Travellings: Deutschland #1 First impressions

First impressions

So, today is day 6. I arrived on Sunday with my parents, and they left on Wednesday evening. Sunday was interesting – we wandered around Munich for a bit and managed to fathom out the Deutsche Bahn ticket machines so we could explore. It’s quite strange moving country. I have to admit that I’ve never done it before, so this is quite the baptism of fire. My body is being distinctly unhelpful, so I’ve had to find places to stock up on Redbull to keep my blood pressure high enough to stop feeling faint and I’m slowly creating a map of Munich’s branches of McDonalds so should my blood sugar suddenly drop, I know where I can get the nearest milkshake from. Why McDonalds? Because it’s so unhealthy and full of sugar, that I can be seriously hypoglycaemic (feeling sick and dizzy with hot/cold flushes) and a large milkshake from McDonalds sorts me out immediately. I kid you not; I have been in a McDonalds more in the past 6 days than I have in the same number of years.

The past few days have been frustrating. In the early hours of Monday morning, I was woken up by my colleague D, who said that the room that we had found for the month of July wasn’t really possible because the journey to work was a walk, 2 bus rides and a train journey – not great if you have to start at 9am and end around 5pm ish. So that plan fell apart quite quickly. This meant that not only did I have to buy a SIM card for my phone, and get all of the paperwork done, but also try and find somewhere to live until the 1st August.

Monday was spent going to places and realising that either they had just shut, or that I didn’t have the correct information to fulfil the needs of German bureaucracy to get what I needed. Oh, and I made my first best friend – the woman who sells tickets at the Hauptbahnhof.

For those of you unaware, you have to provide an address and show your passport here in Germany when you want to buy a SIM card. This is somewhat problematic if, like me, you don’t have an address to give. Eventually, I was given the address for the place I’m moving to in August, so on Tuesday I was able to give that for the SIM card; job 1 done. The woman in the second Tchibo shop (the first one I went to said I needed an address, so I couldn’t go back there) was lovely – new best friend #2. My problem is now to try and get my phone to accept the SIM card. I have a ZTE blade (or an Orange San Francisco) which I unlocked, rooted and flashed (it now runs Android’s Swedish Spring instead of Orange’s dinosaur of an OS) and in theory it should work fine. If you’ve not been able to guess, this week has been a week full of Sod’s Law, so needless to say although the SIM should work, it doesn’t. Cue hours of googling and swearing.

Tuesday night I made best friend #3 – a waiter at one of the outside restaurants at Karlsplatz. Apparently my spoken German is good? I hadn’t gotten that impression during the past few days. He was a character and a half and was absolutely lovely to talk to – though he did have a strong accent, which it turns out is because he’s from Viet-Nam.

Next job was to get my Anmeldebescheinigung, which is where you register with either the Rathaus, or town hall, or at the Kreisverwaltungsreferat. You need this to get your Lohnsteuerkarte (tax card), your Freizügigkeitsbescheinigung (work permit, although apparently it’s something completely different to be freizügig), any monthly rail pass, and to sign your work contract.

Now, the address I have isn’t in the city centre. It’s in a village/town called Eching, which is on the outskirts on the train line to the airport. So after waiting for an hour in a queue to see a lovely lady at the Kreisverwaltungsreferat on Poccistraße, I was told part way through the registration process that I couldn’t register with them because the address I’m living at is in Eching, and therefore I have to go and register there. Needless to say, I was not amused.

The rest of the day was spent with my parents trying to find somewhere to live/stay for a while. Now, because my parents wanted to know that I was safe and that I had somewhere quiet where I can rest, they chose where I currently am. So, I’m writing this in a hotel lobby. The hotel I think has only just opened – it’s one of those swish modern places that’s quite functional, but it’s not reached the stage where they start demanding stupid amounts of money. Cue finding new best friend #5 (I’ll explain #4 in a minute) – one of the guys working at the hotel reception – it turns out he’s only been in Munich himself for about a week and a half. Before you get any ideas, he struck me as being as straight as a roundabout. But hey, I always get a smile when I come into the lobby, which is better than the rest of the staff.

So Wednesday was spent travelling to Eching to register with a lovely woman (new best friend #4) who told me that I first of all couldn’t register because the system was down. I explained to her that I need to start work on Monday and sign the contract and that I needed the Anmeldebescheinigung so that I could get my work permit, tax card, rail pass and sign my contract. She asked me what a Freizügigkeitsbescheinigung was. Apparently she’d never heard of it in her life – talk about reassuring. In the end, she wrote it out by hand so that I could prove that I’m registered with them. What I didn’t catch her saying was that until the system came back up, and I was entered into the system, I wouldn’t be given an Identifikationsnummer (ID number). This would become apparent on the Thursday. So Wednesday I finally got my Anmeldebescheinigung, moved my belongings to the hotel in Garching-Hochbrück and that evening took my parents back to the airport and had to say one of the hardest goodbyes I can remember.

I’m not going to dwell on it too much; there’s not much point and I’d only get upset. I’m one of those people who don’t like saying goodbye at the best of times, let alone to spend a year in a foreign country away from family. It’s a necessary evil, but as I’ve said in a previous post, things are a lot easier today than, say, 15 years ago. In any case, it’s not good for a languages student to have issues with moving country, when you think about it. I guess I didn’t think that part through, really.

Yesterday (Thursday) was incredibly frustrating. I met with D to get the rest of the forms I need so I can start work next week. We get to the Finanzamt in Freising, a town next to the airport and about an hour and a half away from where I’m staying. Everything was fine until the official went to look me up on the system and I wasn’t to be found. Fair enough, she said she’d look later on next week for the number and we can always submit it late. The key thing was to get the work permit – without that, I can’t work. If I did, it would breach employment law (at least, from what I understand). The joke of it is, as a resident of an EU member state, I should – in theory – be able to work and live in any other EU member state without a work permit. German law and bureaucracy would have it otherwise.

In the end, we went to the office to talk to colleagues to work out a plan of action. We phoned up the Rathaus in Eching and spoke to best friend #4 only to find out that my number will be available for the end of next week. The work permit doesn’t need the ID number, but it has to be done by appointment, and the earliest one is next Wednesday at 1430. Oh, and I need the work contract (amongst other things) to open a bank account to prove that I have regular income, but I need bank details for the work contract.

Moral of the story? You think British bureaucracy is bad? Try going through the German Jungle.
So much for working to avoid homesickness.


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