Unpacking!

Yeah, finally! After 3 months, I am finally unpacking my stuff… Don´t ask me how come this container-ship-thing takes so much time. Turns out my container left Portugal on the 23rd February, after being on hold for 10 days. Then it travelled to Spain, the Netherlands, UK and Belgium, where it was left for transfer for a week. Finally, it arrived Stockholm port on the 12th, but had to wait for room to be picked up. So, that´s why it was delivered only on the 20th!

The good thing is that nearly everything made it into one piece and that I have already unpacked 80 % of it, which means I´m done by the next weekend! The bad thing is that, after 3 months, we have trouble trying to guess which is in each box, even if we packed it ourselves, let alone if someone else did it…

It starts to feel like home! And that´s what matters!

Sweden = The Big Brother ?

It’s not so bad as it seems! Though I can understand how this can be annoying for American citizens… The land of Freedom!

In Sweden you can’t do anything without your personnummer. And, as soon as you have it, you’ll never want to live without it again! After you registry in the Tax Agency, you’ll need this precious number for the Bank, the Försäkringskassan, the Transportstyrelsen, going to the doctor, renting a flat, hiring Internet services and even buying a TV! Yes, you have to pay a special tax if you have a TV (it may not work, or you may not get signal at your home, but you have to pay!) and when you go to a shop and buy a TV, they will hand this information to Radiotjänst, the entity responsible for delivering quality broadcast on TV and radio services. So, there’s no way to escape. Plus, you can be fined and face the court. Browsing around, I’ve found out that most of the Swedes agree with this law and pay this tax (around 2000 SEK/household/year). Still, there is a considerable amount that doesn’t comply with this rule. Of course, if we use the TV, I think we should pay. However, I have to agree with this minority on this: the TV service is not so good as Radiotjänst seems to preach. I’ve been watching the national channels for some time now (SVT1 and 2) and I am very disappointed with the amount of time dedicated to advertisements. If we pay a tax, we shouldn’t have to swallow all that crap; if we have it for free, we can stand the advertisements, right? Seems fair, and seems to be the case in the Netherlands, because every country in Europe has this tax (even in Portugal, about 35 €/year). But all this to talk about funny stuff I read on blogs: people watching TV on mute, people hiding TV’s from the windows… Because Radiotjänst crew comes to visit people once in a while. And apparently, some Swedes are OK with a tiny little lie!

Government in Sweden also controls what you drink. Well, not entirely, but you can only buy alcoholic beverages in Systembolaget (the exception are those beers below 3.5 %) within a certain timetable. The aim is to reduce a drinking problem that is part of the Nordic countries for quite some time, and apparently, the system works, because it managed to reduce the drinking by 20 %!

A good example how all this works so perfectly is the registration of a car. You cannot license it, unless you have applied for insurance. And as soon as you do it, you’ll get the road tax notification. Since it’s all registered, failure to comply with these and other taxes will prevent you to rent a home in the future, ask for a loan or disable you to get your money back from the Tax Agency…

Finally, one can not avoid to pay taxes in Sweden. And thank God it works this way. Because everyone has to have a personnummer, the Skatteverket knows how much you earn! If you don’t have a personnummer, you don’t exist and can only live as a tourist, so you can’t have access to the public services. Way to go, right? I wished it worked like this in Portugal, and like someone said one day, we would have the same corruption level as Finland.

So, sometimes it pays to have a Big Brother watching over us!

Welcome to Sweden!

First weekend being able to drive for quite some time – I had to go for a drive! Besides, the weather was just perfect! Before coming here, I couldn’t imagine how the sun could really bright like this up here! Yes, the Spring is just starting and the temperatures have been between -1 and 8 ºC! But believe me, when the sun strikes, it’s really powerful!

Right now, and it’s only March, the sun rises already before 6 am, and doesn’t set before 6 pm, which means it’s halfway! The difference is that, while in Portugal the day gets bigger 2 minutes every day, in Sweden it’s 6 minutes! And considering the day has to reach up 22 h of daylight, it’s still a great path to walk! I don’t intend on buying curtains for my room, because I like it just the way it is. And in the Winter I won’t need them! Besides, having no curtains, gives me the opportunity to enjoy the northern lights from my own bed! By the way, this is the third night in a row with northern lights over my balcony!

