Oh the joys of bureaucracy. It’s been a difficult week. We are currently in the process of trying to work out and lodge visas. It is not something they make straightforward or give you much information on.
I’m currently sitting in a waiting room filled with crazed people desperate to just be given a waiting number. Daniel’s currently standing in a queue if you can call it that. It’s a semi organised formation of people all trying to elbow each other out. There’s a lot of suspicious eye movement, making sure no one pushes in front of them. The tension is palpable to say the least.
There are conversations about visas that have already expired but they can’t get an appointment to see anyone, others who have come here at 5:30am 3 days in a row, people who waited 6hours the day before only to be handed an appointment for 6 weeks time.
But that’s just this morning, this is not our first German bureaucratic experience. Last week Daniel’s boss sent us to the wrong building. We waited half an hour in line before being told “nein”, handed a piece of paper with a bunch of versions of “please come back with papers written in German and a translator” then promptly made to leave the counter. We decided to try our luck on a another floor just incase we went to the wrong desk and fortunately found a kind woman who spoke a little English who was then the one that informed us we were at the wrong entire place.
So Tuesday we tried again, at the correct place this time, Auslaenderbehoerde, aka the Alien’s Office. Because thats what we are. Aliens. And they don’t let you forget it!
We got there just after it opened at 7am, there were people going every which way. We had no idea where to go but I knew we needed to work it out fast because I had read the allotted ‘no appointment’ numbers for the day run out fast. There are a few signs around, but of course all in German. We asked a sort of pseudo info/security desk and managed to get the gist of where to go. When we got to the right spot it became even harder. There is no one to ask, there are a couple signs in German and there are people filling the waiting room and lining up down the hall. Its a nightmare. Luckily a few friendly other Americans (can always count on friendly Americans) told us what to do… Wait in line until someone leaves the room behind that door and then go in to
beg get a number. After waiting about 45min in line Daniel finally just went in, luckily because no one was in there. He was kicked out in a matter of seconds and told to come back with a translator, again! We were at the Alien’s office for gods sake!! Homeless people on the street rant to us in English as if the people working in the Alien’s office can’t speak English?!! I mean what are the other poor people in the same waiting room from Sudan and South America supposed to do, they can barely even speak English let alone German!!
Thankfully this nice couple, American wife, German husband, took pity on us and he went in with Daniel to translate. Such a kind man he not only translated he went out of his way to defend Daniel’s case! He told us the lady had wanted to kick Daniel out straight away and he argued with her that it was not right and that Daniel was bringing “prosperous work to the German economy unlike the rest of the ‘so-called’ refugees she was letting just file in and destroy our economy”. He went on that Daniel was educated, skilled and already employed and that she should, well pretty much that she should pull the pole out of her ass. This guy really restored our faith in the people of Germany, he went out of his way to help us and he didn’t even know us AND had his wife and not quite 4 week old baby waiting.
While this was all going on I was chatting with her and the other people in the waiting room, turns out this ridiculousness isn’t unique to us (kind of a relief to know were not just stupid). They told us you need to get to the office at like 5:30am and that they’ve done it in the middle of winter before. This was the third day in a row one a few of them had come, one guy had even had an appointment! They said even for Germans the bureaucracy is a nightmare. So after a bit of solidarity bonding hearing other people’s stories we felt no less frustrated but a little less disheartened to know that this is just what has to be done and that every expat working here has already been through this shit. If it was easy, everyone would do it.
So here are again, third times a charm right?? Right?? I’m waiting in the US waiting room again because the Australian room is already filled up (lucky me the other nations in my section are Iran, Iraq, Afganistan, Jordan, Yemen etc so you can imagine its pretty busy). Daniel went in slightly more prepared this time with pretty much the only German phrase I know ‘Konnte ich bitte eine wartnummern ham’ (I’ve probably totally butchered this)- ‘Can I please have a waiting number?’ At least I hope thats right. Hopefully they’ll see it as a sign of good faith.
Oh wait, he’s back! And what do you know… we have to come back 7am Monday. Let the good times roll.