I thought that I was a pretty intelligent person, with a higher university degree and speaking several languages – however, filling out forms is not always so easy. Or for that matter to chose the right alternative when calling to an automatic voice system.
For example calling the American embassy in Stockholm is easier said than done… (not to mention the US embassy in Belgium, they charge you 15 EUR for every phone call). They have telephone hours between 13-15 Monday to Thursday, except local and American holidays. The first times I called I just got an automatic message repeating their phone hours – hello, I am calling at 13.20 on a Thursday, and what I know there is no American or local holiday today!? Frustration…
Last week I tried calling again and another automatic message tells me their phone number: Well, I am calling this number, so you don’t need to repeat which number I have just dialled… and then gives the different options: dial 2 for English, dial 3 for Swedish, please stay on the line. Should I press 2, 3 or stay on the line?? I listened to the options a few times, pressed 3 for Swedish and was told that all operators were busy, thanks and goodbye! Was I not supposed to stay on the line? But how can I stay on the line if the line has been interrupted?
I dialled again and chose 2 for English – and a Swedish guy answers, and despite my frustration, I could acknowledge that he was actually very friendly and helpful!
Now to filling out those forms: I don’t know how I can fill out all the countries I have visited in the last 10 years including the year?? Especially when the form allows me to mention THREE countries (the computer kept going “ping” every time I tried to write more)? Should I write “Denmark – every year, Germany – probably every year, Switzerland – can’t remember but probably almost every year, etc.” I travel a lot and I don’t keep track of every time I have visited Denmark which takes 20 minutes by train to visit from Malmö! Ok, so in the end I added an extra sheet of paper and mentioned all the non-EU countries and when I have visited them, plus wrote all the EU countries I have visited without the year… I have been to 31 countries – most of them in the last 10 years…
Why are the boxes always so small on forms? The only box that was too big was the one for family – I only have two parents and two siblings, there was so much space left over – couldn’t they have left me some of that space under Education and Countries visited?!
Oh well… wish me luck next week when I have my visa interview! You are not allowed to bring mobile phones in to the embassy building, so I have made a mental note to leave everything at my friend’s place in the suburbs where I will be staying. My plan is to write down her phone number on a piece of paper and find a phone booth (they do still exist, don’t they?) after the interview to call her so that we can meet in town afterwards (she’s on maternity leave, very practical!)… with my mobile phone I have also bought a thick wool cardigan to wear as you need wait outside for your turn – it’s November now and it might be pretty cold in Stockholm!
Why are they making life so complicated? The most annoying thing is that I don’t even want to go to the US – I am going to Puerto Rico! I know, I know, it’s part of the US… but still!