Thursday, December 23, 2010

Annoying Swedish Grocery Store Habits

The inevitable trip to the grocery store! Something that can not be avoided but the differences between grocery stores here versus back in Canada are stark, leaving me to wonder what exactly are the Swedes doing.

Firstly, most grocery stores here seem very cramped for space. Its understandable that space in the city center is at a premium and the interest is to use the space as effectively as possible however with the manner that aisles are spaced you have a hard time fitting two people down one without stepping on top of one another. As a minimum they should space these so that you can comfortably fit two people.

Perhaps the biggest most irritating part of the entire Swedish shopping experience originates at the check out line. Now this is normally the final impression you have of the store so a speedy passage through the checkout leaves a good impression however instead you wind up with a bad taste in your mouth. Normally there are far too few check outs open leading to long lineups and on top of that the people working behind the till take their time in processing peoples goods from their comfy seats, while the rest of the people are standing for ages in the lineup.

You also find those that think they are making a contribution to the speed of moving through the checkout by meticulously placing each and every item in a perfectly neat line on the belt with all of the UPC codes facing upwards. Not only does this take forever and results in slowing down the whole process but i dare anyone to prove that all this actually has any positive effect on the speed of moving through the cash register. The people working behind the till have a scanner in two locations, and any item moving past them will easily be caught by one no matter what direction they are facing. I suppose that we should be lucky we don’t have to take a number just to get into the lineups to pay as opposed to many other Swedish services.

Just a little rant!

The Swedish word of the day is Tålamod which means Patience.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Speaking Swedish with the Swedes?

Bork Bork Bork!

As of this post, I have been in Sweden for an astonishing 3.5 years. Wow what a run it has been.

Originally when learning I would come here, i immediately started working on studying Swedish. My first aid was a software program called Rosetta Stone. Which was excellent to start out on and from there I had moved to textbooks.

In the last year or so I have noticed one thing. Although my understanding of the language is getting better every day, one thing that is not is my ability to speak Swedish.

To put it succinctly, the only reason for this is that it's impossible to speak Swedish with the Swedes.

Although I can communicate what i want to say in Swedish and i have been complimented on my pronunciation of the words in the language many times over, one thing that I have when speaking Swedish is a Canadian accent. On top of that, due to the fact that i don't practice Swedish, my grammar is not getting any better. This is a catch 22 because when I do try to speak Swedish, a native speaker can immediately understand that I am not fluent and will do what they believe is a favor by switching to English for me.

Make even the slightest mistake in a sentence, for example, saying en bröd instead of ett bröd (the word for bread is Bröd and this is a ett word, something you just have to memorize for every word). And the next words that will come out of the mouth of whomever your speaking with will be in English.

Think of how frustrating that is: You are trying to practice and learn the language and instead of supporting you and giving you a polite correction, they just immediately switch to English thinking they are doing you a favor.

I for one always try to help Swedes out when speaking in English to help them when they make small mistakes but i don't switch to Swedish when they do.

I have been told that if one just continues in Swedish no matter what the person across from you does, then eventually they will revert back to Swedish, something that I will definitely try in future communication encounters.

I still find it amazing however that after only 3 years (of which i dont even really count the first year) I am now entering meetings at work where they do not change to nnglish when I walk through the door and with this help, my ability to understand what people are talking about has gone up exponentially.

It's all about baby steps, give me another 5 years and I will be a native speaker =).

The Swedish word of the day is Öva which means to Practice.

Medical Care in Sweden

Need a doctor? Hopefully not in Sweden becuase the entire process of how seeing a doctor is handled here is complicated and confusing.

Just as with most other things in Sweden, seeing a doctor requires you first take a number from a dispenser, after which you wait to see the secretary who takes your information and then you are in the cue to see a Nurse. The nurse will then take a look at you and assess whether or not you need to see a doctor. The whole process is complicated in that if you do get the opportunity to see the doctor you are charged a fee for the visit. Somewhat confusing how with the high rate of taxation here, one still has to pay a fee for the doctor when this is not the case in Canada where are tax rates are much lower. Its true however that there is a yearly maximum for doctors fees however if your a fairly healthy individual, you more then likely will never reach this threashold.

Another strange difference here in Sweden is that unlike in Canada where your able to go to any clinic and see the doctor of your choice, here in Sweden you become registered to a specific medical center and at that point your not able to see doctors at other locations. This is somewhat frustrating in the fact that if the office you are registered at is very busy, you cannot visit a location that is less so.

It also seems that Doctors here in Sweden prefer not to perscribe medication. For example several months ago i needed some antibiotics and the Doctor informed me that i would need about a weeks worth of medication which you would take a pill 3 times a day so 21 pills should be necessary, however she then informed me that they only sell these pills in packages of 20 and 40, instead of just perscribing me 40 pills to ensure that i would have enough medication to cure the infection, instead she perscribed me the 20 pill package. Well it was all well and good, and i was almost healed when wouldn't know it, i ran out of pills and had to go to the doctor again. wait in the cue, pay all the fees and then get another perscription. A waste of time, money and frustrating to boot.

Dentists in Sweden?
Similar to Dentists in Canada, they are privatized here and can charge what fees they choose however there is transparency in what your paying versus what the government states you should be charged. On top of that, there is insurance here so that if you are in need of some major work you pay on a declining scale over certain threasholds. This i have to say is better then in Canada where you need to purchase fairly costly insurance to cover higher dentist bills if your work does not provide you with a good medical plan.

The problem however is again with being able to visit the Dentist in the first place. For example, since i am new here, there is no way to see a dentist as im not a patient of any dentist. The only way around this is to call an 'emergency dental help' hotline which will book you an appointment that same day at a dentist and will charge you for the pleasure on top of any fees the dentist charges.

The Swedish Word of the day is: tandkött which means gums (literally translated however it means toothmeat.