I suspect sometimes this blog comes off as a bright and cheery optimists view of all things Sweden. While I am thrilled with many facets of our move, there are also stark realities that I find irritating, sad, and just plain frustrating. One of those realities has reared up and smacked me on the head not once, but twice in the past two months. Here it is, for your reading pleasure.
Most of my life I have worked and worked diligently. I began babysitting for neighbors in very short stints from elementary school (I can’t help it, I’m responsible). In high school, as soon as I was able, I began working at a grocery store, while also going to school and participating in community service. The same held true for college, though the jobs changed. After college, I immediately began temp jobs while attending interviews for permanent employment. Thankfully, one month after graduation, I began work with the Federal Government. While my job wasn’t always a cheerful one, it was meaningful. The relationships I built during those years keep me going even today. Leaving my career was something I embraced on principle, but mentally and emotionally it was HARD.
As a zealous advocate for improving credit, prior to becoming a stay at home mom, I did extensive research about credit and how it would be affected by this choice. Thankfully, I discovered that US laws had been changed to be more accommodating to stay at home spouses. In fact, at the time of my research, I read that the working spouse’s credit could be used by the stay at home spouse when applying for cars, credit cards, etc… Thank goodness! Knowing that my decision wouldn’t put me at a financial disadvantage (credit wise anyway) made me feel a lot better.
Fast forward 3 years. We’ve moved countries twice and I’ve continued to stay with our son. Childcare was exorbitant in England, and my past experience with the government made me more suited to working in London with a long commute than it did in our town in Surrey. My husband initially set up our utilities and such when I was busy with our son; which did cause me problems when I would call them to try to make changes, but I didn’t worry too much about it (perhaps I should have…).
Now let’s move to present day. This move, the only utility we need is internet; everything else is provided. The wonderful management in the apartment building we are currently at helped me contact the internet company and set everything up. Then, there was a hiccup. They sent not one, but two routers! Oh man… What to do? Well, the office called them for me and found out that they would not talk to me about this issue. Apparently they would only speak to my husband. Since I do not have a job, they only had his name on the account and wanted to speak to him directly. It took two months to get this resolved because while I have more free time to contact them, that’s not a choice. Apparently being married doesn’t equate to the right to request a label to return a router.
The second happened just recently. Upon receipt of our personal numbers, the hubs and I were super excited to establish a proper bank account. Our awesome relocation expert took us to the bank and got everything rolling. The banker then explained that we were eligible for credit cards. Wait, did I say “we”? That’s not what she said. She said my husband was eligible. We explained that we both need cards and she asked him if he was okay with me having a card. She looked perturbed. Not just the usual stoic Swede—perturbed. He was stunned. I was peeved (don’t worry, I held it in). After he explained that yes, of course he wanted that, she finally took action to submit the request. All night I alternated between angry and sad. Angry that the work I do is considered so unappreciated and sad that society sees my contribution as so insignificant.
That leads me to the latest incident. After two months of using top up codes from the local convenience stores to access cell phone service, I decided to commit to a monthly phone plan. I enlisted a Swedish friend who helped me pick a good provider and then called them to discuss. The young man helping me was wonderful. Unfortunately, and much to his embarrassment, my lack of a job makes me ineligible to establish my own cell service. Even though my husband and I have a joint bank account, I am still unable to establish my own service. Hubby can grant me access to a phone on his plan, but I will not have the ability to contact the company on my own. Once again, despite having more availability to arrange things, I will be prevented from taking action.
Many of you may not be able to relate to this story, but those of you who left employment for one reason or another will likely understand. Once upon a time, I based most of my self worth on my job performance. It took a long time for me to move past that and to see other ways in which I contribute to society. I’m still figuring out ways to do that and get paid. I feel that these roadblocks don’t fit with this society entrenched in the idea of equality and the inherent value of each and every person. It makes sense to me that a bank or any corporation would be leery of giving a credit card or monthly service to someone without access to money. It does not make sense to me that someone with access to funds and who is married to the person earning the funds is not eligible to open accounts as a primary (even with a co-signer) or make calls to handle things with customer service.
It is likely that a situation like mine was previously unheard of in Sweden. The benefits provided to working Swedes who have children ensure they can stay home at least a year to care for them while still receiving a paycheck. As a result, most Swedes would never come across this situation. Since we had our child in another country and I was not working here prior to his birth, I am not eligible for those benefits and I agree with that. I just wish there was a system in place whereby I could still build credit even without a job. If anyone out there knows if there is, let me know 😃
Not out of the game yet
My husband always tells me I’m a natural born tester. If something can go wrong with any program or product, it will become a problem for me. I guess this is just one of those situations. Hopefully as Sweden evolves to handle the influx of immigrants that recently arrived, solutions will be found. If not, I will have to accelerate those Svenska lessons to help find gainful employment, because having no credit on a long term basis is just not something my mama would accept 😉
Don’t worry Sweden, I still love you, now I just understand you a bit better. To all of you out there in the same boat, hang in there. This too shall pass.
Until next time…