Who am I really? After three years in Sweden it is hard to be sure. The Örebro Health Service decided recently to introduce photo identity cards for everyone, even those who work out in the community like me. I dutifully lined up to have my photo taken. “ID!” demanded the photographer. I handed over my Australian passport. Sorry, he said, only Swedish passports are accepted as ID. Drivers licence, I wondered? If its Swedish, he replied. Struck out again. Let me see your national ID card, he said. Sorry, I said, I don’t have one. Can’t I ask another doctor or nurse here to vouch for me? I asked. According to the rules, he said, he could only accept the word of the vårdcentral manager, but unfortunately she was on holidays in Thailand. Oh well, I said, I guess there will be no photo today. The photographer, by this time rather grumpy, agreed.
I was struck by the irony of needing an ID card to get an ID card. And by the realisation that though I may have a verified identity in Australia, I do not have one here.
I have for some time had the feeling that my Australian drivers licence may no longer be valid in Sweden. It is still in date, but rumors suggested that one may only drive for one year on an Australian licence. After that, people thought (when I asked them), that one should get a Swedish licence. This too seemed odd. It implied that suddenly 365 days after my arrival in Sweden I would forget how to drive, and that only a Swedish licence would be able to certify that I had regained my competence in that area.
It is now more than three years since we arrived in Sweden. I decided at the weekend that I must look into the whole thing in more detail. I discovered that the rumors were correct. I discovered to my alarm that Swedish law also gives the police the authority to confiscate my Australian licence if they catch me driving. I read through the extensive list of requirements that needed to be fulfilled in order to get a Swedish licence. First I need drivers licence permission with a health declaration and vision test. SEK220. Then I need risk education – two parts, including a three hour lecture and ice driving instruction around SEK750 each. Then I need to sit the theory test and do a driving test. About SEK700 for each bit. Then I needed to pay for the licence. Total cost was around SEK3500, or around $AU650 on current exchange rates. Amazing for a country that provides free education to all at school and university.
But before I could start any of this I needed an ID card to prove who I was. That would cost another SEK400. I realised that getting a Swedish licence is going to cost me upwards of $AU700. Which does seem rather exorbitant since I have been driving for thirty years, and three of those years in Sweden.
But I have started the process. The application has gone in for my national ID card. Sometime in the next month or so I will hopefully have an identity card and a drivers licence, and then I can go back to the work photographer and try to convince him that I am a bona fide person, eligible at last to be photographed so that I can go to work without feeling like an imposter.