It seems, that when people said that zee Germanz had a penchant for bureaucracy, that I hugely underestimated how right they were.
To become a live in Germany, you need to register with the local council. This is called Anmeldung. In order to get paid, you need a bank account and a tax number. To get a tax number you need to visit the Finanzamt (finance office) after you’ve registered. Then if you’re me, you need to navigate the infamous Vader (code name for the intern manager where I work so I don’t get caught bitching online) and don’t even get me started on trying to use a British bank abroad.
Oh and I forgot, in order to anmelden, in order to get a tax number, in order to get paid, you need an Einzugsbestaetigung (certificate of moving-in-ness) which is signed by the landlord, and to get that you need to endure one month of passive aggressive emails with a man who isn’t your landlord, but won’t give the contact details for your landlord.
Okay so now that you’re clued up on the basics, prepare for a triple speed review of my time dealing with people in offices in Germany.
First of all, banks are great. Everything was a lie. By far the easiest thing I did this month was opening a bank account. Getting any money in and out of it is the challenging part.
After a month of nagging our non-landlord and arranging meetings with the Anmeldungs office (the waiting lists for a meeting in Berlin is about a month long) we finally got into the office, only to find out that we needed a stamp. Yep. We were almost denied this necessary document because of an unofficial stamp that I could buy from WHSmiths. Me and Lena seem to have developed this technique in Germany, where if someone says we can’t have something that we need, I almost break down and she pulls a face of thunder and we have, so far, got what we want every time. On a lighter note, the Spandau Anmeldungsbuero is lovely.
THEN I had to deal with the magic 8 ball of rules and regulations, Vader. You can ask her the same question concerning pay, holiday, responsibilities, 3 times and have different answers every time (but you just keep shaking till you get the answer you want). So after being told that I couldn’t go home for one day for a family wedding, I finally got the day off. No change in approach. Always polite and always official. And after a very aggressive (on her part) email battle about my tax number, she finally passed me on to someone who knew what they were talking about. She’s internationally renowned for being difficult… and you think I’m joking.
FURTHERMORE today Santander has blocked me from my online banking and inform me that the only way to get access to it again is to visit a UK branch with photo ID… and I should do that by buying a flight… without my card… I mean. The whole thing speaks for itself.
So never underestimate how much the great people of Germany love a form, stamp, or photo ID… even though they seem to enjoy making your sweat blood for them.