Monday, 24 March 2014

Life in Sweden - Cold and Swedish

I have been in Lund for almost 2 months now and a question that understandably pops up a lot from both locals and people at home is "How are you finding Sweden?" It is a question I find difficult to answer properly, mostly because the main content of my answer seems so obvious. Sweden is cold and everything is in Swedish.

The Cold
When I arrived in Lund there was snow on the ground and the temperature was around the 0-2 degree range. Now it is officially spring in Skåne and it has really warmed up. We are seeing high temperatures of 8-10 degrees and lows in the 3-4 range, to give some perspective this means it is almost as warm as the coldest month in Sydney. This isn't a complaint, obviously the climates are different and I am not exactly a stranger to colder climates, but this is the first time I have been living in one rather than been on holiday.

The climate a huge range of things, buildings are constructed differently, homes contain places to hang your coat and put your shoes, bathrooms are heated, curtains and blinds seem more important and outside doors all open inwards. Fashions are obviously different, scarves, gloves and beanies are clearly a much bigger thing this time of year, but it would seem there is a wider range of clothing and styles which fortunately as a man I can remain mostly ignorant of.

Now it is spring the flowers are blooming and you can see the buds of leaves growing in the trees, which is heartening, but I will be happier when they have actual leaves and not buds. Most of the trees simply read as dead to me.


Pretty much everything is written in Swedish, certainly all the official correspondence. This is not technically a surprise, I mean Swedish is the official language but was hard to anticipate how it would impact me.

It clearly isn't as problematic as it could be since pretty much everyone here speaks English well enough that I am never worried that I can't be understood. But it also means that in a supermarket or department store, not only is the layout not quite what I would expect, but I can't use the navigation signs as easily.

It means when I opened my bank account or signed up for my phone plan I received some fairly weighty documents that I cannot read. Ultimately it makes pretty much every little breakdown in a system much more frustrating as I simply don't know where the issue lies or even where to start. I don't know if it was my mistake, or a mistake in someone else's hands. I don't know where to start to mitigate problems nor necessarily what the expected behaviour is.

I expect the frustrating to go away with familiarity, both with Swedish and the systems in play.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

The Big Move - Sea Freight Pick Up

I have been in Sweden a little over a month now and this post has been sitting almost ready to go. I feel I should finish it up and then I can move on to other topics, like living in Sweden.

The day before our move from Redfern my fiancée went through and marked everything that was to be sea freighted or domestically moved with sticky notes, This was following the procedure provided to us by Grace. She even then provided a summary sheet so that the removalists had an easy reference. Unfortunately the sea freight pick up ended up being much more stressful than expected...

First the truck was late as they could not find our address,  which was not ideal but understandable. Once they arrived, they took a look around, said they would get started after having lunch and suggested we should do the same and stay out of the way while they packed.

We did so, but checked in a couple of times and they seemed to be making progress, but were falling a little bit behind. Rather than stay and get in the way, we requested they call us about 15 minutes before they were done, and then we headed to a friends place. They agreed to this and we headed off. However, instead they only contacted us after they were finished and rushed off as soon as we got home, before we had a chance to inspect because they were running pretty late.

Frustrated at this approach, we ducked upstairs to do a quick inspection and discovered that they had left our apartment a complete mess, packing materials and  were waste everywhere. The cup they had broken was simply left in the sink (though they did tell us they had broken a cup before hand) and worst of all, a closet, a couple of sets of drawers and our gardening things had been mysteriously missed and left unpacked.

This was a pretty significant issue, because whilst some was meant to go to a friends place, plenty of it was meant to be heading to Sweden. We called them to let them know, and they were apparently too far gone to turn around. So we loaded almost everything into my car and headed to our friend's place. We had to leave a couple of plants behind, and the removalists were meant to contact us about picking it up on the next business day, but somehow they never got around to it. We ended up doing that ourselves the next day.

We did beat the removalists to our friend's place, so we were able to get the missing items onto the truck, but they didn't pack it there, they apparently were out of packing materials and would have to pack them at the depot. Not a story that inspires confidence and we will have to go through what arrives fairly carefully.

Overall I am definitely not recommending Grace to people in the future. These are not the only headaches we have had with them, but the day of the sea freight pick up was definitely the most stressful one of this moving process.

They have also not been particularly communicative, we have had to chase them up to get details and updates during this process and have received information from them that was misleading at best, outright fabrications at worst.

For example, our stuff was meant to be loaded onto a boat on the 7th of February. When I contacted them for tracking details on the 18th of February, I was informed that there had been a delay, but it was loaded on the 14th and that we would receive tracking information soon. We only received tracking info for that shipment on the 3rd of March, and that information indicates the boat was loaded on the 28th of February.

So to reiterate, don't use Grace.