Friday, December 02, 2005

Södermalm or bust!

Image hosted by Photobucket.comLove.

It's the kind of thing that make otherwise intelligent and rational people do crazy things. Like give up fabulous apartments in Södermalm to move to Gävle to be with soccer-player boyfriends.

I get the keys tonight.

The following dialogue ensued today on the telephone:

Swedish-wild-child-party-girl-turned-kärleksinvandrare-till-Norrland: Curiosa, you do realize that this makes it official? This means that I'm officially living in Norrland. I mean, I can't pretend that I have an apartment to go back to in Stockholm anymore.

Curiosa: I do realize that this means that I get your apartment. I think the more pertinent question here is, do YOU realize this means that you're officially living in Norrland? Like, as in Gävle, of all places?

The Stockholm housing market is a tricky, tricky thing. Most of the stories you've heard are true.

Once upon a time, during the wonderful years of Folkhemmet (literally translated, "the people's home"), during the Golden Era of the Swedish welfare state, the great architects of the Swedish Welfare Society decided to socialize the housing market. This meant that anyone, regardless of wealth or stature, could live in the center of the beautiful capital city. It also meant that you had to wait 20 years for your grandmother to die before you could move into her luxurious apartment at Östermalmstorg, or hope that your parents had enough foresight to sign you up in one of the communal housing queues when you were naught but a twinkle in their eyes.

While this is a great and equitable idea IN THEORY, it's an entirely different story IN PRACTICE. What it has resulted in, at least in major cities, namely Stockholm, is a thriving second-hand market where people who have a "hyresrätt" (right to rent) sublet their apartments to others who are willing to pay for location, location, location. It's frankly a good way to make buco bucks. It also means that the apartment can be yours until you die, and then it's usually possible your grandchildren can inherit the right to live there as well.

And once you get tired of moving every six months, you bite the bullet and drop a nice chunk of change on a "bostadsrätt," which is something like a condo. You don't actually own your apartment, but you own the right to live in a piece of a particular community's property. Or something like that.

Anyway, I'm no stranger to the Stockholm housing market. And to be perfectly honest, it's not entirely impossible to navigate, IF you're willing to pay and have more than a little creativity and perseverance. After all, I did manage to find a student room to sublet in Gamla Stan from the U.S. with nothing but a tip from a Swedish friend to check Dagens Nyheter "bostadannonser" and my handy-dandy Swedish dictionary. Not speaking a word of Swedish, I sat in the computer lab at my university in Seattle, looking up the words "gamla" and "stan" and then figuring that anything that involved an "Old Town" couldn't be that bad.

Six months later, I had to quickly move when the guy from whom I was subletting got kicked out for failing to fulfill the 10 point study credit minimum. Then I moved to Kungsholmen, to share an apartment with a girl in her late twenties. It was a strange set-up, as I was renting a room with "access to the bathroom and kitchen." She was very polite and cordial, but she maintained quite a distance. We called her the "Ice Princess." She was beautiful, and cold. I generally want to get to know the people that I'm living with, but hey, maybe I'm strange. I must say I was however shocked when one day I came home and my "landlady" was sitting in the living room in sweats rolled up over her knees, trying to wax her legs. It was the most "human" I had ever seen her.

Then a friend from the collective in Gamla Stan went to Japan for a year, so I moved back to the Old Town for the next year. Swedes would ask where I lived, I would reply, "Gamla Stan" to which they would respond, "Ja ha!" and under their breath you can almost hear them muttering "And who did YOU have to sleep with to get that deal?"

Then my friend came back, so I moved once again. But first, all of my stuff when into storage and I went home to the states for three months. Then, I found a slightly too expensive 45 square meter apartment in Skärmarbrink. That stint lasted four months until I decided I would rather eat and live somewhere more affordable than sit and starve in my over-priced apartment in the "near-suburbs". So I gave my month's notice and once again went home to the states for three months.

Then I came back to Stockholm with no place to live, and I survived in a bachelor pad in Flemingsberg for three weeks. Enough was enough. I decided to cash in on my three year wait in the SSSB (Stiftelsen Stockholms Studentbostäder) queue and got a first-hand contract for 16 sq meter student room. And now I'm the proud renter of a studio room with a "kitchenette," which consists of two burners and a mini-fridge. And now I have to move because I failed to complete 10 study points this semester.

So, now it's time to move for the sixth time in a little over three years. I just went out and fortified myself with two cafe lattes and came back armed with eight copies of Metro to wrap my dishes in and two rolls of duct tape. Now I get to creep up to storage and attempt to forage through my locker in order to find all of those boxes I saved from last time.

Until next time.


Anonymous mli said...

LOL, lovely description and so true (I guess, I only come to Stockholm once a year to run Lidingöloppet). But now you suddenly got your own apartment... Key success factor is "nätverka" and you seem to be good at it!

4:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

SSSB = Stiftelsen Stockholms Studentbostäder... not that it matters... :-P

8:56 AM  
Blogger Radu said...

Why dontcha buy a car and move to a nice rural rented house? I'd do that.

8:31 PM  
Blogger Miss Kieran said...

Hello! I am a 24 year old female teacher who has just got a job teaching in Stockholm. I am seriously worried about where to live- don't suppose you have a room! I do like to socalise with my housemates! Please e-mail me if you have any advice for me,

5:55 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home