German Efficiency- Fact or Fiction?

We all know the stereotype that Germans are known for their efficiency…. well guess what, its a big fat lie. Germany has to be the most inefficient country I have ever been to, or at least any of the governmental systems. It’s like it’s some great big sham that’s really quite impressive how far it’s gone, I mean the whole world knows about German efficiency. They had some good marketers I’ll tell you that!

I have had numerous Germans comment “that’s German efficiency for you” and roll their eyes! It’s a complete and total farce and they are all well aware of it.

Everything you do goes through multiple people/departments, is full of paper work and will take weeks months.

The Germans looove their paper work and they love their lines. Everything you do involves getting there early, to get in the line then waiting at least an hour before it opens then probably another half hour to get a waiting number to then wait at least another hour to be seen.

beetle juice waiting room gif


Now you might be thinking ‘come on Hannah you’ve only lived there 4 months’ how can you possibly know about German efficiency. Well if you really want to see how a country functions become an expat and move there. I have never had to jump through so many bureaucratic hoops or deal with so many different facets of governmental institutions. I mean, obviously I wouldn’t need to in Australia being a citizen and all but I seriously doubt it involves as much as Germany. I mean when Daniel moved to Sydney he got a one year working holiday visa…before he went… Online.

Not in Germany!! Nothing happens online, it all involves face to face with lots of waiting in lines and lots of paper work (and usually people who don’t speak English, even though literally everyone else including homeless beggars can).

Fortunately I recently discovered the best way to get what you need when they don’t speak english and refuse to help… keep looking confused and asking the same question over and over again… oh and look like you might cry at any second.

sad glee gif


You want a tax ID required for work? You’re going to have to wait in line for that.  You want to register your address? You’re going to have to wait in line for that.You want to apply for a visa? You’re going to have to wait in line for that. 7 times if you’re us, a record so far, we’re yet to meet anyone who took over 3 visits to lodge their visa application. I tell you by the 7th time of waking up at 4am to wait 4 hours all bets are off and social decency/being lady-like goes out the window. When the doors opened I ran up the stairs elbowing people out of the way… I’d do it again not my best moment.

she's the man gif


Oh yeh, did I forget to mention you have to register your address every time you move? Yeh every time. Even if you’re living in a hotel, because anything else you want to do requires that precious piece of paper.

The magic rule for calculating how long anything will take, times it by three.

They say the line will take an hour? It will take 3.
You order something to be mailed to you they estimate to take a week? It will take 3.
You apply for your visa and they estimate the processing time to be a month? It will take 3.

tina Fey gif


The only area they are efficient is in the supermarket checkout. You feel like you’re on a game show where the slowest bagging shopper gets eliminated. The cashier will have swiped your stuff, taken your money and started swiping the next customers things into your pile before you’ve even managed to open the bag.

how  its feels bagging your own groceries


One things for sure, after tackling all of these obstacles you feel pretty darn good about yourself.

emma stone all i do is win gif


Disclaimer: This may all be because we live in Berlin, aka East Germany. I have been told the West is nothing like this, but these opinions are purely based on my personal experiences.

  • Oh, what a curious read! I have always heard how efficient German people is, but I have never been able to experience it by myself. It is quite interesting how some countries get their fame when sometimes it is not even true for the majority of cases! It happens quite the same here, it might take you an insane amount of time to do just a tiny paper (sometimes)! With love,

    • I know unexpected isn’t it? Though it might just be Berlin but still 😛

  • Great read! Thanks for sharing!
    Melanie @

  • Haha oh man the grocery stores are the same here, I feel like I need to come in my gym gear to be prepared for the quickness of the cashiers!

    • Ahh maybe that would make all the difference 😛

  • This is hilarious to read because my husband and I have recently been talking about the possibility of mo ing to Germany with one of the pro points being German efficiency! Good to know its a myth before hand!

    • Haha well I have MUCH I could tell you about 😛 but it may also be because we live in East Germany

  • ha! i’m a fellow expat living in germany – you nailed it on these! looking forward to following along with your adventures in berlin! 😀 (thanks @kaelenespence:disqus for your post!)

    • Haha thanks Margo, nice to know its not just me 😛 Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  • I got my Tax ID number just by emailing the Steueramt 🙂

    The Ausländerbehörde is awful, but I can’t imagine it being better in other countries so I’ve learned to deal with that aspect. I always think about how awful it is for people coming to the US and then have to bite my tongue.

    But I do know what you mean, it’s not quite as efficient as you imagine. However, in the workplace I can still see it. The Germans really focus 100% of their time there to be most productive where as other cultures seem tog et more distracted and use work for social time as well.

    • Ahh lucky you were able to just email!

      Yeah I did think about how it must be hard anywhere, especially the US, however after the 7th time to the Auslandebehorde I was skeptical anywhere could be worse 😛 And actually we just found out yesterday Daniel’s work visa we’ve been waiting for since October was actually ready mid November, the Auslanderbehorde just lost it :/ But again this may just be because its Berlin and we’re in the ‘East’