The Gauntlet of German Bureaucracy
I knew I’d encounter the usual buckets of fun upon arriving in Germany, but I went through some sort of weird parallel universe machine today while trying to get things in order. Here’s a stop by stop account:
- Got my transponder device that opens the classroom doors. Fancy, woohoo, but one more thing to schlep around on my key chain, along with the two giant keys with which I could fend off attackers. Yeesh.
- Dropped off my application for a network account, which required walking up and down the hallway several times, of course.
- Picked up my already ready HTWK Card, so can now load it with cash and eat/drink in their very decent Mensa. Feel somewhat like an employee of the school now.
then it got serious …
- Went to the Bürgeramt. Wonderfully nice people (not being facetious) and I was angemeldet (registered as living at a certain address, a weird German requirement that rubs the American in me raw) in mere minutes. I felt optimistic after this …
[short explanatory excursus – tried to set up a bank account today–it’s pure online and fee-free–and discovered one must send both the Anmeldung and the Aufenthaltserlaubnis (residence permit) to get one. Damn banking laws that require legal residency. Why can’t this be Switzerland? Of course, I need an account to get paid and pretty much do anything here except get run over by speeding trams, which appears to still be free in most places. So, I was pretty hellbent on getting those two things done. On with the tale …]
- The woman at the Bürgeramt even gave me a little book that told me where the Ausländerbehörde (loosely translated – the hell we make all foreigners pass through before we let them stay and pay us taxes) is. Headed there, only to find that before I can get this, I have to prove that I am properly health insured. WTF? I had assumed that came after residency. Oh, while in the rather dingy and nasty office, I learned that the people they put out on the front lines are foreigners themselves, speak German passingly at best, and tended to speak directly to the German friend I had with me because we all know, of course, that foreigners here can’t speak German. Read that again to find the illogic, both theirs and mine. I speak German better than they do, and they speak past my head to my German friend. Is this annoying?
- So, I thought, what the hell, let’s get some health insurance. In Germany, you have the choice between a dizzying array of firms, but in the end it all costs about the same. My friend said only ‘good god, not AOK’ even though her husband had told me only this morning that AOK was A-OK. We were headed downtown for some errands anyway, so we decided I’d take whatever we found first, just not the AOK. First one we saw was closed at 3:30 pm (again, WTF?), so we went to a bookstore with free wireless and did some quick research. Found an office for another a block away (in the Mädler-Passage – if you know Leipzig at all, you now know everything you need to know about the robust financial health of the German health insurance industry–that in a nation that has mandatory health insurance, which as we all know is step one on the road to hell according to the US insurance/health machine, again I ask: WTF?), went there, and had applied for health insurance in about three minutes. The guy even said, hey, we insured you in the early 1990s, which was indeed true (go Barmer!).
So, this means that in two days I’ll get a notice from the insurance company that should allow me to get my residence permit. I’m sure I’ll lack some other important paper that will necessitate yet another trip. If one has the lowest of expectations, then anything better than miserable is cause for celebration. Ah, my well-honed German survival skills, so helpful in this time of need.
I don’t mean to imply anything bad about Germany. We’re equally adept as Americans at creating bureaucratic sinkholes. As anyone who knows me well knows, I have the typical love/hate relationship with this land that comes from familiarity with and a deep abiding affection for the quirks of a particular place. If I didn’t love it so, would I bother coming back over and over?