Getting ready for moving day
That dreaded day that is usually preceded by weeks of planning and packing. Wrapping valuables and labelling boxes. A couple of fights and tedious conversations with a moving company that you are still not sure knows exactly where you are moving to.
In my previous post 70 Days in Sweden I said I was planning to do a series on my experiences moving to Sweden. If you are new to my blog, catch up on how and why I ended up moving to Sweden in my post Time out.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step
That is the common variation of an old Chinese proverb. My single step changed into a sprint on 8 April 2017. This is the day I found out I got my scholarship. I remember the details quite clearly: we were visiting my aunt and uncle, I was being absurdly socially awkward by sitting at my laptop with bulky headphones listening to a podcast about ‘Studying in Sweden’. I was quite anxious as everybody have received their feedback and I still haven’t, when I realised that I didn’t check my mail that day. Turns out I got the mail on the 7th already…
After reading the mail and retelling the story to every person present, I had this moment of panic. Would this be a wise decision? I had a great job, a comfortable life and family and friends that I adore. I also had no knowledge on Sweden, except that we have a Volvo and that I knew it is cold. It took me four days to send back the (very simple) acceptance form.
In the next few weeks I became a Google app’s worst nightmare – I had around 40 tabs constantly open with different blogs and websites about how to move to and survive in Sweden. I read up on customs and habits and things to expect (which in all honesty was not all very accurate). Then someone told me that Sweden is extremely expensive, and so started the dig into how much you need to live “comfortably”.
For the record, it is quite possible. I will share some financial insight in a future post.
After about a month I realised that I first need to get to Sweden. So, I booked a flight. I was also fortunate to have my mom book her flight with mine – yes, she was joining me to help with the move. The plan was to spend the first week getting me settled, see a bit of Gothenburg and then early the second week to go to Stockholm for a bit of sightseeing before she had to leave again.
A major concern was that we didn’t know much about my apartment. At the end of April, I got an offer for an apartment with a kitchenette of approximately 18m². I knew that accommodation is really expensive and very scarce, so I accepted it. Rather blindly. I didn’t know an address, move-in date or what exactly an 18m² apartment could entail. I just knew it’s small.
Not knowing when I would get my apartment had one risk: we were planning to stay in it for our time in Gothenburg once we arrived in Sweden. Not having an apartment would mean that we had to book accommodation (which is insanely expensive). By the time I was thoroughly stressed about this, I finally received my tenancy agreement mid-June. At least by then I had a hundred plans of how to possibly arrange furniture in an apartment this size and I searched every website possible to find possible floor plans. And the move-in date was before my arrival.
The dreaded Residence Permit
This is one of those things that gives people sleepless nights. If I am being honest, I have almost no insight into the process and I had no trouble whatsoever. My greatest concern was that I waited a week longer for mine that the other scholarship holders. The visit to the embassy started as a horror show. In the middle of a very busy city (Hatfield, Pretoria) at 3pm on a Monday afternoon – I got wrong directions from a car guard, drove over a red traffic light (okay, it just turned) with traffic police looking at me and drove around in circles for almost half an hour because of the one-way streets. Finally, I found the right building, but with no clue where to turn in, I ended up driving on a sidewalk (as the road was a one-way in the other direction) to an art shop parking lot. From there I walked around the grounds for 15 minutes only to find the embassy nearest to my car. Next time I will know.
Once inside, it was the smoothest process ever – I waited for five minutes, had my photo and fingerprints taken and then I was off. Well, I first stopped in at the art shop. Three weeks later my card was ready for collection.
If you are interested in moving to Sweden, you can always visit the Swedish Migration website for more info. They have quite a lot of guidance and great links.
Probably one of the scariest words. Not so much when you think about it, or even say it, but actually filling that document in and then submitting it for signatures was probably one of the scariest moments in my life. Here I was in a well-paying job with a lot of benefits, and I was giving that up to become a student (again). Goodbye dental and pension fund. Okay, the pension I kept, but it was still terrifying.
It was my comfort zone. I can go on about comfort zones forever, but the point is, I had my hole. I knew where I was supposed to be, what I was doing (most of the time) and most importantly I had the security of a permanent position in a country with a very volatile economic climate. In my notice month I was working harder than I ever. I wanted to hand over in a way that my projects wouldn’t suffer and I was trying to complete some things before I left.
My dad had two pieces of advice:
- The first time is the hardest. Resigning will always give you an “uncomfortable” feeling, but it gets better.
- They will blame you anyway. If you don’t get to handing over everything ‘perfectly’, they will blame you. And if you do, and the next person drops the ball, they will still blame you. Moral of the story: relax.
Unlike with a typical move, my moving day entailed getting on a plane with two bags – 46kg. Okay, my mom was coming with and so I confiscated some of her space. Still, this seems a lot until you start packing.
The reason for my move was to take up my studies again, so I would obviously need to bring some textbooks. I brought five – in my defence, I am busy with my first study period and have already used two of them.
I would need clothes. The “warmer” stuff I was planning on getting here in Sweden, but everything else had to come. Jeans and underwear as we all have our favourite brand and I know which ones work. Tops, because I cannot go naked. Shoes was a point of contention – I initially had two pairs of boots and a pair of pumps. Then I remembered that I might need sneakers, bought a spare pair of pumps, found two pairs of great boots in the back of my cupboard and just had to bring my slippers. You can see how this ended up making my packing space quite limited.
I also had to bring those much-loved jerseys, a poncho, a rather expensive trench coat (which is now looking like a good-for-summer item) and a whole selection of scarves, hats and gloves.
Toiletries, I figured, can be bought here. But medicine was a must have. So, I packed my pharmacy, my make-up case (it should last me about two years) and a small selection of jewellery. A couple of hand bags, an extra backpack and some electronics. Okay a lot of electronics. Two cell phones, two laptops, three hard drives, two cameras and a camcorder. And a flashlight. It should get me through.
We packed, and re-packed. Then unpacked and shuffled. It was frustrating and aggravating. Finally, we had four checked bags and two backpacks loaded to capacity.
The only thing left to do was to say goodbye.
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Until next time,