Friday, August 31, 2012

Swedish train system privatization fail?

It’s been a few years since Sweden began to allow private train companies to compete and run trains on the Swedish rails. Yay for free trade right? Except that currently the Swedish train system is really struggling to stay afoot.

Sure this is purely anecdotal, but as someone who usually opts for traveling by train for business trips or commuting because it is more relaxing than driving or flying, things seem to be going worse than usual for the Swedish trains.

Trains are getting more and more unpredictable. They are late, very late. And even worse, there is often no explanation for the lateness. This week my train was almost two hours late, and despite known delays that started well before the train was scheduled to arrive at our station, we weren’t told of the delay until a half an hour after the expected departure time.

In the south, local train service has been struggling to find a company willing to take responsibility for the local service because there is just no money in it. Add to that the aging train rails and a system that seems to break down on a weekly basis causing traffic chaos, the question remains what Sweden plans to do to bring its train system into the 21st century.

Yesterday the Swedish government announced a plan to pump money into the dying train system, but the question is, is it enough? There are no plans to introduce a new fast train, and the question remains if it will really help boost local commuter traffic.

I have always sung the praises of the Swedish public transport system. You can literally get on the bus in the center of a town or city and end up on the edge of a swimming hole in the middle of the woods.

I wonder how much damage privatization has done to the train system. With a bunch of large companies competing over price and availability, where is the money that is supposed to go to taking care of the tracks, the trains and the safety of the conductors?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Great websites for people moving to Sweden

I've been getting a lot of emails recently from people planning to move to Sweden. I enjoy hearing from everyone and getting a wide variety of questions - so I'm not complaining, I just thought I would post some web sites I thought were pretty helpful when I was planning my move to Sweden. If anyone knows of any more that they like, please let me know! I imagine most people have come across these sites before, but just in case: - While the title implies this site is best suited for Americans, there are a lot of different expats on there who can help with questions about Migrationsverket.

Amerikanska was around when I moved to Sweden, which was AGES ago. It used to be a bit more lively, before they shut down the political discussion board, but in the end it has had staying power. Check it out! - This website is sadly closing down, but it has been a great resource for parents moving to Sweden. Everyone is hoping there will be a replacement before the doors shutter at the end of the year. Until then, try to check it out to contact other parents or parents to be in your area. - The Swedish news in English, or the most hated web site by old school British ex-pats in Sweden. Many people love to hate the local. And to anyone looking forward to moving to Sweden I would advise not reading their discussion section, and staying off the forums. If you are looking for an all out bloodbath just post 'Looking for work when moving to Sweden' and watch the shitstorm begin. Remember, people who are unemployed spend a lot of time on the Internet. - This is the place where they list a lot of job ads. People swear it is impossible to find a job on here, but I have gotten 3. One where I was selected from 100 candidates, and didn't have any personal connection to the company - so it IS possible. You want to go to platsbanken. Other great job sites are and - This is Swedish Craigslist - you can do apartment hunting here, buy used baby stuff, pretty much anything. Watch out for housing scams though. If the offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Also, don't be afraid of writing in English. In my housing searches I find a lot of people renting out their homes and apartments are actually other ex-pats moving around the world. Either that or they are a Kenyan scam. Swedish Ebay, this one you have to bid on. Not great for finding apartments (Well actually I have never tried) but good for finding all other types of used and new stuff.

And thanks again for all of your emails and questions, don't hesitate to contact me if you are wondering about anything. Also check out my blog links to other ex-pasts and their experiences. We all have different ideas of the good, the bad and the ugly. But most of all, Good Luck and Enjoy!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Julian Assange is an idiot (or an evil genius)

I know this is not a popular opinion and that many people out there truly believe that there is this huge American conspiracy to capture Assange and try him for something or other, but this is my blog so here is my take. (Some of this is a bit regurgitated from earlier posts, but this thing really does just irk me)

Julian Assange was granted asylum in Ecuador today and will be making the journey.

As I have written before, I think his legal counsel really managed to get him screwed. Either that, or his goal all along was to escape the crappy British weather for the warmer climes of Ecuador. But really, Assange, there have to be easier ways to go about that.

Here is why I think Assange is an idiot:

I do not think the Swedish government would have turned him over to the US for the following reasons:

1) It violates a basic Swedish belief that Sweden is a democratic state and follows its laws accordingly. Turning over Assange would mean the government would lose an enormous amount of face among both left and right voters. Not only is Assange popular here, but the US is not popular. And it goes against how Swedes view themselves to do something that backhanded.

2) The US has not filed official charges against Assange, and since Swedish policy is pretty strict about not turning over people who are at risk for the death penalty, I cannot imagine they wouldn't err on the side of caution.

I mean if you were going to create a conspiracy to lure Assange to Sweden to deport him to the US, do you think the charge would be for 'He didn't use a condom the second time we had sex' and not 'Date rape'? I mean if you are making crap up, wouldn't you make up something that would at least garner public sympathy?