I went to discover two nice nearby spots that were on my “To Do List” for quite some time, so that I can impress foreigners when they come for a visit! First one is Bjuröklubb, a nature reserve on the coast, with a nice view from the lighthouse and some nice walking trails. In the Summer, one can go to the beach there, and I think it’s an excellent place to celebrate Midsommardagen! On my way there, I managed to go to the land of the most famous cheese in Sweden – the Västerbottensost. Local museum dedicated to the history and production of this cheese and a pleasant cafe, where people can taste it.

The second spot consists on a series of waterfalls in the Byske river, specially known because it’s one of the favourite places where salmon spawns. In the Summer it’s possible to watch salmon swimming up the river through some special windows built underneath the waterfall! The waterfalls are not impressive but still really nice to admire – the water flow is so strong that it doesn’t freeze completely, even with -30 ºC!

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God, I missed you so much!

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Still, the process ended up being even quicker and simpler than I thought! I’d like to summarize a bit, what it’s like to import a EU car into Sweden. Even though people at the Transportstyrelsen have always been so kind and propmt in their responses, the process is a bit confusing on the website, and some information is not well explained and totally certain.

First of all, if your car is from EU, you skip the first steps: you don’t need to clear the vehicle through Swedish Customs Service, or pay VAT (unless you car is new). I imagine this VAT might be a high expense, but if your car is new, it is probably worth it!

Then you have to apply for verification of origin (a simple procedure just to check the vehicle is not stolen). If you really need to drive, you should also apply for temporary registration. This is free, which means you only pay 600 SEK for the verification of origin. Of course it means you need to hire temporary insurance with a Swedish insurer, something than can cost you about 1500 SEK per 3 months. You’ll get temporary number plates while you are waiting for the inspection. In my case, I only had to wait 5 days, which was totally affordable, but comes in handy if you have to wait a lot more, and really need the car!

After getting your verification of origin approved, you will book the registration inspection (1700 SEK with the number plates already included). This inspection is to grant you your final number plates and evaluates the whole car (they even want the manual, even if it’s in another language). You leave this inspection with a paper stating your future number plates. They check the lights, tires, fuel emissions, car dimensions… Then you’ll have the roadworthiness inspection (unlenss they accept an old one you might have done, if it is according EU standards) – 395 SEK.

3 days later you’ll get your number plates on your mailbox. You attach them and apply for the regular car insurance. 5 minutes later you can licence your vehicle for use and go for a drive! 3 days later you’ll get the notification for paying the road tax on your mailbox.

Yes, it’s that simple, and I am still amazed that some documents I had were only in Portuguese and were accepted, without problems. I wonder if the opposite ever happens in Portugal… If you have a new car, withinh EU standards, there’s no problem at all. Other cars might have some problems, if driven the opposite way, or with different headlights regulations… Check first to avoid a second visit to the inspection! So, for about 2500 SEK you can register a car in Sweden! For me it was totally worth it, because I would pay a lot more for a new or almost new car, even though they are considerably cheaper here than in Portugal! I know this process is much different from country to country within the EU, so you might want to check first, to avoid disappointments later!

Homeless and carless…

Well, not really. Actually, I have a home, but with nothing on it! And it’s warm and I can put my stuff in it, which is not bad at all. I just don’t have a sole piece of furniture where I can sleep or sit on.

My container should have arrived today, but they messed things in Lisbon, so it will only arrive on next Sunday. Since it will arrive to Göteborg, it should take 2 ou 3 more days to get up here. And then I will finally unpack my things, that have been stored in a container for the last 3 months!

My car passed the first stage of inspection (why wouldn’t it?) and I’m now waiting for the inspection day… Unfortunately, since it is a special inspection for imported vehicles, it will take more than I expected, because they have no availability at the moment. After that, it will just require 3 ou 4 days to get my new licence plates! But until then, I cannot move much… Even in Sweden, when you are stuck up in the North, public transports are not like in Stockholm!

So these are the little things we never expect to go wrong when we move in to another country. So I really want to stick around in Sweden for quite a long time – I don’t even want to think about moving or importing my car again!

And I am now 30 – yeah, that is probably the biggest event of the week. And I had a great Friday night with my mates from the hotel – we went to a nearby slope in the forest, had some rides in our sledges and cooked a fine meal on the fire – it was really handy to have a Swede on the group, because he really knows how to do it! Swedes love outdoors, and there are countless spaces out there, with great quality, and where everyhting is provided (lights, wood, benches and tables). You just have to go and have a sit! I can foresee many picnics happening in the Summer!