Tuesday, 19 June 2012

9 things I learned yesterday.

Yesterday I was back at the Burgeramt. (You can read the first part here) It was a 'valuable learning experience' for me. That's the nicest way I can put it. This is what I learned:

1. You can arrive as early as you like, but there will always be 80 people to be seen before you. 

2. You are there to undertake a task. Do not try and be *nice*.

I made the mistake of when someone on their way out passed the handle of the glass door to me of asking the woman behind the counter if she would like the door closed. She replied with a sentence I didn't understand. I said 'Sorry, would you like the door closed?'  again, and she said very sternly "WHAT DO YOU WANT??"

3. You will be punished for your bad German. 

I asked for the form for the parking permit and answered all the questions which she fired at me in what was obviously much more *fancy* German that she was patently getting a kick out of watching me not entirely understand. Except having been through this before I knew what the questions were and managed to get the answers right*.

4. Do not proceed to the waiting room with your numbered ticket. Stay. Move to the side a little, but stay. Ask the next person served what number their ticket is. 

Not doing this may result in the following. I was given a ticket which at the time would have sworn did not come directly from the machine. But, I didn't query it, because why wouldn't they give me the next number? Anyway, I went into the room and the number on the board was at 5 or something. I counted the number of people in the room and there were 43. I couldn't quite work out how I could be number 80, but it was a nice day and I thought that perhaps some people were waiting outside on the grass. So I waited 4 and a half hours. I waited until everyone who had arrived before me had been seen, and nearly everyone who had arrived after me had been seen. I waited until people who arrived 2 hours after me were complaining to other people in the room how long they had been waiting and how awful it was to have to wait longer because it was taking so long to get to 64. 64? 64?

5. It will do you no good to complain. You cannot win. They know you can't prove a thing. So go back to number 4 and check the next person's ticket. You probably will be told that they have some kind of special circumstance or something, who knows, but you will NEVER win. 

6. I will not be staying in Germany beyond June 2014 unless I have underground parking.

7. When you think things can't get worse: they can. Finding out you have booked the return flight from your holiday for the DAY AFTER you leave the hotel while waiting in the Burgeramt will see to that.

8. Drinking a whole bottle of cava while making dinner does actually cheer you up.

9. As does going to bed at 8pm.

*The questions never vary. It's like the questions you get at the airport.

1 thing I learned 8 minutes ago

1. You can renew your parking permit on the internet.


  1. oh no!!!!!

    the thing you learned 8 minutes ago would have helped you so much yesterday!!!!!!!

    Sorry it had to be learned that way :(

    1. Probably the lesson really is to talk to my neighbours before I do anything, ha, ha! Now pass the cava. ;-)

  2. If you smile at the internet, it smiles back. Not so at the Burgeramt.

    1. That would be perfect for my gravestone.

  3. Ha ha! I think we share a Burgeramt, yes? Last month we needed to renew the children's passports (German). So the husband went at 7 am and sat in line, while we followed 45 minutes behind (you know it opens at 8). He was still the second in line:-), but it went fast. Amtsprache is incredible, isn't it? They do it to Germans as well- my husband went back to pick up his own passport, and was told to take a number. Whe he stated he had been old that he should just go to the office and pick it up when it was in, they told him he was wrong. He insisted, and when a manager confirmed, they told him, oh yes, that's a passport, we thought you were asking for some other type of pass! How miserable some people are (and some there are very nice).
    Glad the Cava helped. We go for the Montepulciano ourselves.

    1. I don't know if we do as where I go definitely doesn't open at 8am, but I have heard that waiting times are similar across the city. I like Montepulciano too actually! And yes the cava did help, though if I have to go back to that place I may be tempted to drink it before I go.

  4. well, look at the bright side.... not many of us learn 9 NINE new things in a day! I don't miss Germany. Whatever people say about bureaucracy here, at least people even behind the window are NICE and they appreciate your poor attempts at their language.

    1. Believe me, this was my bright side!

      My mum said she read an article recently about the differences between the British and the Germans by a German who had been living in the UK for 10 years, and one of the things he said was that the British have far more bureaucracy than the Germans. My mum thought this was wrong, but if you include things like Health & Safety guidelines etc, then in fact you soon find yourself thinking that Germany is actually very relaxed. Ha, ha!

      I have to say though that I do think more about what it is like to be a foreigner in the UK. I can't help but think that it is possibly exactly the same, and I wonder how difficult a time Muslims (for example) have when dealing with people who have been heavily prejudiced by the media. I'd like to think that when I go back I will be far more understanding of the difficulties of speaking a second language in a foreign country and be more helpful and patient with those in my situation as a result.

  5. But did you get the permit?
    I am guessing the fact that you were knocking back Cava means yes!
    But if you didn't and you need to go back do you know you can buy wine in juice boxes (complete with straw).
    And frankly the whole thing sounds horrendous.
    Switzerland (don't get me started on their 'version' of German) is nicer and less bureaucratic.
    Come to Switzerland.
    They have lots of chocolate (and wine in juice boxes with straws).

    1. Ooh well seeing as I am now only staying here until the next parking permit runs out, Switzerland sounds like a fine option. Wine in juice boxes? With a straw? Now that's a new one on me. On what occasion are you meant to drink those? Picnics? Packed lunch at the office? Surely it's hard to look sophisticated at parties if you are drinking wine from a juice box? Mind you, I can talk, the only thing that would have made me look less sophisticated last night would have been if I had been drinking my bottle of Cava through a metre of plastic tubing... (I'm not saying this has never happened, just that it's not happened in the past 15 years ;-D)

  6. 50% german 50% swiss20 June 2012 at 13:02

    I feel sorry (and embarrassed too)that you had this bad experience at the Bürgeramt. I have to say that Berlin has a reputation among German cities as capital of unfriendlyness. Born Berliners love it that way, I guess. It gives them the chance to work on their "Schlagfertigkeit", also called "Berliner Schnauze" in order to strengthen the ability to make everyone else feel stupid. "Everyone else" can be someone from UK as well as someone from Munich.
    Personally I think you are wrong about foreigners in the UK probably suffering from the same problem: From my stay in the UK (for a year, but a long time ago), I remember that anglo-saxon conversational habits are are friendlier. One might have the same amount of problems as a foreigner in the UK, but unfriendlyness is probably not on the list.
    About Switzerland beeing friendlier and less bureaucratic ... I am sorry to express my deepest doubts on that theory. Taxes are less complicated, yes. And chocolate might support the consoling effect of cava.:-)
    I hope the parking permit experiences will not stop you from having a good time in Berlin. tk.

    1. Proof for bad reputation of Berlin:
      (it´s in German)

    2. Ha, ha, ha! That was brilliant. I loved the way most of the people just walked past the interviewer. Ha! And I had forgotten how *friendly* staff at the Commerzbank are until I saw that video. I was going to argue that I had only experienced this at the Bürgeramt, but plainly I had forgotten being told I was wearing cheap jewellery (the supposed reason their bank cards are crap and keep desensitising). Ah, I feel a strange fondness for the Commerzbank now; I haven't had a run-in with them in ages.

      And no, I have so few bad experiences in Berlin that this won't put a dent in it! Thanks for the link!

  7. Oh dear sweet jesus, awful! Glad you've survived. F those Bürgerämter.

  8. When I read these types of stories I am always SOOO very thankful for my Berliner wife and all she does for me in this regard. She "speaks" their language very well and has been known to shout down civil servants while reminding them that their job is to SERVE, not make other people's lives miserable.


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