|Passport checkpoint in Copenhagen|
In May of this year riots broke out in largely immigrant areas outside of Stockholm. It certainly brought the debate about immigration into Sweden into the public dialogue. Immigration is currently a big part of the political debate between Democrats and Republicans in America. The riots in Sweden certainly brought out strong opinions both in the public and political dialogues that were happening in Sweden and abroad.
In the past immigration was an issue that I had very little opinion about. It was the one area in politics that I tried to avoid. Deciding to immigrate to Sweden and starting the process of immigration changed all that for myself. The subject of the riots in Sweden and immigration came up a few times with friends while I was still living in the United States.
While doing some research on Älmhult I came across a couple of news articles about immigration at The Local (Swedish News in English). The first article Immigrant Areas Have Fewer Social Problems came out before the riots. The article talks about the Reform Institute’s report where five main area were considered. These areas were schools, employment, health, money, and hopelessness and alienation. What the report found was that areas with low immigration populations had as high or higher integration problems than those typically linked to certain immigrant groups. Also areas where there was higher immigrant populations 16-year-olds had less mental health problems.
The second article Foreigners Give More To Sweden Than They Get came out after the riots. The Organization For Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) came out with a report that compared taxes paid by immigrants to the benefits they received. What they found was that in Sweden as well as many other countries immigrants paid more in taxes than they received in benefits creating a net contribution to the respective governments where they lived. In Sweden that net benefit for immigrant Swedish citizen was $153 a year while for an immigrant non-citizen was over $6,500 a year due to lower pension costs.
Becoming an immigrant myself has given me a new perspective on immigration. The riots in the immigrant areas outside of Stockholm show that things are not perfect in Sweden but In both studies from the OECD and the Reform Institute shows that immigration has a positive effect upon Swedish society.
|View of Ikea Älmhult from hiway 19|
Today Vanim and I made our first trip to IKEA in Sweden and not just Sweden but Älmhult, Sweden where IKEA was started. As I understand it the original store is still there and then was expanded over time. Recently a new bigger store was built on the edge of the city.
I was able to shop at IKEA FYND which is different than a regular IKEA store. Found on the IKEA website: “At IKEA FYND the products will consist for example of second assortment, sample products and products from other IKEA countries. The range will follow the season as much as possible, so that is will constantly feel relevant for the customer.”
|IKEA FYND in Älmhult, Sweden|
IKEA FYND is a new type of IKEA store. The first one opened in Älmut in March of this year. The store was much smaller than a regular IKEA. It was mostly an open area with shelves around the edges. In the center was different pallets of products on sale. The variety was limited but the prices were great.
|IKEA entrance (hello)|
Next we shopped at the regular IKEA store. It was very similar to the IKEA stores I have been to in the United States. The one difference is that below the Swedish product names there is Swedish descriptions instead of English descriptions. Also all the prices are listed in Swedish Krona’s instead of U.S. dollars. The layout of the store was pretty standard. I did notice though that there was more displays of colors then would be typical in a IKEA store in America. I have concluded that Swedes like their bright colors more than Americans in general. Time will tell if my conclusion holds out to be true.
|Just Inside the store entrance|
|Vanim checking out a so ugly it is beautiful green chair|
|45502 = $6,713 USD on June 24, 2013|
Of course with any shopping experience at IKEA it is almost a requirement to have lunch in the cafeteria. Right outside of the cafeteria was parking stalls for the shopping carts. We had the typical meatball meal. Vanim had the meatballs with mashed potatoes and I had the meatballs with whole potatoes. The meatballs and gravy tasted just like the ones you get in America. Next time I will skip the soda and instead drink coffee or water. The cola was generic and in Sweden generic cola is not very drinkable in my opinion. There was no carts to put the trays on but instead a conveyor belt like you might see in a typical hospital or school cafeteria.
|Parking stall for shopping carts|
|Meatball meal with whole potatoes|
|Vanim attempting a smile|
|Tray conveyer belt|
I love going to IKEA. I would sometimes go to IKEA just to walk around and check out the new ideas and new products. The irony of this whole experiencing was the feeling of being in a familiar place while there. Being the geek that I am I got to go to the place where IKEA started. JEALOUS? you should be. When I am feeling homesick I will be making more trips to IKEA and find the familiar.
|Midsommarstång – maypole
|I’m standing in front of the Midsommarstång|
This weekend was my very first Swedish midsummer’s celebration. When I was discussing the time frame for move to Sweden, Vanim told me I needed to arrive before midsummer’s celebrations. It is one of the biggest holidays in Sweden and he wanted me to experience it. I arrived in time to experience this old Swedish tradition.
