Gavan Reilly's Portfolio writings, ramblings, mumblings

Culture Shock #4 – in which our hero learns the true nature of German bureaucracy

Now you might think, reading this at the cusp of November, that any well-thinking citizen would have registered at their University a good month-and-a-half ago. Well, before I go on, I should point out that the first semester in German colleges runs from mid-October to mid-February – with a pathetic two weeks off for Christmas – and the second from mid-April to mid-July. The whole process of registering, therefore, doesn’t end up taking place until early October, with any time before that reserved for the intensive language courses that the five of us (that’s The Passaunators?) have gone to very little of. You’d think it’s simple enough – simply bring a passport photo, a form filled out, the official letter accepting you to the Uni, your Leaving Cert results (I know, but they don’t trust the disparity between colleges around the world) and some proof of health insurance.

Easy, right? Well, yes, if you had a passport. But, in case you missed it last time, I spent my last day at Oktoberfest genuinely sober – and managed to lose it from my jacket. Uh-oh.

After an awkward encounter with a local cop to get a police declaration of my passport’s loss, and many more mumbling phonecalls to the city Fundbüro (lost and found office), I eventually had to swallow my pride and tell my sorry tale to the nice folks at the Embassy in Berlin. The phone attendant did his best to sound understanding (while still smirking at the ”sober” boy who lost his passport at Oktoberfest) and ran through the replacement options with me, telling me he would send the prerequisite forms to me to be received the next morning. If I sent them back in time with all the details supplied, I could have a temporary passport returned to me within five days. Result, right?

Well, it woulda been – had the forms ever arrived. A week later and my postbox was still empty. Frantically I phoned Berlin again. ”Really? We posted them that day. We’ll send more.” This time there was no problem – they arrived, as promised, the next day. So I zipped around, having my photos witnessed by the Erasmus Co-ordinator, all the usuals – and sent the envelope back the same day, paying €8 for the DHL-provided privilege of nextday delivery.

That was a week ago today. There’s still nothing in my postbox.

Imagine my immense shock and delight, then, when the unshaven and scruffy Irish boy shows up with a semi-completed application form on the final day of enrolment, without a passport, the declaration of its loss (still in Embassy hands, I can only assume), my Leaving Cert results – lost in a bureaucratic mountain in Athlone – or even the green letter inviting me to the University. I entered the office hoping to blag myself a few days’ grace, and seven minutes later left as a fully registered student of the Universität Passau. In short, German bureaucracy? It seems the Irish are far, far worse than the Germans are.

When next you hear from me I’ll have been to Berlin. But ’til then…

Auf wiedersehen,