Surprisingly hard adjustment …

As I mentioned earlier, I have my work computer in hand and have been working a little bit on it. Which. Is. Killing. Me. And I want to tell you all why. Full disclosure – there’s a lot of whining ahead. My work computer came with a Swedish keyboard. Even though all the work is done in English, it’s got a Swedish keyboard. And, after almost 30 years of regular typing, it turns out that muscle memory is a hard thing to change. Specifically 3 main areas:

The top keyboard (annotated in yellow) is my work computer (Swedish). The bottom (annotated in red) is my personal one (US).

  1. The shift key is half the size on the left side – the only side I use. So, basically every time I’ve gone to capitalize something, I’ve typed a < or > instead.
  2. The dash and question mark keys are reversed. WTF for?
  3. The return key is vertical instead of horizontal. So, yes, just about every time I go to type a return, I get an apostrophe instead.

These variations have had a HUGE impact on my ability to communicate. For somebody who types 40-50 WPM, that’s a LOT of extra re-work. That sounds dramatic, I know. But for everybody that relies on writing for a living, you know this is a huge PITA.

Anyway, this is surprisingly challenging, and might be second only to language in terms of barriers to feeling “normal”. And, yes, I’d love some cheese with my whine. 😉

Even if it looks similar …

So, this box of cereal looks like ”Honey Nut Cheerios”. But, looking carefully (after having put the first spoonful in my mouth) reveals that it’s “Honey Cheerios”, which do NOT taste like “Honey Nut Cheerios”, and have a much stronger honey flavor than the HNC that I’m used to. Not bad, but def made for a double-take on the box. Also, I love how they felt the need to put the grains in the cereal (across the bowl in the picture) in Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish. Because, really, they are all so different. 🙂

Day 4 (Saturday, March 14)

Happy Pi Day! (it’s “3.14” for those who order their dates that way). Slept in a bunch this morning. I think that staying up to match some times in the US is skewing my internal clock too far.

After I finally got out the door a little before 10, I decided to do a full dry-run of my commute. So, bike to the train station, train from Lund to Hyllie, and the bike to the office. There’s a lot of construction in the last leg of that, so i had to do a bit of wayfinding, but I figured it out, and then got the better path on the way back to the station. On a Saturday morning train hitting all the local stops, it was ~40 min. On a weekday express train that only stops in Lund, Malmö, and Hyllie, it will be a lot faster. Still easy to leave by 7 and be settled at my desk by 8. Given that most people roll in between 8:30 and 9, I should be set!

Rolling back into Lund, I decided to take a different way back to the hotel and went thru Lundstadsparken (Lund City Park). Discovered some interesting things. It’s a really nice park. There’s a waterpark:

And there were casualties to the wind that we had, as this tree (and others) were totally blown over. I wasn’t crazy to be paranoid about that crane!

Oddly, just to the left of the frame on this pic was an older woman in an electric wheelchair sitting alone in the middle of the grassy area. She was calling out something, but I couldn’t figure out what or to whom. Then I could see that her chair had bogged down in the muddy grass and was stuck. So, I went over and asked if she needed help (Behöver du hjälp?), and then pushed her out to solid ground. She motored away without a look or a wave. I’ll bet she was a little embarrassed.

After dropping the bike back at the hotel, I went for a walk around town. Holy Jeebus did I walk!

But I checked out a lot of things. The Library was really cool. It’s not huge, but I’ll bet we can figure out how to use the university library as well. In any case, they were flying all the right colors!

There’s a Botanic Gardens in the middle of town with a little cafe, so I went and had a coffee and a stroll around the greenhouse and gardens. It was very cool, and I will be back in different seasons to check it out. Oh, and BTW, it is literally across the street from the school that the kids are going to. So, they will probably get to enjoy it a lot more than me!

Day 3.5

I’m still really unclear on bikes here …

Also, totally un-related, there’s a really interesting quote in this Kottke article. He says “America is a rich country that feels like a poor country”, based on the way individual wealth is valued over everything else. A few days living in a different part of the world is really bringing that idea home to me.

Day 3

Actually opened a Swedish bank account today! And put some money in it! Woohoo! Now I have someplace to deposit my paycheck in Kronor!

So, about this COVID-19 thing. I came a long ways to start a job, only to have the world shut down on what was supposed to be my first week in the office. As it is, a person came by the hotel yesterday to drop off my computer and VPN info. In case everyone is asked to work from home. Or, in my case, work from hotel. I will go into the office for a bit on Monday to get badged and HR onboarded, and then who knows? Probably hang out for the fast office wifi in the empty office … I know this sounds like whining (because it is), and I’m not put out by having a little inconvenience during a global pandemic. My issue is a lot more pedestrian – I miss having people to talk to! I’m used to a day basically full of talking to people. And now I’ve gone most of a week with basically no social conversation outside the daily FaceTimes with my family (which are life-savers!).

Kind of related to the previous topic, the front-desk staff came by and dropped off a little welcome gift of pasta, basil, and pasta sauce. Something they do for all the long-stay guests, I gather. It’s very nice and I really appreciated it. But it was a 15 second conversation. So, it doesn’t really count as socializing.

