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It’s official – I’m feeling the 4pm blackness of Stockholm.

29 Oct

Today I was going to grace everyone in the virtual world with an entry on Pennsylvania Wine & Spirits vs. System Bolaget. I started looking up facts about legal drinking age and taxes and it just started getting on my nerves. (I figured out why we can’t afford liquor here: there is a 200 SEK tax alone on spirits above 40% alcohol, which is about $30 if you function in American dollars.) SO after I started reading all this nonsense, I decided that everything would just be better for me if I could buy whatever kind of booze I wanted whenever I felt like at my local grocer, and that’s the end of that. Now in lieu of what I was going to provide, you guys get to read about things that Ben and I have been missing (besides family and friends duuuuuuuuuh.)♥

1.) PUMPKIN BEER. This is no secret. Anyone that has had any kind of contact with me throughout the last month has heard over and over and over about how much I miss pumpkin beer. I love pumpkin beer. I LOVE IT. October is my favorite beer month of all the months. Spicy, delicious, sweet, hoppy, PUMPKINY BEER delicousness dancing along my taste buds one by one. If anyone out there really loves me, you’ll harvest a six pack of pumpkin beer from yr fancy, magical American pumpkin beer patches and allow me to drink the whole thing in sunny silence outside upon my return to the states.

2.) CHEAP BEER. This is also not another secret. Beer here is expensive. And most of it is gross. (I’ve compared it to diluted foot water, though I seem to be the only person that thinks that’s a comparison worth giggling about.) We have found one happy hour that takes place at a vegan restaurant close to Ben’s building that sells Hoegaarden or Sierra Nevada for 25 SEK (about $3.75). NOT BAD except that I can count the number of both of those that I’ve ever had in the states on one hand. Because they’re not good. Other than this magical happy hour, we have yet to find a bar where you can get a pint for under 55-60 SEK ($8.25 – $9). And that’s of any kind of beer. We’ve been told to get used to Guinness bc it’s pretty much the only tolerable beer here that almost every bar has. (Thank you I will, I love me some Guinness. And I’ve found it’s secretly a really fun thing to order a pint of it in an Irish pub.)

3.) BIG, FAT, FRESH BERRIES. Don’t get me wrong. Sweden has berries, okay. I understand now, that growing up in America has spoiled me rotten when it comes to having fresh berries on hand for a pretty reasonable price pretty much any time I wanted. HOWEVER. I also see now the effect of not growing yr shit organically. (Get it?) We bought berries here twice, once we got raspberries and the second time we got strawberries. The raspberries we didn’t get to eat because they got moldy the day after we bought them. The strawberries were SO GOOD. They were teeeeny tiny (I have a picture on my flickr, you can go see if you want) but you got about 5 times as many per carton, so you weren’t missing out since the berries were smaller. I’ll probably reconsider buying organic vs. inorganic berries once I get back to the states, but I am going to stay it was good while it lasted. (Also, Stockholm has in almost every once of it’s grocers a container that has fresh frozen berries, which I haven’t bought any yet, but they look super appropriate and delish if I were going to bake or cook with them.)

4.) FOREVER 21. I’m not saying I don’t like the fashion sense of the Swedes. I love it. I love all the neon colors and textures and jackets and hats and combat boots. It’s just that the prices make my credit card frown. I miss cheap clothes that I didn’t have to worry about getting dirty or holey or ruined in the wash (keep in mind I still can’t read the options on our washer or dryer.) I miss the cheap racks and racks of jewelry that all inevitably gets lost after a couple months. I miss the cheap shoes that I’m going to have to throw away when it’s time to move back to the states ANYHOW. However! I have popped myself into one of the hundreds of H&Ms that are in Stockholm, and they have pretty inexpensive clothing compared to everything else I’ve seen here. (I kid you not, I don’t know how many are here, but there are literally H&Ms across the street from H&Ms, which are a block away from more H&Ms.)

5.) BRUNCH. I miss the endless amount of brunches I could choose from. Zenith. Doublewide. Harris Grill. Coca. Square Cafe. Quiet Storm. I miss that I could get half off bloody mary’s basically all day Saturday and Sunday, just because that’s how Harris rolls. I miss the option of having a cheap and delicious craft beer (or five) with my Sunday morning salad at Doublewide. I miss the wonderful $10 all vegetarian brunch spread of Zenith. (I’ve read about one brunch spot here, that just happens to be vegetarian. It’s called Herman’s and you can get brunch for the equivalent of $25. Includes coffee, not bloody mary.) We have just figured so far for the $50 we can make everything at home and enjoy with movies.

