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TELL US: How has your life in Sweden been affected by Brexit?
A Union Jack and European flag fly in London. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/SOPA Images via ZUMA Wire | Andres Pantoja

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Reader’s story: How Sweden’s perplexing parking rules left me out of pocket

If you get a parking ticket in Helsingborg, it’s your own fault, concludes writer and journalist Stella Bongertz. All you need to do is to stay up to date, have a bit of luck, do your research and check in on your car a couple of times a day.

Reader's story: How Sweden's perplexing parking rules left me out of pocket

In Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, protagonist Arthur Dent suddenly sees yellow.

The yellow belongs to a bulldozer, advancing up his garden path on its way to demolish his house, in order to make room for a motorway bypass. Dent has failed to file a complaint within the appropriate time, in spite of the plans having been on display at the local planning office for nine months. In the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying Beware of the Leopard. Obviously, he’s got himself to blame.

In a similar fashion it’s entirely my own fault that I got a surprising phone call on the first Monday morning in January.

At first, the surprise was that it wasn’t my mobile phone that rang, but the landline that no one had used in such a long time that it was buried beneath a growing pile of books. After a frantic search, in the nick of time, I managed to dig it out and reply.

A lady asked, in a very friendly tone of voice, if I happened to own a Seat, parked on Kronborgsgatan? I answered in the affirmative, with an inner feeling of foreboding.

Did I want, the lady continued in the same friendly voice, to remove it myself or would I prefer to have it towed? It was, she said, parked in a clearway. Grateful for the warning, I cried: “Of course I’ll move it! Otherwise I’ll get a ticket!” The lady went silent, so I asked: “Or did I already get one?”

The kind voice replied: “Not one. Three.” “THREE?” I howled halfway out of the door.

“What clearway?” I thought as I ran around the corner into Kronborgsgatan. When I had parked a couple of days earlier, in between quite a few other cars, the street sign had announced that parking was allowed, except between 8 and 12 o’clock on the third Tuesday of each month, while they clean the street. As usual. And today it was just the first Monday, as mentioned. The kind lady had made a mistake, quite clearly.

In that moment I discovered that my car stood there, all alone, in the drizzle. That’s when I too saw yellow. Not in the shape of a bulldozer, but stuck underneath the windscreen wiper, not three, but four bright yellow parking tickets gaily dancing in the sea breeze.

When I checked the numbers printed on them, my vision swam with vertigo. 1,000 kronor. Each. In Germany, where I come from, you’d have to stick your car in a concrete mold on a disabled parking space, presumably for a year or so, in order to reach that sum. Or drive through a home zone at 300 km/h.

I blinked my tears away and rounded the street sign to read what it said. The very same sign, I thought, that I could vividly recall had stood there quite recently.

A shiver ran down my spine! As if in a nightmare, it had metamorphosed from the good old “feel free to park here, except on the third Tuesday of the month” shape, in the mist of night. An entirely new sign, bewilderingly similar to the old one, had taken its place and now it informed me that parking was absolutely forbidden, since January 5th, on this very same street.

I should have known. Surely.


No one living around here could possibly have failed to notice that Drottninggatan and the adjacent streets have been under reconstruction for a couple of months. The street will be made safer, the pavement widened and a new bicycle path will be added. Commendable! A few lost parking spaces is not a high price to pay. Entirely my own fault that I sometimes drive a car, without owning a house with a private garage.

Yep. I should have known.

By using the right search phrases – and a fair amount of luck – one can easily find the city’s website, where all sorts of important information is dutifully made available.

No, not that Kronborgsgatan will be transformed into a clearway as per January 5th. However, you will find out that reconstruction at (and round) Drottninggatan is under way and that people living in the area – like me – will be informed about changes. Via street signs, for example. Such as the new one that, unless you walk right up to it and read carefully, is identical to the old one.

Surely I must have noticed it. If not before, so at least when I customarily take my car for its daily little ride, enrich the atmosphere with some more carbon dioxide and find myself a new parking place.

On the web (no, not on the same page, silly!) you will also learn the following: A vehicle is not allowed to remain in the same place for more than 24 hours in a densely populated area. Not even if parking isn’t restricted.

No, of course that’s not posted on any signs. That information is easily obtained telepathically. Or – again with a bit of luck – by quickly and effortlessly happening to stumble upon another one of the city’s pages.

Anyone who’s interested and not particularly excited about the daily excursions can find out that there are also car parks where you can stay for seven days. At least a few of them. Like the one on Drottninggatan which coincidentally – did I mention that? – is currently undergoing construction works. Oh, well. There are also long stay car parks. At the city limits. A measly five kilometres away.

It’s all my own, and no one else’s, fault that I now have to pay 4,000 kronor. In exactly the same fashion as, in The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, it’s humanity’s own fault for getting their planet – even before Arthur Dent’s house is demolished – blown up to make space for a new intergalactic expressway.

After all, the plans have been available to the public for the last 50 Earth years. At the planning office at Alpha Centauri, merely four lightyears away. Arthur was certainly lucky that he managed to hitch a ride with a vogon ship in the nick of time. And me? Indeed, I managed to save my car – no need to go hitchhiking here!

Christiane Stella Bongertz is a journalist and an author. She’s originally from Germany, writing mostly for German media but also for Goethe-Institute in Stockholm, among others. She has lived in Helsingborg, Sweden, with her Swedish/German family for about ten years. Her car rarely moves, unless she’s on her way to or from her relatives in the Rheinland. They live in a little village, where you can take the hourly bus into the city of Bonn, from a bus stop where you are unambiguously informed that you’re supposed to refrain from parking your car.