We met up with some of Vanim’s family at Tivili Park in Kristianstad. In an open area of the park was set up the maypole. Behind the maypole was a stage. A small group of people dressed in traditional fold attire preformed some folk dances. Live music is an important part of the tradition so off to the side was three musicians playing violins.
|my midsummer’s eve meal|
We played a traditional game called kubbs. I have embedded a YouTube video below which explains the game better then I could. It is a game I will have to play again.
The best part of Midsummer’s was being with family. The important things in life are really the small things like sharing a meal with people you care about or spending time with people you care about.
Now that I have arrived in Sweden the first thing I needed to do was go to the Swedish Migration Board in order to be finger printed and to have my picture taken for my residence permit card. Since I came from a country that does not required a visa in order to enter Sweden I did not have to go to a Swedish embassy and then wait for the residence permit card to be sent to me before entering the country. Also the nearest Migration Board office did not require an appointment so I could just walk in anytime that they were opened.
On day two of being in Sweden Vanim and I made a trip down to Malmö in order to be fingerprinted and to have my picture taken for my residence permit card. We arrived at a grey building, Celsiusgatan 35, the only color being a red brick facade next to the front entrance way. We walked into a stuffy hot waiting room and stood in line. Once we reached the receptionist, explaining our business she gave us a number.
When we first arrived and took assessment of the situation I was thinking that we would be there for a long time waiting. It turned out that we were in and out in less than an hour. When my number was called it took only five minutes to get my current address, my picture, my finger prints, my signature, and my height for the residence permit card. I was told that my card would arrive in the mail a week later. The person who did all that was very friendly and all my nervousness at having to deal with a government agency was unfounded in this particular case.
|Migrationsverket Waiting Room with tiled mural on the wall|
I have received many requests for pictures by many of you, my readers. To accommodate your requests I will have posts that mainly consists of pictures. As I am still new here and very much the tourist I do have plenty to share. Enjoy the pictures. As is always the case feel free to post comments either on my blog of on Facebook.
|tågstationen (train station)|
|vattentorn (water Tower)|
|busshållplats (bus stop)|
Arriving in Sweden as someone who will be living here is quite a bit different then when I just come here to visit in 2009. I have this strange feeling of being at home and yet not quite fitting in. All around me I see the same familiar interactions I would see back in the United States. People still drive through parking lots like crazy people. Kids still have melt downs at the store. People still shop for food in grocery stores. Yet surrounded by all the familiarity there are unfamiliar sounds, strange smells, different tastes.
All around me are unfamiliar sounds. Every once in a while I will hear a word or see a word that I understand. I learned the difference between lilla and lila and a couple of hours later in line at Burger King I see below a meal deal the word lilla. “Ah” I commented to Vanim, “that is a small meal not a purple meal.” The rhythms of the sounds around me flow differently. I love hearing the rhythmic flow of all the Swedish around me. Sometimes it is almost as if everyone around me is singing. If there was any place in the world where people might just break into singing like in musicals it would be here.
It is really hard to explain but when walking around Kristianstad or Malmö everything smells of the old mixed with the new. Vanim once referred to Kristianstad as a new city and yet it is older than any American city by at least a couple of years. The grocery stores smell different. The scent of the plants are oddly familiar yet a little strange, a new pallet of scents to explore.
Caviar in a tube and Kaffe are just a couple of the many new tastes I am experiencing. I have had caviar before but never from a tube. I do not even have a frame of reference to compare caviar in a tube to. There is a distinct difference between American coffee and Swedish Kaffe. That is before you take into account the difference in the water which affects the flavor. The water is served carbonated which gives it a different quality and flavor which is nothing like the carbonated water I have had in the United States.
