Friday, June 11, 2010

Some more milestones towards Swedish integration

We have crossed a few more milestones on our way to full integration in Swedish society. Yesterday we visited the Arbetsförmedlingen (the Swedish employment service). Besides the fact that they provide unemployment insurance and help you find jobs, it was also necessary for me to register with them to be eligible for some other services. There was a bit of wait, during which we entered our information into a computer in the lobby and looked at brochures. My favorite brochure was titled "Arbetsförmedlingen är Sveriges största arbetsförmedling" ("The Employment Service is Sweden's biggest employment service"). You don't say? While we were waiting, a guy walked in and figured out that he probably wouldn't get to talk to anybody before they closed. He just smiled and walked back out saying, "I can be unemployed for one more day."

Finally our number came up and we were invited into a small office with plexiglass windows adjoining the lobby. The lady there was very nice and seemed to genuinely be interested in helping us. We set us up for a follow-up appointment next week with a guy to help us in more detail.

I have also now received the codes, papers, cards, and secure USB card reader that are necessary not only for online banking in Sweden, but also to log in for many official government services. Many sites use the banks' card and USB card reader system as the method for digital signatures. It uses a combination of a special card (separate from your ATM/debit card), the card reader, a pin code, another code, and randomly generated numbers. It seems like a pain in the butt, but at least its secure (or seems that way to me). I have the paper from the Migrationverket (immigration service) to send to the state insurance agency as proof that I'm living here legally, and my transcript is on it's way the education agency so that they can determine the Swedish equivalent of my US education.

I'm also getting a little bit better at Swedish. It's still pretty frustrating when I want to say something complicated or have a real converstation, but it's slowly getting better. At the Arbetsförmedlingen , for example, we talked only in Swedish. I didn't say much (except reciting my personnumber), but I could understand just about everything.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Police drama in Dalarna

We had an unusual bit of excitement yesterday, involving fika, theft, and the police.

AS and I were at the local cafe after running an errand at the bank. It was a beautiful day, so we were sitting outside and enjoying our coffee. A local woman (who is known for strange behavior) sat down at the next table, and she and AS exchanged a bit of small talk about the weather. I got up and went inside to get på tår (a coffee refill, another great Swedish tradition). AS was going to wait outside until I got back, but she decided she would just run in and get her refill at the same time. Inside, we got caught up in a conversation with the two ladies working at the cafe, so instead of being inside for just 20 seconds, we were inside for about 10 minutes.

Soon after we came outside, the woman at the next table left, saying, "Have a nice evening!" We continued to sit there for another 10 minutes or so, drinking our coffee and chatting with the owner of the cafe. When we got up to leave, AS realized that her purse was gone. We rushed around, checking the bathroom and all around the table. We had just been to the bank, so not only did we have money and credit cards in there, but also our passports. AS thought to look in the trash bin, and, sure enough, there was her unzipped purse. Inside was her wallet, which was opened up with all of the cash missing. Everything else was still there.

Everybody was fairly certain that the notorious woman who had been sitting at the next table had brazenly taking AS's purse while were inside the door a few meters away, but we didn't have any proof. While one of the ladies working at the cafe called the police for us, we stepped back outside, unsure what to do next. The woman we had just talked to at the bank happened to be standing in front of the cafe. When she heard us talking, she realized that she had witnessed the crime. She had seen the woman at the table next to us going through a black purse and then tossing it in the trash can, but she had just assumed that was switching out her old purse for a new one.

The lady from the cafe was still on the phone with the police, so we relayed this new information. It still didn't sound like that the police would show up any time soon, and in fact the police seemed to be suggesting that we go confront the suspect ourselves, which seemed like a bad idea for many reasons. But, by the end of the phone call, it sounded like the police were actually going to show up.

The chances were slim that there was a police car anywhere nearby, and the police are notorious for showing up days later to investigate crimes, so we didn't expect them to come anytime soon. We left on our bicycles to go meet a friend, but when we went to the beach he was out on the lake. We decided to go back to town to ask the cashier at the convenience store if the woman had been in there spending AS's money. I was grumbling for the whole bike ride about how stupid the system was and how the police were going to be no help.

When we got back to town, the police were already there outside the cafe talking to the owner, much to our surprise. We went up to them, and one of the police officers asked AS a few more questions, including the phone number of the witness and the amount and denominations of the bills that were taken from her wallet. The police officers called their chief for permission to search the house of the suspect (who was a "known person" to the police already) for the missing money. The chief immediately gave them permission and they headed off to the house.

We were impressed that the police had shown up right away and seemed to have a good handle on the situation, but we still didn't expect much to come of it. After all, the woman could just say she didn't do it, and it would be a difficult thing to prove in court if she wanted to be obstinate. We started biking home and saw the police outside the thief's house on our way. Before we got home, AS's cell phone started ringing. It was one of the cops, saying, "We have some money for you." The cops drove down the road to meet us. The cop explained that they had gotten a confession from the woman, then reached in his pocket, pulled out the stolen money, and gave it to AS. We didn't even have to fill out any paperwork.

So, to sum it up, AS was robbed, the police came, they went to the house, got a confession, and AS got her money back within an hour and a half. Pretty crazy. I must say I was pretty impressed with the police.