The summer break is over, and back home (in France), I got mail from the Valmyndigheten, the Swedish election board. Being an utlandssvensk, I'm eligible to vote in our (Swedish) national elections. And maybe because Sweden has only 10 Mio. inhabitants, and not 80+ Mio. like Germany, my utlandsröstkord is send to me automatically, so I may exercise my rights as a Swedish citizen.
Difference 1: Getting your voting papers
When I left Sweden in 2015, I had to leave a new address associated to my personnummer and registered with the Swedish tax office, the Skatteverket (lit. translated in German, it would be Schatzwerk, treasure works). The personnummer (Swedish social insurance number, one of the four I have) identifies me in Sweden no matter what e.g. it's on the national ID card, when you sign a contract, pay your tax, etc. (Sweden is an actual near-socialistic paradise, so we people have little to hide from our state).
This information being stored, my newer home country thinks of me when it elects a new parliament. And without asking, they send me the (few) papers, so I can partake in the national election.
The process is simple: I cast my vote by writing the name of one of the parties on a little piece of paper; put it in the provided special envelope (Ytterkuvert för brevröst – the outer envelope for postal vote); have to find two (local, not necessarily Swedish) witnesses that confirm (by signature) it was me who casted the vote outside the country (otherwise I would need to move myself, if I'm mobile, to one of the voting stations, which are open several weeks before election day) and closed the envelope; put it in the providing mailing envelope, a timber on it, and send it off to Sweden.
Since the witnesses may be non-Swedish, the information about their duty is provided not only in Swedish, English as lingua franca, French and Spanish (which many southern U.S. Trump-leaning voters would object to), so those who witness me casting my vote, can understand what it is about.
|Welcome to bilingual California. Blame me, but I like it (picture taken in Sequoia National Park 2018, always worth a visit; and speed up, Trumpelchen may have to sell it to the timber industry to pay for the wall, soja-beans, and the new U.S. Space Force).|
In Germany, the procedure not rarely changes from election to election, and even at our embassies, they often have no clue how it will be this time until it is already too late to get through the whole process. But in principle, you have to apply with the election boasrd of the federal state (and county), where you last lived before leaving the country, hand-in some documentation that you are German and eligible to vote in that particular state (not commonly known, we Germans have a very complex key how the seats in our national parliament, the Bundestag, are distributed so that every party and state gets its proper share), and then they send you the election papers.
Usually, too much trouble to bother about. After all, I live in France, and most of the things affecting me are decided by the elected monarch of France residing in Paris, and not in Berlin. So, I haven't exercised my birth right, when it comes to my Bundestag after leaving Germany, but will vote the second time my riksdagen (even though my party, the Feministiskt initiativ [homepage/WP-EN,-SV,-DE], may again miss the 4%-threshold to enter parliament by a percent, or more, but what can I do, it's the party best matching my personal views).
Difference 2: Pratar du svensk? Sprechen Sie Deutsch?
Not a few thinks that speaking your new country's language is obligatory to have any rights. Just recently, a spokeswoman of the German Ministry for the Interior, in the hands of Germany's inevitable government party, Mutti Merkel's CDU/CSU, pointed out that successful integration requires that also immigrants speak German at home. A clever idea, a child speaking bad or simple German learned from its parents will of course develop a much stronger identity than a bilingual one that can converse in its mother tongue with its (non-German) relatives and learned proper German in Kindergarten and school (which they could, if Germany would put a little more money into education, and less e.g. into a pretty useless army to approach NATO's 2%-threshold).
|Planned federal spending in Germany 2018.|
Note, that schools/universities get most of their money from the federal states, so the total sum, Germany spends on education and research is much higher, c. 275 billion €, i.e. 9% of the GDP in 2015 [official document as PDF] (never trust a graph without knowing its background 😉)
Sweden is different.
First of all, basic language courses are freely offered to all immigrants. I was too lazy to make one. As English-capable German, Swedish is very simple to grasp when reading, you get used to the strange sounds when listening, however speaking/writing is a helt annat sak. (No warranties taking for any Swedish expression in this post!)
Second, when you are an alien couple, and reproduce in Sweden (which is tempting for many reasons), you may counter the sensation of being corrected by your (bilingual) kid for mispronouncing Swedish words, as Sweden (still) puts a lot into education and integration (compared to most other countries). So it comes to no surprise that all Swedish parties welcome immigration and refugees, even (officially) the former Nazi-party, the far-right SD (Sverigedemokraterna), with the latter however wanting to impose a maximum number to keep Swedish way of living and culture unthreatened (which is also the policy of the centre-right German CDU, and in particular, it's "christ-social" sister, the Bavarian CSU). And all want to put more money into public education (officially and now, the last Alliansen-government pretty much messed up this part; hence, the current red-green minority government). An position overview of the eight parties currently in the Swedish parliament, the riksdagen [official site, English entry page], can be found here (in Swedish), see also my post dealing with the last elections four years ago, the first of a four part series on elections in the countries that made me European (2nd part: France; 3rd part: Germany; last part: Austria, plus conclusion).
Third, when I lived and worked in Sweden, I rarely had to speak Swedish, and my active Swedish still is rudimentary. Oddly, it ameliorated after I left Sweden, e.g. by watching Scandinavian crime series in the original: you don't want to watch them dubbed in French! And all important official documents send to you as a citizen or alien inhabitant of Sweden, are not only issued in Swedish, but also other languages (depending what is needed).
When I got my first röstkort (that time still living in Sweden), the basic information sheet that came with it was provided in a dozen languages (including German). Furthermore, it said that regulations/guidelines will be provided upon request in any language feasible.
In Germany, nothing like that. Surprise that it's much easier to feel welcomed in Sweden than in Germany. If there would only be a better climate, less light in summer, and much more in winter ...
... und die Moral von der Geschicht'
Given that we have a European Union, in which we share a lot and enjoy many individual freedoms (e.g. to move, work and/or live where we want), it's hard to understand why I'm eligible to elect two parliaments passing legislation that to a large degree doesn't affect my daily live; but cannot vote who actually governs it (Jupiter Macron and his devoted Assemblée generale).
But whereas Sweden, my second home country, makes me going-to-the-booth as easy as possible, my original home country Germany, my mother's and father's land, does the opposite. While at the same time having a Ministry of (the Interior and) Homeliness (= Bavarisation) and spending millions of Euros (c. half-a-billion in 2017; official PDF, in English) to keep up his world-wide Be-German-channel: the Deutsche Welle (being global, it's difficult to estimate their viewership, but just tune in, and you will see it can't be a lot).
And still has a law about being volksdeutsch (official term now: deutscher Volkszugehöriger). Trumpelchen would be one, too, he just has to move back to the Vaterland (literally, father's land in his case, his father was 100% Palatian) and can get the German citizenship right-away. And vote for the AfD, the "Alternative for Germany" in the upcoming elections.
|Approximate or determined (www.politicalcompass.org) position of parties in the parliaments of Sweden (C – Centerpartiet, originally a farmer's party, now a slightly conservative green party; F! – Femistiskt initiativ, a feminist/equal rights/ecological party; FP – Liberalerna, a classic liberal party; Greens include the Miljöpartiet, a left-Green party; KD – Kristdemokraterna, socially conservative, religious; M – Moderaterna, (sort of) neoliberal; S – Socialdemokraterna, social-democrats), Germany, France and Austria (see also this post).|
My blog has now a couple of entries about local oddities and infographics on elections, politics, and else. Here are the link-lists:
Posts about/dealing with my homeland Sweden or the other one: Germany (or both)
Posts about my actual current homeland: France
Posts about politics (in a large sense)