Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The trials and tribulations of dealing with a decentralised, overstaffed and overpaid bureaucracy. Episode 1 of a 752-part Series

The Anmeldung.

The journey of every German through life begins not with a slap on the bum and a brisk towelling, not with the first gasp of air or gulp of milk. The journey through life begins only when one is actually Angemeldet or Registered. If you are not correctly registered with the State then you do not exist. The whole pro-life/pro-choice issue is null and void here- if a person´s name isn´t on a piece of paper in the sweaty hands or mouldering files of some bureaucrat then this person is a non-human with no rights, no identity.

The Anmeldung is more than just turning up at an office and saying "Hi! I´m here!". It is a piece of paper that should be engraved in platinum for the worth that it has in society. Not only must you fill out your FULL NAME HERE, ADDRESS FIRST LINE, ADDRESS SECOND LINE but also SIDE WING SECOND FLOOR RIGHT DOOR. It even includes RELIGON TICK BOX PROTESTANT CATHOLIC JEWISH MUSLIM OTHER PLEASE DESCRIBE.

Although I left that part blank, SOMEHOW my local protestant church got hold of my name and address and sends me personlised junk mail. Church plus State equals SHOULD NOT BE MIXED IN A MODERN DEMOCRACY THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

Now the average German actually thinks all of this is a fine idea. I mean, how would the police then know where to go to catch the criminals? is a common observation. They seem to have selectively forgotten that this law is a hang over from the Nazi regime along with, I believe, the law preventing any human foot touching a blade of grass in a park.

A previous boss of mine, when applying for a permanent academic job had to PROVE every place he´d lived since he was eighteen years old. Now maybe I´m going a little way out on a limb here, but somehow to me that just reeks of OVERCONTROLLING PARANOID EX-THIRD REICH I THOUGHT THE WALL HAD FALLEN WHAT ARE WE STILL BEHIND THE IRON CURTAIN?

As a foreigner I am as much subject to this rule as everyone else and although I tried to avoid it, I discovered that without this platinum etched justification of my existence I couldn´t get anything here. No bank account, no health insurance, no pension, no rental contract, no evening classes, no mobile phone.

My passport counted for exactly bollocks. Dear Australian Government, you should not have wasted all that money on producing the worlds most modern and un-forgeable passport because as far as Germany´s concerned it has all the authenticity of note from Mum explaining how I couldn´t do my homework because my grandmother had just come down with a bout of tropical Ghana Red fever from her last dash to Africa and the whole extended family had been quarantined overnight.

Once you are signed up as a Good German Citizen, should you move house you have exactly 5 days to change your Anmeldung. Not to do so invokes a fine, as I found out. To make that much more efficient and ensure that at least one more person has something to do behind those secret government doors, they decide what the fine will be based on your income. Which means that you then have to go back to the office and it´s three hour long waiting line with your pay slips for the last 6 months. Then 6 weeks later a bill will arrive.

For me it was 20 Euros.


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