I have brief moments when all of this newness feels a bit overwhelming. I have gone beyond stepping out of my comfort zone and completely exited the building. It is in these moments that I am reminded how much in life I have missed out on because I stayed in my comfort zone. At these moments I take a deep breath, look around me and remind myself that I am in the beginning of a grand adventure of the unfamiliar, strange and different. One that will take me many places that I could hardly have ever imagined only a couple of years ago.
|My first meal in Kristianstad consisting of fried eggs, cheese, rolls, blood sausage, sausage, caviar in a tube, lingonberry jam and carbonated water|
|Canal in the center of Kristianstad|
|Random door in Kristianstad|
|Happy Maggie and Seth cuddling on the bed|
After two long days for Maggie and Seth arrived at their new home. Maggie settled right in. It took her only a couple of minuted for her to decide that she was happy in her new home and started purring. Seth on the other hand was a little apprehensive. He spent some time checking the place out but still seemed unsure about his new surroundings.
|Maggie after a bath|
After I was all unpacked then it became time to deal with the cats. Horrid smells surrounded both cats after spending two days in the carrier. Maggie got bathed first. She complained the entire time. Seth on the other hand keep licking my hand while giving him a bath. I had not given either of them a bath since we left our last apartment. Shortly after his bath for what ever reason Seth felt comfortable in his new home. He started purring. He started to do all the things he does when he is a happy content cat.
|Seth after a bath|
There is a big window in the living room that both cats like to sit in front of and look our over the world. Both cats have become purr monsters again. There is a balcony they can go out on. Seth has shown though that he needs supervision since he has made what looks like an attempt to escape below. Two happy cats is all I was hoping for after such an ordeal to get them here.
|Seth enjoying getting to know a new plant|
|Maggie enjoying her view of the world|
Sunday night I went to bed late setting my alarm for 5:00 a.m. I can not tell you what happened at 5:00 a.m. all I know is that at 6:30 I woke with a start to find a text from Vanim telling me to call him when I got through security. I was out the door in 10 minutes and to the airport in 20 minutes but I arrived too late to catch my flight. The lady at the ticket counter wanted to reroute me through another city to Copenhagen. I had to explain to her at least three times that I had to go through Washington since my cats were on there way there to meet up with me. Eventually she found a way to get me to Washington DC Dullies Airport on time.
I was to fly from Salt Lake City to Chicago, from Chicago to Washington DC Dullies, and finally from Washington DC Dullies to Copenhagen. In Chicago I had 50 minutes to get from my plan to the other side of the airport. I ran from terminal C to terminal D and arrived just in time to make the flight. From Chicago I was flying into DC where I was to meet up with my cats and check them into the Scandinavian air flight to Copenhagen. I was concerned about the amount of time so I called United PetSafe to see if Maggie and Seth could be left at the baggage claim in the airport. The person I spoke with on the phone told me they would be in the Baggage claim office.
Upon arriving in DC I went straight to United Baggage claim office. Maggie and Seth were not there. The supervisor spend 20 minutes trying to track down the cats. By the time they were found there was not enough time to pick up the cats and catch the flight to Copenhagen.
It was at this point that I began to realize the complete breakdown on the part of United Pet Safe, the arm of United Airlines that transports the pets on the planes. First of all Scandinavian Air thought that United was going to deliver the pets to the plane. United PetSafe thought that my final destination was Washington DC despite repeatedly telling them that Copenhagen was my final destination. United PetSafe never deliver the pets to the baggage claim, but to the cargo hold area of the airport, a completely separate area from the airport. When I called PetSafe earlier that day they should have never told me my pets would be in the baggage claim area of the airport.
When I found out I was not going to make my flight to Copenhagen I tried to rebook my flight. At the ticket counter I was told that all the flights to Copenhagen were full for the next three days by the SAS Representative. The United baggage claim supervisor had told me that they would reschedule my flight it SAS could not so I went over to the United ticket counter. The manager on duty had experienced so many issues with United PetSafe that he did not question my story but agreed to help me, put me and the cats in a hotel for the night and help us get on a flight to Copenhagen.
