"Big Brother" society where your Personal Number is all that matter
When one of my friend decided to open Swedish bank account and me to help her with that move we experienced one of the biggest shock ever. What I got to know is that the government has access do many information about citizens. It also strictly control cash-flow in the country.
We've learned it during our first days in Sweden. Kinga wanted to exchange her money from euro (which was her grand-aid from the home university) to Swedish currency. But this casual procedure does not turned out to be as easy as we expected. Firstly, the man in exchange office asked her where does she have so much money from. Then when she told him that she is an exchange student and money is from her home university he did not believe her. To prove her right, she had to show a letter of acceptance as a proof. We both felt awkward and tentatively as we are not used to be asked at the currency exchange about money origin, especially when the amount is not bigger than monthly payment (it was 1500€).
The shock get even bigger when we tried to open a Swedish bank account. In a form, which Kinga got to fill in, she had to write how much money she will deposit every month on her account and what is the source of her income. It seemed very detailed and somehow uncomfortable questions to answer.
Moreover, what we learned that day is that living in Sweden without personal number allows you to do nothing. Kinga could open a Swedish bank account only because we got personal number from Södertörns högskola (however any of us do not have a Swedish ID card). And without this card you have to pay additional fee for your bank account.
And the longer you have the account, the more cons of such possession occur. As for such an international country (and one of European capital) with thousands of exchange students and tourists the information available in English is exceptionally scant. All letters from bank, university and other companies you receive are in Swedish. Including lot of additional fees, it comes as no surprise that my friend decided to close the account as soon as she paid for accommodation and use her Polish account instead.
But, it was not so easy to do as well and another obstacle was found on the way. You must know that Swedes do not like cash and prefer electronic payment. It is a true so generally acknowledged that even banks do not feel obliged to posses a cash. As a result, the nearest bank and the one that offers accounts without Swedish ID turned out to be cashless bank. So, when closing she could not get her money back in cash and international transfer was evidently not an option. What she was advised was to donate her money to charity (good for rich entrepreneur but rather bad option for an exchange student in Sweden). Finally, after filling in thousands of forms, she transferred her money to her buddy account and then received them back in cash.
Maybe, this is a single case, but what I am sure is that Kinga will advice everybody against opening a Swedish bank account.