A few months back I decided to move back to the US after having lived in Sweden for just over 2 years. It was a personal decision about where “home” was, and a sad decision too because the job and friends in Sweden were amazing. I won’t miss the winters one bit, but that’s about it :)
In any case, any international move is tough. Sweden to US is a bit easier, however, because the two regions can each marginally speak English. The move is particularly less hassle for me because I am a US citizen — which lifts a lot of red tape out of the way.
There are a few key things that moving back, I’ve needed to take care of:
- Leaving the previous job
- Preparing/getting for a new job
- A place to live where I was headed
- Moving my belongings
- Transporting cats
I’ll talk about how each went for me.
Leaving the previous job
This one was sad. The job I had in Sweden, working as a web producer for DICE, was why I went there in the first place, and it is what kept me there through that first winter. I built many great relationships and helped to create a product which I’m astoundingly proud of. That said, there were a few things to get in order. I reviewed my contract and made sure all my benefits were taken care of. (Turns out I’d missed 2 bonuses — oops…) I sold off all my stock options because you can’t take those when ya go. And I made sure that my replacement had a few weeks with me on site so as much knowledge transfer could happen as possible. All things considered it went quite well. In an unfortunately brief good-bye party, I was quite honored by the enthusiasm of the send off.
Preparing for the a new job
Getting a job in the US, when you’re not yet in the US, sucks. Telephone interviews at weird hours, people not fully understanding your situation (one place thought I was a Swede IN the states already…) and so on. The fact that I was already moving and already a citizen made this process a bit better though — I can’t imagine how impossible getting a job in the US without having both of those checked off could be. Sheesh.
A place to live
I was very fortunate in this regard. I was planning on moving in with a friend from the states, so we’d been comparing notes about places that looked nice for a few months to get a feel for what the both of us wanted. About a month before I moved, we hit upon a nice 2 bedroom apartment just one block from where I used to live in SF. It was pretty much exactly what we wanted. So we took it — turned out, it also included a 2 car garage in the price — for SF, that was huge news. In any case, having a place to definitely say, “When I get to the US, I will be living here.” was immensely helpful when filling out customs forms, shipping forms, etc etc.
Wow. Just wow. Here’s the tale of “Jeff, the Money Runner”.
A week before departure, I went to the bank and (in true Swedish fashion) took a number, waited my turn, and got to the teller. I explained my situation and asked for the checklist of things to do before leaving the country for good. Got the info I needed and was ready. The next week, two days before my plane leaves, I go again and ask to make the transfer. I give them the “IBAN” number they asked for. This new teller says I need 2 other numbers as well. Wait. “What? Just last week that lady (pointing) said I only needed this one!” Ok now what? Well, I waited to 4pm for the US bank to open, called them to get the new number and found out my US bank doesn’t even HAVE one of these numbers and they are quite adamant that I only need the IBAN. Soooo, go to the Swedish bank again, get number, wait turn, relay discoveries. Nothing they can do, it seems.
Yay, let’s leave all my money stuck in a Swedish bank account! How about you just write me a cashiers check. Oh wait, no, they don’t do those. So instead I asked for the cash. Just cash me out — well, for the amount I had saved, that can only be done with 3 days notice. AAAarrrgggg, but you said I’d be able to make the transfer and now I’m out of time! The lady talked to the manager and withdrew the cash anyway.
And thus I traveled with 2.5 years worth of savings tucked into my carry on bag. My whole monetary foundation wrapped up in a tightly taped up envelope. Man, one serious way to turn the “super paranoid” mode on. This is part of the reason I didn’t sleep a wink the entire 26 hour journey.
After it was completed, however, my money did make it here and has is now safely in my account. Phew.
Moving my belongings
This is quite tricky. I actually needed to use some of those business skills here, namely, ROI. See, you can ship everything you want back — no problem. Toss it on a boat for a month or two and it’ll show up at your door. However, it’s bloody expensive. My quite modest accomodations would have been nearly 6,000 $ to ship back. This is where ROI comes into play. See, I could have, instead, not ship anything at all back, pocketed the 6,000 and buy it all again in the states. The cost to replace everything? About 4,000. See — makes much more sense to ship nothing!
Of course, you find a middle ground. Some things you don’t want to replace, some are hard to get rid of, some are sentimental. I shipped back maybe 1/3 of the stuff I had.
I did try to donate the rest, but that was a fairly epic fail. I arranged for a donation company to come by and pick everything up. I figured, must be like the donation center in the US, Salvation Army. They take your used/well-used goods and resale them at steep discounts. The people in Sweden flat out refused to take any of my items stating that, “Lightly cat-scratch-marked furniture can’t be resold.” I was astounded. How affluent can the society be that even the donation center won’t take a functionally perfect bed and couch for a few minor cosmetic flaws. Blew my mind. Instead a company had to come by to simply haul all of it to the dump. What a massive waste.
Actually, this was remarkably easy. Put cats in crate, add to flight, inspect at US, move on. As long as your cats show no signs of infectious disease, they are clear to come in. Pretty easy. They didn’t like the flight much, but they are just fine and dandy (and spoiled, Heather) in the new place. The inspection at the US customs went like this:
Ding dong (Ringing the bell to get the attendant)
“Oh hi! I am just in from Stockholm, taking these two freaked out little ones to SF”
“How are they doing then? Looking well?”
“Yeah, they are a little skitish, but fine.”
Scrible scrible scrible
“Ok dear, take this paper to the other gentlemen and you’ll be right on your way”
“Erm, ok, thanks”
The whole exchange happened in less time than it took to get the lady to answer the doorbell thing.
All things told, my move was mostly smooth. With the exception of the whole bank fiasco, it went quite well. I owe a lot of gratitude to Anna Kylin for her amazing help in getting a lot of the roadblocks out of the way. If you EVER need any assistance moving into or our of Sweden, you would do very well to hire her.
Now, about that job… :)