On to something more fun! Today, I had lunch at a place called Korvhuset (which means The Sausage House) and they have an all-you-can-eat sausage buffet. I’ll repeat that so it’s clear – ALL-YOU-CAN-EAT SAUSAGE BUFFET. I did not try all the advertised “101 types of sausages”, but I had a few. Even comes with vegetables – mashed potatoes and sauerkraut. Needless to say, I think this is very Swedish – the world may be melting down, but there will always be an all-you-can-eat sausage buffet! The icing on the cake was the staff-person – a heavily tattooed muscle-y guy with Swedish death metal playing (at respectfully low volume) on a tinny little boombox behind the counter. And spoke flawless English.

Day 2

Well, this day isn’t as filled with naturalization accomplishments. I did, however, get the application filed at the tax office. That will get me my Swedish personnumer which is basically the ticket to everything. I also got the green-light to open a bank account – the visit yesterday was just to fill out the forms for the background check.

What was interesting is that we have a lot of wind today in Skåne – like 55mph gusts. So, it’s very blustery. The fun fact is that my hotel is right next to a construction site with one of those really tall, spindly cranes on it. That crane seems to be shut down, because that f*#%er is swaying in the wind like crazy. Super-hoping that, if it topples over, it doesn’t land on me!

Also interesting was the travel ban from EU countries to the US (but not the UK where there’s 400 confirmed cases). Not just because the reason given was literally the opposite of the truth (but that is par for this course – accusing others of his own failures), but also because it made it really complicated for me to get a flight home for some time to help out with getting the house on the market. All said and done, I have a flight booked for a week in April, and we’ll see how it holds up. I think it’s hilarious that the ban doesn’t apply to US citizens – as if that is somehow immunity to getting sick?

Finally, I’m not sure I’m clear on how they view bikes here. It seems like a lot of practical, sturdy bikes used all the time for all sorts of basic things – like shopping, getting to work, etc. – but surely I’m wrong. A car-centric society is better, right? That’s why we have that in the US, right? The first pic is in front of the grocery store …

Day 1.5

I forgot to share something interesting. All the food had barcodes, so I was able to do the self-checkout (which is great when you don’t want to fumble with Swedish with the cashier). So, I scanned and bagged, and on the way out noticed that it was blocked by a gate with signage that told me I had to scan the barcode on the receipt in order to open the gate. Pretty slick approach to preventing the grab-n-go at the lightly-staffed self-checkout lanes.

Day 1

Despite getting 12 hours of sleep, it was hard to drag my butt out of bed! Jet lag is harsh.

Minor accomplishments today.

First, I applied for a bank account (which won’t be fully approved for a week or so) so that I’ll have someplace to deposit my pay from IKEA. There’s only one bank/branch that lets IKEA workers apply before they have a Person Number – and that’s by the office in Hyllie, so I got a lot of train time today, out and back. As an aside, there’s lots of things that have to happen in sequence – I need to get a bank account, so that I can get a BankID card, which I need in order to get a local cell number, which I need in order to rent an apartment, etc, etc.

Second, the trip to the bank gave me a chance to see what the commute will be like (not bad at all) and how life will be multi-modaling with a Brompton (kind of a PITA, but not bad). The leg from the hotel to the train station goes right thru the city center, and happens to pass a number of really nice coffee shops. That is going to be NOICE!

Third, I got a haircut, and found out that there’s (at least) one place that doesn’t take electronic payments (cash only) and had to run to the ATM to get some cash to pay for it! But it was a hip little 2-seat barbershop on the way to the city center, so I’ll probably go there again. Aside here, I had stuffed some euros from my last EU trip into my wallet, and realized that I have USD, EU, and SEK (Swedish Kronor) in there and it’s dumb.

Finally, I did some more walking around and did some grocery shopping. I do like my sandwiches. Everything I need to make one that I like came out about 110SEK (or $11.59 for Americans). So, not too bad for a weeks worth of lunches! Yes, the mayo came in a tube. And I excluded the fish from the sandwich total – that was about $6.

All-in-all, a big day!

Day 0

I (Bryant) traveled to Lund to start work ahead of the family. I arrived on March 10, so I’m calling that “day 0”. Flights weren’t too bad, but I didn’t sleep as much on the first leg as I hoped to.

I had brought a really big suitcase and my Brompton in a travel case. Both were heavy and unwieldy to lug to the train, but generally, it was not bad. The train station at Kastrup is basically right out the door from baggage-claim! I got an Öresundståg direct from Kastrup to Lund, and then Uber’d from the train station to the hotel. All in all, not so bad.

I spent some time walking around the town after dropping my stuff at the hotel to try and not sleep (to reset my body to the local time). Very cool little city, even if it was a little rainy. I bought a coffee and the Saluhall and some groceries at the Coop. That’s all the cultural normalization that I got today!

After eating my food, I watched a little Swedish TV in the hotel – which seems to be mostly British and American shows with subtitles. And a couple of Swedish channels. But I fell asleep by 8!