Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Day One

Move to Stockholm exactly five years after I arrived in London.

Fly with SAS from London City Airport. Unlike Ryanair, SAS allowed me to check in online smoothly. Unlike any other London airports, boarding on the aircraft at London City is very smooth. I'll definitely book a flight arriving in London City next time I come to London.

Yumiko-san kindly comes to the airport to see me off with a piece of quiche she baked. This is very helpful as having dinner on the first day of your stay in a foreign city can be very difficult. (I ended up at McDonald's five years ago.)

The airplane arrives at Stockholm Arlanda Airport on time. The passport control is easy to pass without being asked anything, after I pass my passport with the work permit page shown. My check-in luggage returns to me without any difficulty.

My apartment keys were sent to the airport bagport by Christina, the Institute's super-secretary. ("The Institute" refers to my new workplace hereafter.) After learning where it is at the information desk, I pick up my keys at the bagport by paying 30 krona (about 2 quid) in cash (I bought a large amount of Swedish krona in cash at M&S in Convent Garden, London, yesterday. With your passport shown, you can buy foreign currencies by debit card).

Now start feeling hungry. Stop by at a Seven Eleven store in the arrival lounge and order mezewrap. It's surprisingly tasty. I'm delighted by the fact that I no longer need to suffer from stupid London sandwitch shops.

Then I take a taxi to the apartment. By reading a Stockholm travel guide obtained in the SAS aircraft, I've learned Taxi Stockholm and Taxi 020 (so named because its contact number is 020 20 20 20) are the most reliable. I find a Taxi Stockholm taxi. I notice that minor taxi company cars imitate Taxi Stockholm car's appearance.

About half an hour, I arrive at the apartment building. It first looks like a London's council flat building. When I enter, it smells of smoke as there was a fire in the basement last week. My apartment is on the first floor, but I don't know whether Sweden follows the British or American convention of numbering floors. On the ground floor, there is no door indicating my name. Walking upstairs, I find my apartment. The smoke smell continues.

Opening the door, I learn what my new place to live looks like. The spacious entrance hall has got three wardrobes. On the right, the door to the compact kitchen. In front, the door to the spacious living room with a very comfy sofa. Next to the living room is a bed room with two single beds and a study desk. Between the bedroom and the kitchen lies the bathroom. At the centre of the flat is one more wardrobe.

Read through the apartment instruction provided by University Accommodation Center. Learn that while the standard voltage in Sweden is 230 volt, bathroom sockets must be 110 volt by regulation.

And this instruction tells me where the nearest grocery shop is. After eating Yumiko-san's delicious quiche, I visit the shop. Three surprises. First, when I want to buy salt, pepper, or butter, it's hard to tell which one I should buy. I can't tell the difference between different types of, say, salt as the package description is in Swedish only. Second, there is a machine accepting used cans. It appears that you will get a receipt after returning cans and get refunded. Finally, plastic shopping bags cost 1.5 krona (about 10 pence) each!

Staring a new life in a foreign country may be tough, but it's also full of stimulation for curiosity.

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