+1 apartment

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I am no longer homeless! Somehow I have managed to find a temporary flat in Gothenburg (even if blindly so, of sorts, because all I have seen of it is pictures). Blocket.se was my lifeline because it has so many second hand flats advertised, although the idea of starting to negotiate taking over a flat in Swedish was pretty daunting. (I can read the adverts no problem, but replying to them is a whole other thing…) Eventually I replied to an advertisement written in English (by a foreign grad student who was sub-letting his student flat over the summer), which made the negotiations a lot easier. I only have the flat until the middle of August, but it will be ideal to start off with – all bills included, not pricey, on a student campus and in walking distance from both work and the city. I guess I will have to start looking for a new flat as soon as I arrive, but at least I’ll be in a position to go and view places then!

So that is one weight off my shoulders.

Something else that I have finally sorted is to buy my one-way ticket to Gothenburg. (“Buy” = use the company travel account and have work pay for it). So as of June 28th, I am officially no longer a Londoner. I now reserve the right to come back as a tourist every two months or so, and become the photographing, slow walking nuisance that all Londoners love to hate!

My “right of residence” letter from Migrationsverket arrived at my new office earlier this week (only a week to process – that was fast!) so I have pretty much completed all the paperwork I can do before I arrive and the paperwork continues with my quest for a personnummer and a bank account. I still haven’t seen my contract or any mention of a salary from my new company, but I still have time for the fog to clear there too…

So the pre-panic is now pretty much centred around my flat, and my never-ending stuff. I have spent the whole weekend packing things into boxes (no emigration can make me sell my Calvin & Hobbes collection), carrying things to the charity store (goodbye jumpers that I haven’t worn in three years) and throwing things away (as nice as it is to have an unidentified stone from the Sahara, but…) – and still, my flat looks as if I have hardly touched it. Seeing that I have to “move into” my storage space next Saturday, the next week will be fun…

My landlord has started to write me emails pressuring me to get the flat professionally cleaned before I move out (which is a touch cheeky as I still have vivid memories of picking the previous tenants’ cigarette butts and crusty food bowls out of the flat when I moved in! Where were the professional cleaners then?), so if I want to see my deposit again I’ll have to squeeze those cleaners into the next couple of weeks too.

But all in all, things are becoming clearer. I have also had some unexpected but really welcomed help coming my way: when I spoke to my Swedish teacher/friend in Gothenburg yesterday and told her that I had booked my flight, she said immediately that she would come and pick me up at the airport. So this means that I will have someone there to help me when I try to find my new flat on arrival and when I try to locate the guy who is supposed to give me the keys… which will make a huge difference. That offer was so unexpected but so nice. There really are some lovely people in the world!

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Stockholm

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I had some free SPG hotel points from work, so my friend J and I took the chance of the long Jubilee weekend (instead of celebrating the Queen like a devoted Brit should) and went to Stockholm for a few days.

It’s the first time my friend had been to Sweden, and I had told her wondrous things of the glorious Scandinavian summer, so she arrived with a suitcase full of T-shirts to… rain and 8 degrees. (I think my credibility has suffered a tiny bit… )

When we got to the hotel, there was an insane amount of police vans, police, roadblocks and helicopters. Turns out that Hillary Clinton was staying at the same hotel! For some reason the police presence didn’t really make me feel that much safer, it felt more like as if our hotel had a little target painted on it. But we did get the chance to see Hillary Clinton walk to an elevator! (To be precise: we saw the back of her head because she came in a different entrance to the one that the whole hotel lobby was watching intently).

Anyway, our weekend can be summed up with food, beer, and walks around town. The sun only made fairly sporadic appearances (and we got completely and utterly soaked a couple of times), but we really had a nice time. The last time I’d been to Stockholm was about four years ago, and I had forgotten how beautiful the city is!

On the second day we did a little boat trip to Vaxholm – we actually wanted to go to an island a little further out, but got up too late to catch the boat 🙂 Given the weather, Vaxholm was a good choice though as it had enough cafés to hide from the rain in.

Next time I’m on a plane it will be to move to Sweden. Still doesn’t feel completely real…

One month to go…

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…and I have made some progress at last!

The HR department sent me my work certificate, which means that I now have it written in black on white that I am gainfully employed in Sweden. I can’t even describe the relief when I saw the certificate arrive in my email inbox, as this is the first time I have had physical proof that it is all happening (most of my current knowledge is based on hearsay and office gossip). I must have spent half an afternoon regularly re-opening the attachment, just to see my name next to my employment status in Gothenburg. It is probably worth mentioning that the first time I told myself I was going to live in Sweden one day was at age 13 – so this move is not just a great idea at the right time, it’s also fulfilling a promise to my teenage self, of sorts!

