Leaving It All Behind, Starting Over… Sort Of

28th, August 2019

I have been in Sweden for 2 days now. I spent them trying to set up my little studio apartment. It never occurred to me just how much stuff I would have to buy upon my arrival. Every time I walk through the door I think of something else I need. At this moment, it’s cotton swabs, a mixing bowl or two (from which I will eat my giant salad dinners), and a can opener. I have already spent several hundreds of dollars in such a short amount of time. It’s all quite expensive here, too. I purchased some herbs and spices just so I could avoid eating the most boring home-cooked meals possible. The cheapest 3oz jar of powdered onion I found, at the cheapest market, still cost me $2.90 An 8oz bag of the cheapest pretzel sticks I could find cost me $2. 75 and they taste terrible. Yes, I was expecting it to be expensive, but the cost of living here is driving some of my anxiety. Despite trying my best to spend wisely and compare prices, this country has already been an enormous drain on my financial resources. Mom, Dad… be prepared to sell my car on me behalf and send me the proceeds.

Running these errands was quite an ordeal as I had to make multiple trips per day, using an unfamiliar and confounding bus system, in an unfamilair city, during very warm weather. A one-way trip costs me roughly $4.00

All this is made more difficult by the fact that I don’t have access to cash. I made a short stop in Gdansk, Poland, prior to my arrival. I had always wanted to see the former Free City-State — one of the major flashpoints for the second world war — and see the “Gulf of Danzig,” the amazing shipyards, the architecture, and get a feel for the history. During my brief visit, I was the victim of fraud. Before you blame the Polish, however, understand that it was a Russian establishment in which this happened. Russians seem to perpetrate most such crimes in the city (according to the Polish). There is a lot of tension between the Polish people and Russian nationals who are trying to “take over the city”… again, except this time through economics and bribery and not under the barrel of a gun. The scammers completely drained my bank account and ran it several hundreds of dollars into the red. I expect to get most, if not all, of it back. That’s good. Still, it makes life difficult and was a harrowing experience. I expected my skeptical nature (which I think helps me as an aspiring scientist) and my tendency to be slow to trust (which, I admit, creeps dangerously close to myanthropy) to protect me. Either they were very fast and clever, or I am not as observant as I had previously give myself credit. Perhaps a bit of both.

Nonetheless, I am now living off credit cards until I see this money returned and my new bank card sent to me, which won’t be for another 2-3 weeks. This also means I am racking up an additional 3% currency conversion charge on every purchase in a country that already has a very high cost of living. My APR is absurd. I can’t open a local bank account until I receive my residence permit card, which won’t arrive for another 2 weeks. In the meantime, because of Sweden’s economic/financial security policies, every single transaction in which one does not use a PIN must be completed by showing a cashier your card and my ID and filling out a short form. A single bottle of soda, $300 of household items; it doesn’t matter. Every transaction.

The apartment in which I live is confusing in that it has a completely different physical and street address. I do not yet know to which one to have my new bank card sent. I also have not yet been given a mailbox key, there are other issues with the furniture and appliances in my apartment, and — while I’m listing my woes — my feet are covered with some deep blisters as a result from walking so much during my errands. I limp everywhere I walk but at least my belt is feeling a tad more loose.

This will all be worth it someday, when I am established in a career almost tailored to my skills and knowledge. Right? “It builds character.” Right? Thankfully, though I grumble and grind my teeth through all of this, I know these are just a few obstacles and, once overcome, things will be much smoother. That which does not kill us makes us… stranger? Ha ha!

Well, this is another challenge I can confidently say I have overcome.