Days 12 and 13 — Out from Cyberspace and Into The System

Navigating around on the computer has been a bit tricky since we got here. That is why no post yesterday. One can’t get a phone contract, for instance, until one has lived in Sweden for 8 months. No idea why that is the case. Likewise, one cannot get home internet, TV or phone service until one is in the system, that is officially registered with the appropriate government agencies.

At any rate, the service provider we are using, called Telia, had several glitches with my wireless internet connection. First, they only gave me one day service when we signed up for one week with a week’s bonus. Then,  yesterday morning, I could not connect to the net no matter what I tried. Today we found out that my new wireless stick had not been loaded with money to allow me a connection. Each time I called their support number I got to speak to a Swede who was actually here in Sweden and the issues were resolved immediately and they gave me an extra week’s worth of service, gratis. Take that, Comcast.

We then signed up for a TV, internet and home phone package for less than $100 a month, first three months free. Best of all, I am going to get ESPN!

Last night I bought a smart phone, which means  you can figure it out if you are smart. I desperately need a manual (in English!) so it is fortunate I am back online.

I did manage to take some photos downtown this morning while waiting for the Telia store to open. Nothing opens here before 10:00.

The big church on the town central square.

This is an admittedly lousy shot of the massive organ inside the church. Organists come from all over to play it. We have heard some fantastic organ concerts here over the years, real Phantom of the Opera type stuff that shakes the building.

Every church we have been in in Sweden has one or more models of a boat hanging prominently. When a ship escaped a disaster at sea it was convention to give thanks by building a model of the ship for the nearest church.

Most churches also have graves inside on the floor. This one is from 1500 and something and the writing looks like it is backwards.

An example of the old style architecture common in the center of town. Right next door is an ultramodern fitness center.

The really big deal, however, is that today I received my “personnummer” indicating that I am officially in the Swedish system. It has its basis in the centuries old tradition of noting down every person in a church registry. Births, death, marriages, etc. were all recorded in the local church book and the current system is a continuation of that. A few summers ago our friend Carrie came with her husband to Sweden and we were able to find where her relatives in the church registry from about 200 years ago in this little church near the Norwegian border.

Being in the system has its benefits. My healthcare is now free. My dental costs are now discounted 50%. In a couple years, I will receive a pension. Plus, whatever other benefits your average Sven Svensson receives.

It gives one pause to think that a comparatively small country with a population 30 time smaller than the U.S., and a country that 100 years ago was a poor, uneducated agrarian society, has been able to institute policies that have generated enough resources to furnish not only their citizenry with a panoply of benefits but also those newly immigrating.

Last summer, we had the pleasure to meet a young couple who are friends of one of Mariette’s cousins. She is a middle school PE teacher and he works in a lumber mill. I don’t think you could find two more middle class/working class type jobs that these two hold. Later that summer they visited us as part of their vacation to the U.S. They spent 7 weeks (SEVEN!) traveling all over the U.S.–Boston, Newport, NYC, Washington, San Francisco, LA, Las Vegas and Hawaii, renting cars, staying in hotels and enjoying themselves enormously. I wonder how many Americans of any stripe could afford that much time to travel abroad even if they had the finances to pay for it. They just had their first child this past May and now both will get roughly a year’s maternity leave at, I think, 80% of their salary. Same deal repeats if they decide to have another kid.

Politically, the right wing is in power here. But “right wing” seems to be a relative term. Even the right wing in Sweden makes President Obama look like a Tea Partier. It is political suicide to mess with any of the social programs I have mentioned here.

Politics aside, there was definitely some good news today!




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