So, all motivated by the success I threw myself at the “right of residence” registration form on the Migrationsverket website. Cue 40 minutes of switching languages back and forward, wondering what the hell a “dossier” is, struggling with a temperamental “birth date” field that wouldn’t accept numbers, and pondering why the help file told me to leisurely enter my Swedish address in case I have one, while the form wouldn’t let me progress without it. All worth it though as I am now in the possession of an application number, and my unsuspecting new office will get my documents in the mail. Result.

I’m still not a smidge further in finding a temporary flat (mainly because my efforts up to now have only gone as far as to surfing the websites and thinking “that looks like a great flat”), but I’m a tiny bit further in dissolving my current flat. I spent Sunday afternoon dividing my DVDs into “keep” and “sell”. The outcome of which was (a) learning more about bar codes than I have ever wanted to know (b) realising that at one point I must have gone through a worrying obsession with purchasing box-sets and multi-buy offers…

For all my stuff that survives the cull, I’ve rented some storage space near my house for now. (Next big question: how to get my stuff from my house to the storage)

Moving House

Memories from a previous move – my current status is nowhere near as advanced or organised yet.

Next stop: more culling, more realisation of how much random stuff I have, and proceeding from looking at pictures of flats to actually applying for them!

The Vienna to Gothenburg travel challenge

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I am planning to ‘import’ my parents to Sweden for 7-10 days at the end of July. We have already booked a cottage on an island by the West Coast for a week, and my parents are going to stay in Gothenburg for another few days and do touristy stuff. It is my birthday during this time as well, so it will be really nice to be able to spend it with my family rather than sitting there on my own with a one-person birthday cake and a bottle of wine 🙂

Today, my dad phoned me and told me that he had been looking for flights to Gothenburg to come visit (both me and my parents have already flown that route, so why wouldn’t it exist anymore) and the travel agency had only shown him some strange stopover flights with departure at 6.25 am.

I shook my head at the cluelessness of the travel agent, told my dad that I would find the correct flight for him, checked the Austrian Airlines site and was greeted with the message – “From June 1st, we no longer operate our route to Gothenburg“. Oops…

Vienna, Inner City

Vienna, Inner City. (Thinking about it, horse carriage could be a fun alternative transport option)

I checked the SAS website, who suggested a route via Frankfurt. Lufthansa want people to go via Munich (2 hour stopover), Air Berlin via Berlin (2 hour stopover), and Norwegian via Oslo (with an overnight stay). None of which is a particularly fun way to travel the 1000km which should take under 2 hours end-to-end…

Copenhagen is only 3-4 hours by train from Gbg, so we started checking flights to Copenhagen instead. Turns out there is only a single remaining flight operator serving a direct route from Vienna to Copenhagen (Austrian Airlines, and the only flight viable to get to Gbg at a reasonable hour leaves at 7 am *gulp*).

I don’t get it. There is all this talk about the world getting smaller, transport faster… and yet it seems like there are less and less ways to get around within Europe!

At the end of the conversation, train travel actually started to seem like a fun idea (you can get from Vienna to Gothenburg in 18 hours via sleeper train and connecting train – if you’re going to be travelling slow, might as well do it properly!), and I am actually seriously starting to consider this option for my next trip back home! Could be fun – train, iPod, a good book, the world running by outside… 

Post-London-Life lesson learned: don’t take transport connections for granted!

Video

Eurovision

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So my future home country won! My current home country came second to last (seriously, what were they smoking to think Engelbert Humperdinck singing a ballad was going to work?), and my native home country didn’t even qualify for the final… like every year (come on Austrians, get your act together!)

Father Ted has forever “ruined” Eurovision for me though. Every year when Eurovision comes around, all I can think about is this song… evil genius.

Catch 22

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When I started looking into moving to Sweden, I got addicted to expat blogs and other websites giving advice on the steps involved in arriving in the country.

One of the aspects that I read about the most was the initial problem of not getting anywhere in the country without a personnummer (i.e. my eventual population register ID), but not getting a personnummer without living in the country. And today I got my first tiny taste of it…

My big task is to complete the following steps, in this order:

  1. Get an employment certificate from work
  2. Register my right of residence at Migrationsverket (for which I need step 1)
  3. Find a flat (for which I need step 1)
  4. Get a personnummer (for which I need step 1 and 2 and 3)

So, I approached the HR department and asked them for an employment certificate (1). The HR department immediately replied “we need your address and personnummer to do this”. Cue half an hour of deciphering the Skatteverket (Tax Agency) website to find out whether there is any way to achieve (4) without (1), (2) and (3) – (turns out there isn’t).

In the end the HR department took mercy on me and let me use my English address and birth date instead. But I guess I’ve got a preview of what may be to come before I get my hands on one of these numbers…

Next challenge: finding a flat remotely from abroad!

How is your move going?

