online pin ID information. Once the ID card announcement comes I will have to go back to the Malmö tax office to get the ID and then back to the bank to get a bank account.

Bureaucracy take 3

Bureaucracy is the same everywhere…#2 Va Fan!

After finally getting a copy of my Migration Board decision in the mail and making photo copies of all the paperwork the women at the Tax Office had said I needed to bring, I headed back to the Tax Office. I went first thing in the morning when they opened (at 10am…) and waited to see a helper person again. I got a different guy and when I explained what I was doing he said “I don’t know that this works” Really? It is exactly what the other person told me to bring…and she is on the other side of the room you can go ask her. He then told me he was just joking. I almost said…well I knew Swedes weren’t that funny but really…I thought better of it. Then he told me “that is silly, I am not sure that you need these extra information forms but sure I will add them to your application.” SERIOUSLY? seriously?

When I asked how long it would take to get the person number he told me 6 weeks or maybe faster with these additional forms…are you kidding…people move to this country and for over a month they can’t get a bank account, need to pay for everything in cash (which almost no one else does), and they can’t get an apartment or all sorts of other things….over a month? Bureaucracy is the same everywhere…Va Fan!

Bureaucracy is the same everywhere…

The first morning I was in Sweden I went to the Migration Board to get an ID saying that I had the right to be in the country. After getting this ID I would then have to go to the Tax Office to get a “personnumber” to be able to do anything: get an official ID card at work, get a bank account, check the balance of your bus card online, pay with a credit card….

After waiting to get this ID in the mail, I gathered the other forms of ID listed online and headed to the tax office. When I got there I was told to fill out a certain piece of paper and then to wait for the next helper. When I gave her my passport and Migration ID she said…oh we can’t give you a number because this is less than a year…what? so apparently because you can’t enter the country until the day your visa starts, and then you can go get your Migration ID so the date the ID was issued was after when the visa started (by 9 days)  and the fact that the type of visa I have only allows you to get a visa for one year at a time, I didn’t have an ID for a whole year but instead for 356 days. So now I would need a copy of the Migration Board’s decision and paperwork from the University saying they would pay me and I would need to come back to the office another time 😦

So on the way to the bus I called the Migration Board (when I was getting my visa I was on hold with them for over an hour). The phone said the wait time was 30min and at that point I would be on the bus. Since the office hours would leave them open for about an hour after I got off the bus I decided to wait and call back when I arrived so that I wouldn’t be talking about my passport number on the bus. When I got off the bus and called back the office had closed for the day (30min after the last time I had called in fact). Va Fan! When I called the first time they said their normal office hours in the message and nothing about closing early…it wasn’t a holiday or anything but they just closed early with no warning…really? really? Sweden is supposed to be organized? No bureaucracy is the same everywhere! crappy!

How I got my visa in < 1 week (or 4 months depending on how you count ;)

Success! Visa obtained! These words were frantically texted to all of my friends and family when I received confirmation of my visa to move to Sweden. See the thing is I had been trying to get the paperwork to apply for a visa for over 4 months…

It started with a trip to Sweden at the end of May 2012 for my cousin’s wedding. I met with my future boss in person and we discussed work and timelines for my defending my PhD in the US and visa paperwork… So I looked up the form for a “work visa” on the immigration board website and sent it to my future boss/professor…here’s where I am not sure what happened…it was summer in Sweden and people tend to take long vacations so at first I assumed delays were due to the “right” people being out of the office. Then, classes started at Lund University on September first and I thought, YES! they will all be back in their offices and can fill out my forms. Almost a month and many emails later I finally got a copy of my letter proving I had a job from the University. Now it was for a different kind of visa (a “visiting scientist visa”) so maybe that was part of the problem.

By the time I got the paperwork I was desperate for my visa, so I turned in my part of the application for my visa online the night I received the paperwork (Tuesday night Chicago time). The next morning (Wednesday) I called the Swedish Consulate in Chicago (where I live) to ask how to schedule an appointment to get fingerprints and photos taken for my id, because the immigration website said that if you did this while your visa was being processed you could move to Sweden faster after your application was approved…the consulate didn’t know what I was talking about …they don’t do that there… you have to go to DC…wait we will call you back…

After waiting 30min for a return phone call and some frantic searching on the Swedish Embassy in DC and the Immigration Board websites (both of which say you can apply for your visa at any consulate or the embassy in DC and then you need to go back to get your picture and fingerprints…I assumed this meant you could go to the consulate) I decided just to call the Embassy in DC. After waiting on hold to talk to a person in the visa office, I finally got some answers…though not what I was expecting:

-1st he could pronounce my last name with out my “its like the boys’ names FRED and DEAN smashed together” …so nice 😉

-yes, you can apply for a visa at any consulate

-no, you can only do “biometrics” at the embassy in DC ….or as a US citizen you can do it once you get to Sweden (whew)

-also they could see my application in the system and gave me a confirmation number (good sign)

When I asked about expediting my visa they told me the only people who had control over visa approval were at the Immigration Board…in Sweden…Then I looked at the clock and realized @11:36am Chicago time the immigration board had closed 36 min earlier @4pm Sweden time…ok I could call the “next day”

Thursday @1:30am Chicago time (8:30am Sweden time) I called the immigration board…after over an hour on hold I got to a person. After a very sweet comment about my Swedish last name, she proceeded to tell me that yes she could see my application and yes it looked like I had included all the right parts but she couldn’t confirm that. And that she was only allowed to say that a visa could take up to 5 months to be processed but of course if you had an easy application it would be much faster. Hmm what else to ask to get detailed information…no, a visa officer had not been assigned my case yet and she couldn’t tell me how long that would take. I just kept asking if there was anything I could do, and saying that it had taken the University a long time and I was supposed to already be there…are you sure there is nothing I can do…

totally defeated I got off the phone at about 3am and went to sleep.

When I woke up in the morning (Friday) there was an email from the immigration board saying a decision had been made for my case and to contact the embassy in DC…. obviously they took pity on my pathetic self and because I was unfailingly nice but really annoying they looked at my application quickly! Thanks Swedish Immigration Board!

A visa processed in less than a week! Success! Visa Obtained!