2010-11-02 1:15 p.m.
I'm in Sweden.
I came here to get my Swedish social security number (called a personnummer), since I'm a permanent resident here as of last year.
I went to the social security office in Stockholm two days ago with my passport in hand and the proper form filled out. (Which I should mention was only a single sheet of paper. A4 of course.) I handed it all to the man behind the counter. Wordlessly, he made photocopies and used a ballpoint pen to draw checkmarks in a few boxes on some other form. Then he looked up at me and paused for a long, silent moment. Time hung. I felt awkward and didn't know where to look.
Then he pushed out his arm at me, shook my hand and said the first and only three words he would say to me:
Welcome to Sweden.
I cried. Who wouldn't get teary at the thoughts? At that moment I was officially a socialist—with an EU permanent residency visa and access to health care, insurance, education, strict environmental standards, free daycare, and an impressively egalitarian society.
I'm still reeling from it.
But don't worry. I had American barbecue for dinner the last two nights just to even things out. Sure, the meat was what they call "ecological" and probably raised in some utopian setting with free little piggy daycare and six weeks of piggy vacation each year. But BBQ sauce has a way of making everything taste like delicious American slaughter, and it made me not feel so far from home, if only for a few hours.
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