They had no problem finding me a ticket but had issues trying to get the cats routed to Copenhagen. PetSafe was refusing to take any responsibility and therefore to reroute the pets through United Petsafe meant paying an additional $1,000 to get them to Europe on the first leg of the flight. I would also be required to contact a different company to move them from the United Flight in Zurich to a SAS flight in Zurich who dealt with pet importation issues. I did not have paperwork to move my pets through Zurich. I certainly did not have the money to get them to Zurich and neither did I have the money for the other pet transportation company to transfer them from United to SAS. Eventually it became apparent that dealing with the PetSafe people was not going to work. At the end of the day United reserved a flight and turned control over to SAS. After spending two hours at the United ticket counter nothing was resolved. The United Supervisor asked me to come get him at 3:00 p.m. when he came back to work and he would walk with me over to the SAS counter and help me get on the flights I needed to.
I then took a taxi to the cargo area of the airport to pick up Maggie and Seth. That is when it became apparent to me that if I had been told the correct place to go to pick up the cats I would have most likely made the flight. It would have been close but we could have done it. It took the taxi less than three minutes to get to where the cats were at. I waited 20 minutes in the baggage claim area for them to locate the cats. At the PetSafe counter they asked for my Identification. I was then informed that I was required to have identification with an address on it that matched one of the addresses on the shipping document. I had put my father’s address as the American address and Vanim’s as the destination address. My driver’s license had my old Utah address on it which I no longer lived at. When I dropped the cats off at Salt Lake Airport I was not told this. If it had not been for the baggage claim supervisor calling around trying to find the cats and therefor making them famous before I even arrived to pick them up the PetSafe people might not have allowed me to pick up my cats. I was told that without a matching address on the identification they were not allowed to give me the cats but that they would make an acceptation today.
We arrived at the hotel where I was finally able to let the cats out of their carrier. I was about ready to cry from shear exhaustion and stress so overwhelming that it was almost unbearable. I was so stressed to the point of feeling nauseous. I managed to eat half a hamburger by shear will power. I knew I needed some food in order to make it though the next 24 hours. In the hotel room I had no cat box for the cats to use to go potty. I took them on a walk outside but they still would not go potty. Some of you know this but I had trained my cats to use the toilet at one point. The next morning Seth finally climbed on the toilet and used the toilet. I was supper happy that he still would use the toilet. Maggie on the other hand waited to use the paper in the pet carrier so it had to be changed out again.
|Seth using toilet.|
I arrived back at the airport by 9:45 a.m. that morning. The SAS ticket counter did not open until 2:00 p.m. I called SAS to just insure that all was ok. They informed me that I would have to make arrangements with United PetSafe for the fist part of my flight because it was a United flight. I almost started crying. I told the customer service representative that I had so many issues with PetSafe that there was no way I was going to let them transport my pets. All the direct flights to Copenhagen were full and they could not get me on one. I was also told that they could not help me because United issues the change and I would have to talk to United.
At the United ticket counter I was told that they could do nothing because they had turned control over to SAS. I was also told there was no open seats direct to Copenhagen. I explained the entire story to the lady at the ticket counter. I think that the only reason she assisted me was because I pulled out the business card from the supervisor last night. After I pulled it out she agreed to see what she could find out for me. She called SAS. I have no idea how she did it but in the end she managed to get me a seat on the next direct flight to Copenhagen that left that evening. I called SAS back. I got a confirmation that I had a seat on that flight, which I just want to point out I had been told I could not get on by both United and SAS only an hour earlier.
SAS was unable to confirm the cats but told me to take them to the airport and check them in. There was no other pets scheduled so it looked hopeful that I would get them on the plane. When I got up to the ticket counter they were surprised that I had cats because they were not expecting them but they took the information and got things ready to put them on the plane. I was charged $200 to check them on the plane. The pet carrier was inspected by TSA and the cats and I were on our separate way to the plane. Once we arrived in Copenhagen the cats were brought to the baggage area for pickup. Once SAS was involved it became a simple operation to get the cats to Copenhagen.
|plane I flew in to Copenhagen|
I was so happy to actually be getting on the plane to Copenhagen. When I arrived in Copenhagen and I saw my cats had arrived safely I was overjoyed. It was such an emotional couple of days. After finding my luggage the cats and I went though customs. It took less than five minutes to review the paperwork and check the micro-chip numbers matched the paperwork. The cats and I then found Vanim. We boarded the train to Sweden and crossed into Sweden without incident. Then my first day in Sweden began. That is for another blog post.
|Train Station in Kristianstad Sweden (taken when I arrived)|
|Kristainastad Train Station|