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The Paperwork Cult

I’m starting to believe that German bureaucrats belong to some sort of cult – the paperwork cult. Its members hide in plain sight, spend hours in their filing fortresses, feed on officially approved certificates and have mental Bescheinigasms 1 every time they use their seal to stamp a document. 

Truth be told, dealing with paperwork in Germany seems pretty straight-forward, at least compared to other countries. However, the system has a catch: the daunting amount of documents, forms and certificates necessary to accomplish any task, which makes any bureaucratic procedure a highly intimidating and time-consuming experience. At times I even think that the system is so convoluted so that you give up halfway through the process. Oh, and don’t get me started on the Amtsprache 2.

I wonder if Germans have ever thought about simplifying their system. If they were to, it would go like this:

Expat Gone Foreign, tXc, Paperwork cult, paperworkmania, German bureaucracy, Bürokratie

 

If you liked this strip, check out The Anatomy of a Beamter to unravel the secrets behind the insatiable bureaucratic monster.

The Octopus Cashier

Just as Romania has vampires and Ireland has leprechauns, Germany also has a species of its own: the octopus cashier. These powerful creatures dwell in grocery stores nationwide under a humanoid disguise, but their true colors surface whenever a customer approaches the check-out. This cephalo-mammalian hybrid is highly trained to scan a bazillion items per minute by unfolding its multiple extremities and hurling produce in the air at ultrasonic speed.

The customers, subjected to their slow-paced human condition, have no other choice than to randomly shove the groceries into their bags. Woe betide thee if your money is not at the ready when the octopus cashier scans the last item. This last item indicates the finish line, and if you are still packing, you will be scorned by the other humans in the check-out line 3. They will start rolling their eyes impatiently while muttering “Das geht doch gar nicht!”. Avoid this situation at all costs by trying out these tips:

#1 – Team work: Drag your partner to the store. Four arms still won’t equate to the manpower of the octopus cashier, but if you train your team-packing skills, one of you will be ready to whip out the money while the other finishes stacking whatever is left.

#2 – Go green: Buy tons of fruits and vegetables. They will slow down the octopus cashier considerably, since produce needs to be weighed and have its code entered in order to be priced. Also, fruits and vegetables are good for you and stuff.

#3 – Screw it. Get a cart and shove absolutely every item into it as the octopus cashier tosses them past the scanner. Pay, leave the store, and peacefully stack your supplies into bags. Warning: do at your own risk. This option usually involves a couple of broken eggs and burst yogurts.Expat Gone Foreign, tXc, German Cashiers, high-speed, express register

Good luck with your future endeavors in your next encounter with the octopus cashier. You know what? I’m in the mood for calamari now. Maybe I should pay our molluscan friends a visit.

Metropolis

“It felt right. It felt invigorating. It felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be at that exact moment. The metropolis had pushed me into an endless vortex of frantic euphoria, and I couldn’t get enough of it.” – Excerpt from the EGF book 2.

German Time Measurements

As if the German language weren’t twisted enough with its random gendered articles and convoluted syntax, even simple time structures can mess up your whole schedule. Expat Gone Foreign, tXc, German time, die Uhrzeit auf Deutsch, Deutsche Sprache schwere SpracheIn the spoken language, 3:00, 3:05, 3:10 and so on are easy: drei Uhr (three hour), fünf nach drei (five after three), zehn nach drei (ten after three). But when the minute hand reaches “half past”, Germans take the next full hour as a reference. In German – unlike most languages – “halb drei” wouldn’t be “half past three” but “half past two”, in the sense of “we are half way to three”.

This incident made me realize two things. First, the reason why Germans think of foreigners as “tardy people whose idea of being on time is showing up an hour late”. If you don’t know how time works and get all your appointments at “half”, you are bound to perpetuate the stereotype of the lazy, unpunctual foreigner.

The other thing I realized is that Germans live in the future. Instead of taking the current hour as a reference, they jump on to the next, as if they were anxious to get past the present. For 3:25 they’ll say “fünf vor halb vier”, literally “five before half way to four”. With such a rush to beat time, no one can really enjoy the present. No wonder everyone is so stressed out.

Expat Gone Foreign, linguist, travel and language comics, life abroad