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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.

The Anatomy of a Beamter

What is Germany’s worst nightmare for both Germans and foreigners? Bürokratie. And who’s behind the insatiable bureaucratic monster? The Beamter.

Expat Gone Foreign, tXc, German Bureaucracy, Beamte, Bürokratie
To be honest, so far I’ve encountered a fair amount of decent government employees at the Ausländeramt (Immigration Office), the Bezirksamt (District Office) and even the Finanzamt (Tax and Revenue Office); but some months ago I started dealing with the LBV (the equivalent of the DMV) to have an American driver’s license transferred, and that’s when all the fun started. By fun I don’t necessarily mean the stack of official documents to be collected, but the fact that none of the many Beamte I’ve been dealing with seem to agree on the requirements and procedure for the transfer.

Also, I’ve started the series “the Anatomy of _______” to depict the different kinds of folks out and about. If you have cool ideas and want them cartoonized, leave a comment or send me an e-mail! : )

The Workplace Etiquette: German Edition

I have never been great at etiquette to begin with, whether it is social gatherings, dress code or celebratory events. The excruciating sea of unwritten norms and protocols becomes even more confusing when you have to factor in culture-specific practices.

The secret to blending in perfectly in the German workplace is addressing people in an utterly polite,  highly apologetic, purely factual, emotionless manner. Too much trouble, you say? I agree. You can always opt for being your-expat-self ;D

Expat Gone Foreign, tXc, Arbeitsplatz, work space, manners, etiquette