6.) TACO TUESDAYS. We sure can get tacos here on Tuesdays, but they sure aren’t a dollar (er, 6.5 SEK?) They’re a mouth-watering 25 SEK each (about $4, not so bad), and only are they this cheap at a place called La Neta. And they’re super good, we’ve only been there once but we’ll be back to get a good authentic Mexican kick in the throat again. Aside from the cheap tacos, I really liked the environment, knowing people there, and making the trek from our house on foot. While I miss it, I’m sure I’ll just be looking back at it as just a fond Pittsburgh memory, soon to be replaced by a new favorite thing we like to do here.

7.) MY JOB. I said it! I miss working. So far I’ve been sending out emails for volunteering, and so far every single last one of them has been a bust. I miss being around people that I can understand, people that like me. WORK FRIENDS. JOKES. MONEY. FREE FOOD AND BOOZE. SOMETHING TO DO. That’s right, I’m feeling the hurt on all of the above.




I know it just really seems like Ben and I miss drunkenness and consumerism, but that’s not true. I don’t think either of us have ever really been into having ALL THE THINGS, but we do both like to have a good time with good people, and it’s hard to have that here when we’re getting used to switching our lives from USD to SEK. It’s especially hard since everything has been going on a card where we get invoiced in American dollars. Give us another month or so here, and I’ll be able to make a post of our favorite things about Stockholm and all the friends were making (hopefully, I’m going batshit insane here without a social life.)

Val & Ben


becoming legal in Sweden

16 Oct

Before Ben and I moved here this month, I did an extensive search on the internet about the process of becoming a legal immigrant in Stockholm. I needed to find things out like “uh, how do you even start the process of living somewhere other than the US?” and “what is a skatteverket?” and “how do you find a place to live again?” and “how long is it going to take for me to get a bank account so I’m not stuck paying for everything in usd?” Either I wan’t typing the right info into Google for all the answers, or some of the information on the Migrationsverket and Skatteverket’s websites was not so specific or conflicting, but needless to say I didn’t find out much.

Well. Luckily for you (or maybe luckily for no one except myself), I am able to answer some of these questions accurately! After getting yr visa approved through the Swedish embassy of whatever country you come from, these are the things you have to do before you can get anything legit in Sweden (bank account, phone plan, renters’ insurance, supermarket discount card, etc etc etc.)

1.) get an appointment with the Migrationsverket ASAP. you have to e-mail the Migrationsverket at – include all the names, designation numbers (beteckning), and contact info. You find the beteckning off of your visa acceptance letter. They should text you an appointment within three days. Yes, a text message. (In our case, we had to send two e-mails because our first was ignored or not gotten around to. When we got our appointment it was for almost a week and a half after the first time we tried to get an appointment, so make sure you leave yourself some time for this to happen.)
You can try to just go to the Migrationsverket and take a number, and they will get to you if an appointment doesn’t show up. This is not a good way to do things, we tried. When we got there, they were on number 200, we had number 205. Not so bad, right? After about an hour of people going up to the windows and numbers not being called we started talking to some of the people waiting with us, and it turned out they had only done one number (200) since 9 that morning; it was noon. Not surprisingly, once someone gets an appointment they do not pass it up.

2.) go straight to the Skatteverket. The main Skatteverket (tax office) is located somewhere close to T-Centralen. Don’t go to that one, you can get to the one in Sundbyberg by walking or train (it seems that it takes about 40 minutes either way, you have to back-track a little on the train. However, the train might be worth it, Ben and I got turned around walking because of construction and ended up going almost an hour out in the opposite direction.) The Skatteverket in Sundbyberg is not nearly as busy as the one by T-Centralen. Don’t tell them that you don’t have your resident ID card yet (that’s what you get photographed and fingerprinted for at the Migrationsverket), just tell them “yes, I’ve been to the Migrationsverket.” You get a short form to fill out, take a number while you fill out the form, and you should be called up shortly after you’re done with the form. Take all of your papers that you’ve received so far. The more papers you have, the more prepared you look, and the more they’re willing to just process your things. We had our visa acceptance letters, lease, passports, reciepts from the Migrationsverket (they’ll give you one if you ask) and Ben had his offer of employment papers and some other paper from his employer. When we came in August we stopped at the tax office and we were told we couldn’t start the personnummer process until we had our resident ID cards, but when we went yesterday we didn’t need any further paperwork than what we had back in August, and they didn’t ask for us to present our ID cards, just our passports. And make sure you have some kind of Swedish address to give them. They do everything by post so they’ll need somewhere to send your personnummer.

We were told by a random woman that we met in a store that overheard our American English that if one person tells you no then just keep trying. We haven’t had success on the bank account thing with that, but as far as the Migrationsverket and the Skatteverket go, it is totally true. If you go to the Skatteverket in Sundbyberg and they don’t let you process your form, even if you have a Swedish address, your passport and acceptance letter for your visa from the Migrationsverket, just go to the Skatteverket close to T-Centralen or just come back the next day or so. It can be done without the resident ID card in hand.

