After waiting only a month and a half, I was finally issued with my “personnummer” (like a social security number but way, way more essential to daily life) this week! I could finally open a bank account here, and had a terribly grown up conversation with the Viking about transferring some of our utilities to my name so I can start building credit and whatnot.
Way more exciting (more exciting than our gas bill, I know!) is that I could finally sign up for SFI. Swedish for Immigrants is a truly awesome program offered by the Swedish government, free Swedish language classes for all immigrants, and I learned today that I might even be eligible for a cash bonus if I complete the course in a short amount of time – how amazing is that? In the US we just bitch if immigrants don’t instantly speak flawless English the second they step off the plane, and Sweden not only offers free classes, but pays people for completing them. Sometimes, Sweden rocks.
I went along to the centre to sign up yesterday afternoon, and was a bit terrified to learn that I would be tested right away. It’s just to determine what class I’ll be put into, but I was (stupidly, I guess) expecting just to put my name on the list for the next class and be on my way. Instead, I was in the office for over three hours, waiting to register, then waiting to be interviewed, then waiting to take the actual test, then waiting to discuss my results with the guy that interviewed me. Phew!
The waiting room was pretty packed, and it was interesting looking around and wondering what brought such a random, diverse group of people to this quirky little country. It was like a United Nations gathering, with just about every ethnicity you could possibly think of represented, and I thought about how cool it was that we all had at least one thing in common. I wanted to stand up and shout, “okay, who here figured out about taking a number to line up for service in stores without someone telling them? Can I get a show of hands of people who have accidentally put filmmjölk in their coffee and wanted to scream like a two year old?”
During my second wait (between registration and interview) I got into conversation with a friendly Irish guy, who told me that nearly all English speaking/Western educated people go into the top stream. It seems that it’s not just about how much Swedish you already know, but at what rate you are prepared to learn. I guess some of the course materials are explained in English so we’re at an advantage there, plus if you’re already pretty educated, you are assumed to have the skills and experience to learn faster. His roommate had told him that there used to be complaints from educated European and North American people that they had to be in the same class as somebody from a developing nation who could barely read.
I immediately decided that those people were priviledged a*sholes and thought to myself that I would much rather learn alongside the person who was doing their best to learn Swedish despite not having some fancy Ivy League degree that made them think they were better than everyone else. Lucky that, because I was put into one of the bottom classes!
I’ve talked about my lack of education here before, and like I said at the time, I know I’m smart and I know why I dropped out, but still when the guy repeated, “you have 11 years of schooling altogether?” (i.e. starting from kindergarten) and I could practically see the thought bubble, “an American without 17 degrees, WTF?!” floating above his head, I cringed a bit. Plus, my knowledge of Swedish is pretty much zero – I kind of thought that I would pick a bit up just by hearing it every day, presumably that’s how I learned English once upon a time, right? – but apparently not.
Anyway, I got through it and now I’m all signed up and will get a letter telling me when I can start a class – hopefully it’s soon!