Every five years, I traipse up to the Swedish embassy in London to renew my passport. If you have to travel any distance, and therefore cannot attend morning visiting hours, you are presented with a one-hour visiting slot, once a week. You will be unable to enter the building until that exact time, which means that you are left standing in the rain, clutching your soggy paperwork, along with the other visiting, wet Swedes.

This year, I opted for renewing my passport at a police station in Sweden, which comes with many added benefits, such as indoor queueing and more than one opening hour. It did, however, throw up a different, unexpected obstacle: a Swedish form. The woman behind the counter could not have been more helpful. She explained in great detail what information needed to go where and what boxes I had to tick. Except – of course – in Sweden you do not tick. You cross. Too late for me: I had already filled the form with ticks, which the woman eyed in confusion.

Then came the dates. Suddenly I had no memory of which way to write them. Year first? Day first? The more she told me, the more my mind stopped working. I was becoming increasingly convinced that I would end up arrested for being a fake Swede. “Do you have a contact address in Sweden?” the woman asked. “DAD!”, I screamed across the police station. “WHAT’S YOUR ADDRESS?” My panic at this stage must have been infectious, because dad suddenly had no idea.

It seemed a miracle that I left with a completed application submitted. The triumph, however, was short lived – because where did I have to collect my new passport? At the embassy in London of course – during the weekly, one-hour slot, in the rain.

TEXT: MARIA SMEDSTAD

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