When I was in college, we went to Sweden one summer, not unlike a number of other summers of my childhood, since my mother is from a small town in central Sweden. On this particular trip, however, my mom, dad, sister and I all stayed for three weeks in one hotel room in Uppsala, while my sister and I took a language course. With European hotel rooms being what they are and at that time in my life, let’s just say it was difficult to be confined in such a way. To boot, we were right on an intersection that, while not seeing much traffic, is friendly to blind people. Meaning it beeps. Loudly. Alternating between quickly when the pedestrians have a walk signal, and more slowly when they do not. So all through the night, my brain would rattle with a bee-bee-bee-bee-beep … beep … beep … beep … bee-bee-bee-bee-beep. I longed for mere Chinese water torture.
The carrot for enduring this temporary loss of sanity, along with a few more bureaucratic hoops, was permanent Swedish citizenship, which these days translates to EU citizenship. This has already been very useful, affording me flexibility in work trips to Sweden while my classmates fiddle with visas. (And since Theresa is married to me, she can easily get a work visa should we ever desire to move to Europe. Nice option to have, and one that many others would kill for.)
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy being Swedish for the culture as well. I see a lot of how I am in the way the society works, both in good and bad ways. I feel I understand and fit in with both the timidity I disdain and the thoughtfulness I appreciate. Swedes have a very egalitarian perspective on society (as their government reflects … or is it the other way around?). And Stockholm manages to be the cultural center of Sweden while still feeling small and walkable.
But now there’s another new reason now to be pleased about being Swedish. When we looked up the visa requirements for all of the countries we were interested in visiting, we saw that many countries charge EU nationals substantially less than U.S. nationals for visas. I mean, check out the chart (click here to see a full-size version). At least Vietnam, Zambia, Brazil, Chile, and Bolivia all charge way more for U.S. visitors than Swedish visitors. I figure in total, my visa fees will be less than half of Theresa’s. So that’s useful.
I guess what I’m getting at is, thanks mom for pushing me to get my permanent citizenship. It’s an invaluable trait to have in an increasingly connected world. While my Swedish nature leads me to desire citizenship even without any benefits, saving a few bucks on my visas sure doesn’t hurt.