It was a huge relief to just have those two big things out of the way, and now our resident cards should be here in a week and our personnummers should be here within the month, and we should be free to open bank accounts and credit cards and get discounts on grocery shopping, hooray!

And if you’re in the position we were in back in August, we’re told you can start with your closest Swedish embassy with getting your fingerprints and photograph taken and getting a resident ID card BEFORE you move to Sweden. I highly recommend doing that, as it’ll save you about two weeks or so in getting a personnummer. If you don’t care about having a bank account, then I guess you don’t have to care about doing these things in a timely manner, but try paying rent without a Swedish bank account and no fees. It’s a bitch.

xoxo –
Val & Ben♥

p.s. helpful links!

We’re here…figuring things out a little bit at a time!

8 Oct

Hej everyone!

I’m finally starting the blog I promised everyone I’d go to before we left! Our trip here as been interesting so far (starting with our 30 hour travel time just to get here.) My mom was right to warn Ben that when you travel with Val you are 95% guaranteed to have delayed flights. Which we did. BTW airport beer is expensive in every airport and they will kick you out with yr beer in a plastic cup as soon as the clock strikes 10pm, don’t let them trick you into thinking they’re as friendly as yr cuddly neighborhood bartender. Anyhow, here’s a buttload of pictures fr you all, and then a buttload of talking about what we’re doing will follow. ♥

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Sweden is great! It’s all been a really great adventure, but everything always seems a bit overwhelming at first, not being able to understand a damn thing happening around you. I.e. yesterday a crazypants woman came up to me in the train station while Ben was trying to figure out where our transfer was and I let her talk at me trying to figure out what she needed until I noticed that her eyes were glazed over and everyone else was just ignoring her. OH.

Another fun thing to do is try to go grocery shopping. True, a lot of things we can figure out what they are simply by looking at them, however when it comes to food being in a tube, we have to guess by the cartoon on the front. Also when it’s cartoons of different fish, is it paste or is it eggs? I’m not buying it to find out. At least not yet. And then there’s the cost of products. Ben and I are still thinking in USD and not SEK yet, hopefully this will change as soon as we start getting some kind of regular income in Swedish monies. Moral of the story, it’s annoying to try and divide things by 6.5 while the rest of the Swedes rush and push around you because they know which flour to buy. Dear iphone, please get here fast, we are in need of yr mobile translating powers.

On the plus side, we’ve been in our apartment three nights now, and I’ve managed to cook tasty dinner two nights while Ben shuffles the end of his Pittsburgh job and the beginning of his Swedish job. So far, salad wraps with salmon, pizza with tomato and pepper rings and fish soup (fisksoppa!)

We are still waiting for an appointment time from the Migrationsverket. We were told when we visited in August that all we needed to start applications on our personnummers (kind of like the Swedish version of a SSN) was a Swedish address and the letters showing we’ve been accepted for visas. This time we were told we needed to have our resident ID cards first. Wish we would have known that prior to moving, because we could have saved ourselves about a month by visiting our local Swedish embassy in the US!  OWELL. Now we have to make an appointment with these guys, which you can only do by sending an e-mail and they will text you an appointment time. Which you can’t get a phone plan here before you have a personnummber and 6 months of a Swedish bank account. Anyhow. We’re still waiting for them to get back to us about an appointment, we’ll have to re-email them tomorrow if we don’t hear anything. Then who knows when our appointment will be. After we get fingerprinted and photographed we’ll have to wait up to 6 weeks (I think) for our resident ID cards to get to us. Then we can start the applications for a personnummer at the Skatteverket (tax office for immigrants), then once those are in we have to wait about 4 weeks for our personnummer to get to us. THEN we can finally try to get things like a bank account, renters insurance, a Swedish credit card, and a job (for me). We’ve been getting frustrated with feeling so brushed aside by everyone. We just have to keep in mind that all these things take time and a LOT of running around.

Other things have been really fun. We found the for real Swedish IKEA, and we took a neighborhood Stockholm bus for the first time. (Which Pittsburgh could really learn a lot from the Swedes’ public transit system. Every bus stop is outfitted with a digital readout of then the next bus is coming, same as the train stations, and when that sign says yr bus is coming in a minute, it means that yr bus is coming in a minute.) Right by the IKEA we saw a “gigantic megastore” that we thought was hilarious but it just turned out to be exactly like a BestBuy. We also went exploring on a path behind our apartment yesterday and found this garden that looks like you can rent out a plot for the season, and also a little horse stable with some cute horses that have haircuts to match exactly where their saddles go.

We’ve been in touch with a lot of you guys, and we miss everyone a LOT. We miss seeing signs in English, although it’s fun to not have that as an option. Keep on keeping up with us, and I’ll do my best to keep up with with blog.
Val & Ben ♥

p.s. word on the street is that if you’re going to send us anything larger than an envelope, do it via USPS. Everyone else charges a VAT (value added tax) because Sweden rules.

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