Another reason Assange has some pretty bad legal aid

1) Getting away with rape in Sweden is remarkably easy. Swedish courts hate she said /he said cases and usually vote to acquit. All Assange would have to say was 'No, that didn't happen that way at all. She never asked me to wear a condom.' or ' I totally wore a condom, I don't know what she's talking about. But I threw it away in a dumpster on the street corner when I went outside for a cigarette, so I cannot prove it.'

2) Not to be totally crass, but since I hate just how damn weak the Swedish rape laws actually are, I would go so far as to say that Assange could say 'Why yes, she did ask me to wear a condom the first time. But she didn't ask me the second time, so I assumed it was OK. If she asked me, I would have worn one.' (Note: I DON'T personally think this is an excuse, but I think some courts around here would!)

3) To be convicted I am pretty sure Assange would have to say 'Yeah I totally did that bitch without a condom even though she told me I had to wear one, because I like it like that, and I started Wikileaks so I can do whatever I want, mwahahahaha'

So now Assange is off to Ecuador. I hope he likes it. I still don't think it needed to end like this. Which makes me think there is even more that is super super fishy about this guy. But whatever.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Pregnant in Sweden: The first visit

OK, bear with me guys, but it is time to tackle the experience of being pregnant in Sweden. I am officially in the second trimester today, I had a beautiful and perfect NT ultrasound last week, so I am embracing this and going to try to enjoy it.

Also, pregnancy is handled differently in different parts of Sweden, so my experience may not be your experience. If you have had something strikingly different, please feel free to share!

Who do you call?

With my first this was tough to figure out – but the answer is your closest midwife. Where I live you are allowed to choose any midwife in the region as your main provider, and then you must go to them. I am in the process of perhaps switching – so maybe more on that later. It isn’t always easy to find your local midwife. My practice has pretty much moved to a new location every other year (Good to see my tax dollars at work!) and every time they get a new phone number and new telephone hours (Friggin telephone hours are the worst). But once you manage to reach them – voila!

What happens?

You will book a preliminary visit. Don’t worry about getting yourself all tidied up down below. The Swedish midwife doesn’t want to take a look at what’s going on down in your lady business unless you are having some problems or you are in week 39. You will be keeping your skirt down at all times. Breast exam? How about never. You are on your own.

You will talk. About your diet, your habits, mostly how much you drink and if you are planning to drink during your pregnancy. If you are a non-Swede and drink a few glasses of wine a week with dinner when not pregnant instead of like 8 beers on Friday night, you might fall into a risk category and have to answer some questions. The questions are things like “How many times have you blacked out due to drinking last month?’ so you should probably pass.

The midwife probably won’t give you much information. Or will give you completely useless information (like the one who told me to avoid peanut butter because ‘there are healthier nuts’ – maybe so, but they are great vegetarian protein also, lady). They will refer you to a website with all of the recommendations because ‘They change so often we don’t have time to print brochures.’ The only main difference I could see was that sushi is OK now.

The book

You are given a book about having a baby. There is one about your first child and one about siblings. To me this was the most socialist aspect of the thing. A book, written by the government, about your pregnancy and your baby. The Swede thought I was nuts and read it cover to cover five times.

For the most part I have had nice midwives, but some of them, like the one I have now, treat you like you are five. When talking about some of my issues and things with other pregnancies and Little Swede I was told I was a ‘Good Girl’ (Så duktig!) and ‘So Brave’. These things drive me nuts (but are not the main reason for my current midwife shopping).

What you leave with

You will get some paperwork and should get another appointment booked. But don’t expect to go to the midwife often. Sometimes you get a folder with all of your paperwork which you are supposed to dutifully take with you to every appointment you go to at any clinic. My hospital is in the process of switching to electronic, so I don’t have papers this time (Had them in March though). I am very happy about this since I always forgot my damn paperwork, but the midwives are kinda pissed about it. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

The magic of Swedish summer

I know I make fun of Swedish summer a lot. This is mostly because expectations are SOO high they always fail to miss the mark.

Swedish summer is sun and 70s and beach and wonderfulness.

But it is also rain, and 50s, and cold and grey.

And it is probably 70/30 with the ratio leaning towards rain.

But that said there is certainly a magic to Swedish summer. The magic for me lies in the never-ending nature of the day. The sun just doesn’t go down.

To be honest I am not one for crowds, going to the beach, heat or even summer for that matter (I prefer autumn or spring). I hate getting out the damn bathing suit and I hate the way my hair gets after too much time in chlorinated water.

But Swedish summer is magic.

Sneaking off to the beach in the evening, after the crowds have thinned, with my dog and family. Bringing a picnic dinner or maybe a mini barbeque. Spending the late evening still enjoying the sun, the warmer temps and a dip in the water after everyone has gone home. 

The fact that if we arrive at 6, we still have ages until the sun goes down.

Watching Little Swede run around nekkid playing ball with the dog in the shallow water.

Sand in everything and not getting home till its way past Little Swede’s bedtime.

This is what Swedes are talking about when they talk about how there is nothing like Swedish summer. So I concede, there is nothing like Swedish summer when it’s at its best.

The rest of the time? Meh.