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This is the sentence I am hearing the most often right now, and the answer is “I haven’t done the slightest thing about it yet”. It’s strange how procrastination sets in once the move is confirmed and you actually have to act! I was a lot more pro-active when the move was a slight possibility and I spent all my time looking up places to live in my dreamy “what if…?” scenarios.

What I have to do next, once I manage to beat my procrastination:

  1. Get a confirmation letter from work to prove that I am gainfully employed, so that I can do step 2 and 3
  2. Start looking for a short-term let in Gothenburg from July 1
  3. Register my move with a Swedish authority called Migrationsverket
  4. Book some storage place near my house in London
  5. Divide all my stuff into “take with me”, “put into storage” and “get rid of”
  6. Get rid of all the stuff labelled with “get rid of”! I already pity the person who has to carry my huge elderly barely carriable TV down the stairs…
  7. Figure out whether I can leave my IKEA furniture in the flat without anyone noticing (unlikely)
  8. Cancel all my services (gas, electricity, council tax, TV, water, and… and… and…)
  9. Move!

The other day, the business manager in Sweden sent out an official announcement to my new office there that they are getting a new colleague (me), so I can now stop wondering who knows about it and whether anyone thinks I am mad (OK, maybe the second point is still debatable). I got some emails from people I know in my new office to say welcome, and some of the emails were so genuinely lovely that it completely made my day. In the beginning I was always worrying about descending on the new office like “I’m here, give me a desk and speak slowly so I can understand”, but people so far have been so nice and welcoming that I couldn’t feel better about it now.

Right now I sometimes can’t believe how lucky I am that everything seems to be working out so perfectly for me. But then, the idealistic euphoria before reality sets in is a great thing… 🙂

Classic rock

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I had a musical evening last night, going to see Michael Schenker at the Shepherds Bush Empire. I don’t know all too many of his songs, but I do have the odd UFO and MSG song on my iPod, and many of my favourite guitarists list him as an inspiration – so I took the chance to see him when he came to town.

The unexpected outcome was that both my friend and I actually preferred the support band! Neither of us had ever heard of them (Exit State) before – but they played with a huge amount of enthusiasm, and their music was really interesting and fun to listen to. I couldn’t find my favourite songs from last night on YouTube, but here is one of their videos:

The main act… was good too, but I couldn’t help feeling that they were more of a nostalgia act going through the motions than an actual active band. What we saw of Michael Schenker for most of the two hours was the top of his head, since he was quite confined to the left side of the stage (and we were standing on the right). Still, it was easy to see why the guy was such an inspiration to other great rock guitarists. The instrumental numbers and guitar solos were easily my favourite parts of the show. And I’ve now got to hear “Doctor Doctor” live!

For the record, this is my favourite Michael Schenker song:

7 weeks

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Seven weeks to go as of today. At the moment I am not a single step nearer to having +1 flat to live in again, but hopefully that will change in the next seven weeks.

Things are moving forward though. This week the business manager from my new office started talking to me to find out the status of my move (which I probably have the least clue about out of everyone), and asked me whether there was anything he could do to help. Which caught me completely off guard, because it was so nice and unexpected. I don’t think any employer I have worked for has ever gone out of their way to say “can I do anything for you”.

I still haven’t heard a word from my HR department, but luckily the Swedish HR department is a bit more communicative – so I have now found out via a few corners that the move is an “official yes”. There will be an official communication sent out in the other office to introduce me, although unofficially I think the gossip has been faster (at least I have had people from my own office come up to me telling me that the people from the other office had told them I am moving).

So… it might be a good idea to start looking for a new place to live, erm… very soon… especially as the letting agencies are already showing people round my current flat! I wonder if any of these prospective tenants need bookshelves or assorted pot plants?

Minus one flat

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So, step one to my big move has been completed. I handed in the notice on my flat. My landlady wrote back that she is happy to give me a reference (which I will need!) and that she will replace my old Victorian windows with new double-glazed windows (which I would have needed a couple years ago!)

Clicking the “send” button on my resignation was a more difficult thing to do than I expected. It’s very final. Not the least because this is an incredibly nice flat, for a price that I will never again find in this area (if I planned to continue living here), so resigning from the flat for the big unknown was… scary!

Another difficult thing to do was to tell my plans to some of my friends here in London, even though I am sure I will be going back and forward a lot – but things will definitely change.

Now I have 8 weeks to go, and in these eight weeks I will need to bring the grand total of flats I rent back to one, which will probably be infinitely more difficult than resigning from my current flat, seeing that I still live about 1000km from my new abode.

All that, plus the realization that (1) I have a lot of stuff… (2) all that stuff needs to go somewhere in 8 weeks (3) I haven’t even seen my new work contract yet – let alone know who will pay me, in what currency, and how much…