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Practical details in Sweden /a few practical tips

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Practical details in Sweden /a few practical tips
« on: January 08, 2009, 10:17:45 PM »
Practical details in Sweden /a few practical tips

Moving to a new country can be a confusing, even trying, experience. The impressions of a new culture, new friends and new ways of life will fill your first few weeks.

These weeks will also affect the way you feel about the rest of your stay. Because individuals react differently it is difficult to provide a general guide on how to make this part of your stay as easy and comfortable as possible.

But you can prepare yourself. Before you leave it may be a good idea to study some guidebooks and read up on the country. You may also get ideas and tips from the international desk at your university. Set out below are a few practical points you may find worth considering prior to your departure. The more prepared you are the better your stay will be. What follows are a few practical tips.

Banks and post offices

Banks are generally open from Monday to Friday, between 10.00 a.m. and 3.00 p.m. Many branches have extended opening hours at least once a week (until 6.00 p.m. in larger cities.). Banks are closed at weekends. You will normally need a national registration number, “personnummer” (See Civil Registration below), to open a bank account.

It’s a good idea to check whether your bank at home has a Swedish banking partner. Some banks may be willing to let you open an account even if you don’t have a Swedish identity card (see below). You will need to show a valid passport, a receipt for your Student Union membership fee and a letter stating that you are a visiting student.

Credit cards are widely accepted in Sweden. Commonly accepted cards are Visa, MasterCard, Eurocard and American Express. Traveler's checks can also be used.

The Swedish Post Office has recently been restructured. Mail and packets can now be picked up at a number of places, including gas stations, supermarkets and kiosks. Look for the blue and yellow sign above or by the entrance of outlets providing this service. You can also buy stamps and conduct most other errands at these outlets, many of which stay open late in the evening and on weekends.

There are also traditional post offices offering the full range of services. They are usually open between 9.30 a.m. and 6.00 p.m. and may have extended opening hours once or twice a week. Yellow post boxes are for national and international letters and blue for regional letters.

Civil registration

If you intend to stay for longer than a year in Sweden, you can register with the civil registration authorities at your local tax office, lokala skattemyndigheten. You will then be given a ten-digit national registration number, or personal number (personnummer), based on your date of birth plus four extra digits. For example, if you were born on May 25, 1982, it might look like this: 820525-1045.

To apply, take along your passport, a letter of acceptance from your educational institution, documents from the Swedish immigration authorities and, if you are married, your marriage certificate. On registration, you will be entitled to medical benefits through the Swedish National Health Insurance System. When seeing a doctor, for instance, you will be asked for your personal number (see Medical insurance and medical treatment below).

Currency

The Swedish krona (plural kronor), is denoted by the international currency symbol SEK. One krona contains 100 öre. Bank notes are available in denominations of 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1,000 kronor, coins in 50 öre, 1, 5 and 10 kronor. All major bank and credit cards are widely accepted throughout Sweden. (1 Euro = approx. SEK 9).

Drugs and medications

Prescriptions and over-the-counter medicine are only available at local state-run pharmacies called "Apotek" in Swedish. These are open during normal shopping hours. A 24-hour service is available in the major cities. If you take medication, it is a good idea to make sure that you have an adequate supply before leaving for Sweden.

Emergencies and SOS calls

In case of emergency, dial 112 to contact the police, fire brigade or medical services. Emergency calls made from payphones are free of charge.

ID cards

An identity card, or an ID card (legitimation), is a card on which the bearer's photo and personal number are registered. Having an ID card will help in any contact you may have with Swedish authorities. It will also make it easier for you to open a bank account. To obtain a Swedish ID card you must be registered as a resident (see civil registration, above). Identity cards are at the moment only issued by Swedish banks (list at Wikipedia).

The requirements may vary, but in most cases to apply for an ID card, you need to bring the civil registration certificate with your personal number and a passport size, black and white or color photograph. Starting June 1, 2009, ID cards will be issued by the Swedish Tax Authority (Skatteverket).

There are also national student cards which give discounts on domestic travel by air, train and bus. More detailed information on discount offers will be sent along with these cards, which you will receive about one month after you join a student union.

Local transportation

Public transport – buses, commuter trains, trams and (in Stockholm) the underground – is available almost everywhere in Sweden and provides a convenient, fast way to get around. Passes are usually valid for unlimited travel on the local network such as the underground (T-bana), local buses and commuter trains. A monthly pass for public transport costs SEK 690 in Stockholm and often less in smaller cities.

Miscellaneous – a few practical things to keep in mind

Alcohol, Systembolaget is the government-owned wine and liqueur store. It is generally open Monday through Friday between 10.00 a.m. and 6.00 p.m and on Saturdays between 10.00 am and 1.00 pm. Some stores stay open longer.

The age limit for buying wine and spirits in Systembolaget is 20. If you are under 25, you will probably have to present some proof of your age when buying. In bars and restaurants the legal drinking age is 18.

Allemansrätten, or the right of common access, gives everybody the right to use private as well as public land and waterways for certain activities such as hiking, jogging or boating provided that no damage is caused to the land. You must also show consideration to other people and animals and respect the wishes of private landowners.

This means that you cannot walk or sail too close to houses and private gardens. It is also a good idea to ask the landowner if you plan on pitching a tent for more than a short period of time.

Dates are often written in the following order, year, month, day e.g. October 12, 2003 is written 2003-10-12 (or just 031012).

Driving. Sweden, like most European countries, has right-hand traffic. The legal driving age is 18 and you are expected to have your driver's license with you when driving. A foreign driver’s license is valid for a maximum of one year. The laws on drinking and driving are very strict and such behavior is generally not socially accepted.

Drug laws are very strict in Sweden. Foreign citizens in possession of any type of illegal drug may be arrested and expelled from the country. What are sometimes referred to as soft drugs, for example marijuana and hashish, are illegal in Sweden.

Electricity is standard European 220 volts and 50 cycles (Hz).

Time zone. Sweden has Central European Time (CET), GMT +1. Daylight saving time (GMT +2) applies from the last Sunday in March until the last Sunday in October. Clock time is written according to the European system, e.g. 1 p.m. is written 13.00.

Tipping (in restaurants and taxis) - Service charge is included in the price. But it is normal practice to leave a small tip if you feel you have been treated well.

Opening hours

Shopping hours are generally between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays. Shops close between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturdays. In larger towns, department stores remain open until 8-10 p.m. and some are also open on Sundays between 12 noon and 4 p.m. Shops generally close early on the day before a public holiday.

Telecommunications

Collect calls can be made from most telephones and telephone booths. Telephone directories contain useful information on such things as area codes in Sweden, how to call long distance and charges for various services (including telegram and fax services).

In order to set up a telephone subscription, foreign students must pay a SEK 3,000 deposit, unless they have a national registration number (see Civil Registration above). The sum is refunded on departure from Sweden. To connect to a landline you pay a connection fee of SEK 250 if you are under 26 years of age; otherwise the fee is 975 SEK. The average student is likely to spend at around SEK 200 a month on telephone bills. Remember that it will be more expensive if you use your phone for international calls.

You will need a Swedish ID card to arrange a mobile telephone subscription. The other option is to buy a new or used mobile phone and use a cash card, which you can then refill.
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